As yet another deadline slips me by, I’m still in the middle of revising my current work-in-progress, slowly inching closer and closer to the end. I had planned to have this book finished and ready to send to my editor by the end of May, but it’s now nearly the end of September and I’m still not done. The first draft ended up more than 50,000 words over contract, pushing back my initial schedule by two months, and because the draft was so long, editing is taking longer than anticipated.
It’s been frustrating, to say the least.
But then again, I’m terrible at underestimating the time and work it takes to create a book, and at the same time overestimating my ability. At the beginning of the year, I had this vision of what I’d get done, the books I’d write and then edit and then see published, but every missed deadline, every delay, every single interruption that kept me from my work led to a slow accumulation of stress until I was working every available hour, sacrificing sleep, time with my family, and any modicum of relaxation. I started stress eating. I ate four or five meals a day because I was working so much and I needed the energy just to write one more sentence, one more paragraph, one more chapter.
I knew that what I was doing wasn’t healthy, but I had a goal in mind, a deadline I was loath to miss. After all of my missed deadlines and delays, I committed to finish the book by mid-September, before our yearly vacation to Colorado. I could do it, I reasoned. Three weeks to edit a 127,000 word novel? NO PROB.
Except that it was.
I underestimated the amount of work I needed to do. I overestimated my ability to do it.
The same old story with every book I write.
I hit delays. I hit problematic scenes. I hit agonizing creative blocks that refused to let me work through any of the issues I was having with a chapter. I wasted five days on one chapter that I thought would take only minor changes to improve, but for some reason, for those five days, it was like my brain stopped working. I forgot how to be a writer. I forgot how to edit. It was like trying to paint a birdhouse with a sledgehammer.
And for every second I sat there staring at the book and the stupid sentence that just would not fix itself, I got even more stressed. I committed to working harder, working longer, until I was a shell of my former self, fueled by nothing more than coffee, donut sticks, and whatever else I could scrounge up to eat without wasting time cooking it.
About a week before vacation, I knew I wasn’t going to meet my deadline.
It was impossible.
I resigned myself to that fact, committing to getting as much of the book edited as I possibly could before going on vacation so that I’d have less work after we got home. I emailed my editor, informed her I needed more time to finish the book, and she came back telling me we’d have to move the publication date back another six weeks.
That stung. More than it should have, probably. But it still hurt a bit. Made me feel like a failure, a disappointment, as much as I knew that I had given everything I had to try to meet that deadline.
So I did what I could to finish as much as possible before vacation, and on the day before we left for Colorado, I closed all of my book documents, shut down my computer, and hoped that a week away from the manuscript wouldn’t totally break my forward momentum with the revision. I worried that I would stress about the book the whole time I was gone, worrying about getting it finished in time for the new publication date, worrying about the quality of the revision so far, worrying about how I’d fix the last chapters, which would certainly require the most amount of work so far, and yet… I didn’t.
The moment we pulled out of the driveway and started on our way, I suddenly felt free, like I had been imprisoned by this book, and finally getting away from it was liberating.
I knew I would have work to do when I got home, but I didn’t care at that moment. I just wanted to enjoy the week away from my book and spend some much-needed time with my family. And between the fresh mountain air and the complete and utter lack of responsibility, I was finally able to get out of my own head for a few days and just be.
I didn’t think about my book once that I recall.
And I needed that. Desperately.
I’ve been working so hard on this book, on this series, that I had forgotten what it was like to not be on a deadline, to not feel stressed, to actually get a good night’s rest and spend time with my family without thinking about when I’d be able to work on my book next.
It was nice, necessary even.
I feel myself again. I feel sane. Like a person.
And instead of dreading getting back to work and finishing up this draft, I’m ready to get it done. I’m excited to get it done, something I haven’t felt about this book in a long time, not since I first brainstormed the initial idea for the story… three years ago. It’s been such a labor, both writing and editing this thing, but I only have six chapters left to edit now, roughly 35,000 words, and a week and a half to do it.
I can do this.