Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Writer's Wednesday - The Dreadline

This Writer's Wednesday Romance author Jessica Hart extolls on the pain of the as she prepares to celebrate a couple of pretty terrific milestones!

2008 is a big year for me. Not only do I turn 50 in September, but by a happy coincidence my 50th book, Last-Minute Proposal, is released in October – and yes, there will be a party!

It’s hard to believe that I have muddled my way to over fifty deadlines now. Every time I think I won’t be able to do it. I start off full of enthusiasm for the new story. I love my characters. I’ve found the perfect situation for them. I’ve set the time aside to write the definitive romance, and the deadline lies far ahead in the future. This one, I secretly believe, will be the one that will garner plaudits and awards, the one that will magically hit the spot and break all sales records.

And yet, somehow as I start to write the first draft, that sense of control starts to evaporate. This is largely due to my complete and utter inability to say ‘no’ to other distractions. Suddenly those three months I set aside so sensibly are cluttered with holidays, weekends away, guests, dinners, workshops to be prepared, manuscripts to be read, blogs to be written, films not to be missed, friends to be met , and emotional crises (usually mine) to be resolved. None of which would really be a problem if only I could bring myself to write before dark. But no, the day is frittered away until six o’clock, at which point I am so wound up about not getting any work done that the only thing to be done is go out for a drink …

By the time I get to Chapter 7, that distant deadline is rearing its ugly head and the dread realisation hits that everything I’ve written so far is absolute rubbish. The book is a disaster, I can’t write, my career is over. The fact that this is a pattern is no help at all. I have to go back to the beginning and completely rewrite the entire book in frenzy to meet the deadline – and inexplicably, I usually manage it.

You’d think I’d have evolved a more professional approach after 50 books, but sadly not. I was much more confident writing my first book when I didn’t have a clue what I was doing than I am right now, floundering in the middle of my fifty-second. Of course, it was a lot easier when I started writing in the early 90’s. There were no deadlines; I just posted off a manuscript when I’d finished it and waited for the thump on the doormat when it was returned to be revised. Also, my writing was much fresher then, and it was easy to be confident when I’d never heard of emotional tension or hooks, and simply wrote the kind of story I wanted to read. Since then, I’ve become much more interested in how romance works, but there’s a danger in over- analysing what you do instinctively. For me, writing is like riding a bicycle: if I think about it too much, I fall off! And I do seem to be falling off a lot recently …

So here I am, hyper-ventilating as usual, as the latest deadline looms. In this case it’s 24th July, the date I jump (or possibly fall) onto a plane to San Francisco for my first RWA conference. I’m giving a workshop there with Barbara Hannay and Barbara McMahon, and am simultaneously excited and absolutely terrified. There’s SO much to be done on so many fronts before then, but by the time you read this, on 23rd July, I should be beyond panic, and the only deadline that will matter will be catching that plane!

Jessica's latest release is out this month - NEWLYWEDS OF CONVENIENCE. She'll be at RWA Nationals in San Francisco, giving a workshop with the "Barbs" called "Emotion, Emotion, Emotion - Writing Romance with Global Appeal".


  1. Sadly that's how I write too, Jessica!

    Much love to you and the Barbaras. All the very best for the 'Emotion, Emotion, Emotion: Writing Romance with Global Appeal' workshop. I know it'll be brilliant!

  2. Oh, me too, Jessica. And you're right. It doesn't get any easier. It just gets harder. The only comfort is knowing so many other writers share it and that even though I sometimes feel as if I've written myself into the worst dead end in the world that somehow there will be a way out (but darned if I know why it always has to appear at one minute to dreadline).

    The workshop sounds fabulous. Wish I could be at it. Won't be getting to SF in time, but hope to see you there.

  3. I'd give myself a 100 different kinds of heart attack if I wrote like that, Jessica! I need my routine - x number of hours before lunch, y number of hours after lunch, and lots of cruisy, dreamy thinking time.

    The workshop you and the Barbs are giving sounds wonderful. Hope you have a great time in SF.

  4. Jessica, I AM YOU! And I'm only on my fifth book.

    What a relief to know I'm not the only one who gets hit over the head by her deadlines with alarming regularity. After nightmare revisions on my last two books I set myself a proper plan this time around, plotted the whole story out with my editor and thought I was all set. Has it helped? Has it hell. All the plotting in the world can't stop the dreaded procrastination from biting me on the butt it seems.

    Okay, time to get back to the old wip.

    I'll see you in Frisco, hopefully at your workshop, it sounds fab.

  5. I'm another one who starts off with good intentions only to discover, two weeks before deadline, that I've only written three chapters.

    And like Jessica, I didn't start out that way. I definitely agree with the "ignorance is bliss" theory.

    But as for awards ... er, had you forgotten winning a RITA a couple of years ago? :)