Archive for the 'Deadlines' Category

And for my next trick…
by Jessa Slade on June 28th, 2010

Currently working on: Staying on top of the raspberry and snow pea harvest
Mood: Wondering how many dishes include both raspberries AND snow peas…

So we’re halfway through the year.  (Well, halfway plus a little bit, but I’m always behind.)  This is usually when I pull out my New Year’s Resolutions, laugh hysterically, and reassess.  What are my NEW New Half Year’s Resolutions?

When I look at what I have to get done before the end of the year, the hysteria becomes more pronounced and other living beings in my household find heavy objects to find under.  But the trick is always first things first.  So in honor of this week’s blog topic of “My next project,” I bring you my first task: Announcing the winner of last week’s Ava Gray SKIN GAME giveaway. picked:

Spav, who is distracted by Twitter. Aren’t we all?  Congrats, Spav, and thanks to all who commented.

Now, onto the next task…

I’ll be attending RomCon, a new convention for romance readers and writers, in a couple weeks (which, like the end of the year, is coming faster than I anticipate, I know).  I’m very much looking forward to stalking some of my favorite authors, hanging with friends, chatting with readers, and signing books.  If you live in Denver or have friends, family or Facebook acquaintances who live in Denver or anywhere in the Rockies for that matter, come join us!  The giant book fair is open to the public. Details:

Crowne Plaza Denver Airport
15500 East 40th Avenue, Denver, CO
Saturday, July 10, Noon Book Fair
Meet Jo Beverley, Christine Feehan, Julia Quinn, Lori Foster, Meljean Brook, Nalini Singh, Carly Phillips, Susan Mallery, Melissa Mayhue, Catherine Anderson, Jodi Thomas and dozens of other fabulous authors [Note from Jessa: You'll see I am not a listed author at this point in my life, but at least I am fabulous] our multi-author booksigning sponsored by Borders. Bring up to 3 books from your own library for your favorite author to sign!

But before I go, I have to finish writing a short story from the world of the Marked Souls.  It’s the possession story of Corvus Valerius.  I’m going to give away limited edition prints of the story at RomCon before I post it to my website.  If you want a copy (when I finally finish it) email your snail mail addy to jessa at jessaslade dot com with the subject line: Corvus.

Writing his story has been harder than I thought it would be.  Okay, all writing is harder for me than I think it will be.  But Corvus’s tale is especially hard because… Well, as soon as I started writing him, he became my hero. 

There’s a saying among writers: Every villain is the hero of his own story.  That’s been true of Corvus through the first two books of the Marked Souls and it’s even more true when we see how he gave in to temptation — and his demon.  What do you think, does evil always believe itself in the right, or sometimes does evil just say, hell yeah I’m evil?

I’m also running a contest/asking a favor/assigning you an enviable task at my personal blog.  I need to find a royalty free picture of Corvus for the cover of the short story.  If somebody finds a shot I can use, she’ll get a signed copy of SEDUCED BY SHADOWS or FORGED OF SHADOWS.  You can read the details here

See you (hopefully) in Denver!

Fast, Faster, Fastest
by Annette McCleave on May 25th, 2010

I once wrote a first draft in six weeks. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to duplicate the effort. In fact the manuscript I wrote immediately after that one took me six months to finish. But the notion of writing a book in six weeks has continued to intrigue me—writing fast is a great skill to have—and I’ve tried a variety of methods to speed up my writing. So far, to no avail.

But there is something that keeps me steaming along at a good clip—preparation.

I’m a plotter, which means I prefer to have a map of where I’m headed before I start writing. As you might imagine, one of the items I prepare beforehand is the plot map. But I also do several other things to prepare:

1. Interview the characters. My character sheet describing height, weight, and family background only tells me so much. Asking pointed questions about why the character did XYZ in his past gives me a lot more to go on.

2. Explore the world. Some time ago, I discovered a wonderful set of world-building questions developed by Patricia Wrede, and from that I created a smaller set that works for my purposes. Answering the questions helps me add depth to my world.

3. Plan the number of pages needed each week to meet the deadline—factoring in holidays, sick days, emergencies, etc.

4. Research. I research the elements of the story that I need to know up front. A career choice for a main character, the types of weapons that character might use, the locale for specific scenes, etc.

5. Think. I spend a lot of prep time on this one. Is the conflict big enough? Is this the right place to start the book? Would that character really act that way? And a thousand more questions, some of which the answer is NO. I never cover off all the questions, and that’s really not my intent—it’s to roughly shape the story so I don’t get stuck on a big problem halfway through.


If I’ve done my homework, the writing goes along at a brisk pace—until I hit the first stumbling block. And there’s always a stumbling block. But the more advance work I do, the easier it is to recover and get back into the writing.

I’m still looking for ways to speed things up, though. If anyone has found the magic elixir to writing fast, please let me know.

Speed angel
by Jessa Slade on May 24th, 2010

Currently working on: Book 3 edits
Mood: Persnickety (Am I even spelling that right? I thought I was in editing mode?!)

When I’m writing, I’m a speed angel.  Which, sadly, is the opposite of a speed demon.  Yes, I write demons, but I write them slooooow.

Over the years, I have gotten somewhat faster.  Well, actually, lots faster.  It took me about, oh, five years to finish my first manuscript.  In my defense, the story was really long and traversed several major landmasses and various time periods. (No, it wasn’t a time travel; it was just very, very confused.)  Plus, I spent a lot of time describing the hero’s lovely eyes.

Here are a few tricks I learned that helped me write faster during the seven manuscripts that followed:

  • No one cares how polished your first draft is, so feel free to write crap.  You do have to polish later, but that’s later.
  • If you keep writing past it, crap is often less crappy after it ferments awhile.
  • Know what you are writing; you’ll get there quicker.  Disclaimer: Pantsers (writers who say they like to be surprised by their writing as it happens) say they get bored if they know where they are going.  I say, I challenge you pantsers to a duel.  But I don’t have to worry about you ever showing up at the duel site because if I tell you where it is beforehand, you’ll go somewhere else.

The single most important trick I learned to writing faster was — and I realize this sounds stupidly obvious — holding myself accountable.  Deadlines — whether externally or internally imposed — are like the salt in a recipe: Too much can make your blood pressure spike, but a pinch/dash/sprinkle gives the flavors a zing they’d otherwise be missing.

Knowing when I have to get something done, I can track my progress.  I track in an Excel spreadsheet of daily word counts.  “Over/Under” is the number of words I’ve written above or below my daily goal.  As you can see by the red, I spend a lot of days behind because — as I mentioned — I’m a speed angel.  But I aspire to speed demon-hood.


Sure, I’m not there yet.  But I’ve shaved five years per books down to about five months.  A definite improvement.  Although you might have noticed the last comment in my spreadsheet: Sometimes I still don’t know where I’m going.

shortsIn Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare, which character did you relate to?  And do you think the tortoise would’ve been faster if he’d been wearing shorts instead of a shell?

Starting over again & again
by Jessa Slade on April 5th, 2010

Currently working on: Marked Souls Book 4
Mood: Excited

It’s spring!  I have lilacs blooming and sunlight clearing the north fence and temptation to run around outside without seven layers of clothes on (tank top, long underwear, short-sleeve T-shirt, long-sleeve T-shirt, sweatshirt, fleece, waterproof shell)!  Six layers are entirely enough!

It’s spring!  The beginning of new life, a.k.a. the death of New Year’s Resolutions.

Or maybe that’s just me.  But something about that first quarter of the new year seems so full of possibility.  It doesn’t hurt that I’m stuck inside, which makes it easy to focus on my goals.  But when the sun returns, I’m lured to all sorts of anti-resolution activities:

  • Strawberry season – there goes the diet!  I know strawberries seem like good diet food, except that fresh strawberries must be eaten with ice cream and whipped cream on a thick, soft bed of pound cake, sponge cake, short cake or — who am I kidding? — any cake at all.
  • Nicer weather outside — there goes the exercise!  Can’t do sit-ups and push-ups outside without the whole neighborhood pointing and laughing. (Although I admit I’m thinking about adding a jump rope and hula hoop to my routine and I can’t do that IN the house without busting out a wall.)
  • Sun doesn’t go down until almost quarter to eight at night — there goes half my evening writing session!

About this time of year, I have to rededicate myself to my resolutions.  Because I do WANT to keep up with my diet and exercise… Well, no, not really, but I NEED to.  And I most certainly LOVE my writing.

But evenwhat I love isn’t always easy.  Like diets and exercise, sometimes I need inspiration or castigation to keep writing.  So for the next six weeks here at Silk And Shadows, we’ll be writing about writing.  If you’re a writer, we hope you’ll chime in and share what works for you, from the start of the process to the final polish.

I just started the next book in the Marked Souls series.  Book 4 adds new twists, new characters, new evils.  That’s the inspiration part.  For the castigation side of the equation, I’m chief cheerleader of the April writing challenge through my local writing group.  A bunch of us have sworn blood oaths (or was that chocolate syrup?) to write 25,000 words in the next 25 days.  Huge raspberries (not sweet strawberries with whipped cream) will be blown at anyone who falters.

The start of a new book.  The start of a new season.  The start of a new challenge.  The start of every day offers opportunity to start again.  C’mere, day, I’m going to seize you.

Have you let any resolutions lapse?  Do you want to rededicate to them, or have you refocused?  How do you stay inspired in the presence of distraction?

by Jessa Slade on March 15th, 2010

Currently working on: Done!
Mood: Done!

Did I mention I’m done with Book 3?  It was due today (hence my late posting) and it’s off my brilliantly insightful and lovely editor and agent.  Glory be!

“The End” are the most satisfying two words in novel writing, I think.  Followed closely by “The Call” and “The check is on its way” (which I know is more than two words, but is awesome nonetheless).

I had a rare opportunity with this book that might possibly change the way I write.  A writing friend invited me and another writer to share a condo on Mt. Hood for a weekend of intensive word production since we were all on deadline.

I’ve done brainstorming retreats with writer friends for years.  A bunch of us get together, rent a room on the beach (we swear the negative ions from the sea water waves keep us sane), and plot books.  It’s fabulous fun and borderline brain damage by the end of the weekend.  I’ve also attended many writers’ conferences which are wonderful chances to network and learn.

But I’ve never gone away to just write before.  Here’s where we were:


(Collins Lake Resort, Government Camp)

And ooh I liked it!

Yeah, perhaps it was stupid to wonder whether I’d like it.  But I was worried about not being surrounded with my stuff — my favorite craft books, my refrigerator full of snacks, my dog, my XY with his endless capacity for staring at me blankly while I rant about faulty worldbuilding, recalcitrant characters and dead-end plot points.  Turns out, the looming mountain (not pictured) in the background was perfect for the looming deadline.

Not that I had the chance to really appreciate Mt. Hood in all its slumbering-volcano beauty.  Because I spent three days looking at this:


(Book 3, Chapter 1)

Which, considering the deadline, had a sort of threatening-volcano fascination of its own.

Turns out, all I really needed for a pure writing getaway were these:

  • My computer with WIP (work in progress)
  • My 19″ monitor (the smaller keyboard of my netbook was fine, but the 10″ monitor wasn’t as nice for revising; it would’ve been okay for hot drafting)
  • Lots of water (peeing is an excuse to get up and stretch, thus staving off leg blood clots)
  • Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, it was water plus some wine and coffee
  • Snackage — And now a word from our sponsors… Book 3 is brought to you by: Whoppers ™ Robins Eggs candies, York Peppermint Patties™, and Froot Loops™ (Sorry, I’m a brand-name snacker)
  • Comfy pajamas and thick socks

Real food is unnecessary.  Real clothes are unnecessary.  Heck, a shower kit is unnecessary because we’re writing.  (Plus, I count the hot tub as ritual purification.)

Three writers.  Three computers.  Three stories.  One amazing weekend that has refreshed me for the next looming deadline (Book 4 proposal, due in April — zoiks!).

Much thanks to Kristina McMorris (LETTERS FROM HOME) and Elisabeth Naughton (the STOLEN trilogy and the “Eternal Guardians” series) for the long stretches of eerie silence interspersed with book talk, a.k.a. writer heaven.

Do you have a favorite getaway place?  Do you have a way to recreate that closer to home for every-day moments?

A room of her own
by Jessa Slade on August 24th, 2009

Currently working on: Teaser prequel for SEDUCED BY SHADOWS
Mood: Ahead of myself

I am now contracted for four novels of the Marked Souls, so I am booked until 2011 and I’ll be writing like a fiend for most of that time.  Plus, the first book is coming out in October, and I’m get ready to knuckle down to the next two months of intense non-writing writing life stuff like promotions, book signings, and inventing new ways to avoid vacuuming.  So I’ve been thinking about whether my writing space serves me as well now that I’m a working writer.

I’ve posted this picture before, but let’s review.  Here is my office as it is today:


With the exception of the large mammal who isn’t me sitting at on the desk, overall this is a serviceable space.  It has all the key writerly pieces: A computer and a chair.  And Super Glue in the top front drawer.  Plus, it has a few extras: A cabinet to hold my junk, stacking cubbies to hold my more immediately necessary junk (dictionary, thesaurus, my writer’s altar, more Super Glue), inspirational art, and various writing buddies like my dog and geckos.

I know many writers crammed into closets and carving out chunks of the kitchen table every night who would be happy to have my space (with the possible exception of the dog) and so I am profoundly grateful to have it.


I’m thinking I might need something more inspirational, considering all the pressure I’m under.  Maybe I need a satellite office.  Maybe somewhere warm and sunny…


Okay, maybe not.  The potential for distraction — not to mention a serious sunburn, always a consideration for the pasty, stuck-at-the-desk types – is too high.  And I need something with a little more discipline.  Maybe someplace like…


Right.  Those walls are kind of helpful, holding in all the good ideas, concentrating my concentration.  But there’s still something a little off about this set up…


Ah, there we go.  Now the walls are on the right side.  The perfect office for the working writer.

Except somebody left the door open…

How about you?  Whether you are a writer, a quilter, a mom, or whatever, do you need freedom or discipline to get your work done?  Does the view out your window inspire you or distract you?  Or is it all a matter of balance?

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick…BOOM!
by Our Guest on November 13th, 2008

Deadlines. The proverbial ticking bomb. The time-warp capable of devouring an entire six months in the blink of an eye.

Be careful what you wish for. During the years I spent wishing and hoping and working hard to join the golden ranks of the published, I never once stopped to consider the full ramifications of writing under contract. It isn’t all smiling faces and shiny covers. Oh, no no. So let’s consider some of the other badges of honor.

How about those dark saddle bags hanging under your eyes, the ones that frighten small children away and require all that extra makeup. Or the piles of dirty laundry moldering beside the hamper (because it’s full) that just aren’t going to get washed any time soon, but if you really need underwear, honey, you know as well as I do where the washing machine is. Then there are the guilt-generating looks from my hungry family as they wonder if I’ll ever cook another meal. Oh, and let’s not forget the rumors flying around the neighborhood that maybe I died or ran off somewhere… Yes, all of these things require some clever damage control, but first that book’s gotta get finished.

As I mentioned the other day, my greatest motivator when it comes to making my deadline is FEAR. Fear of breaking my contract. Fear of disappointing my editor. Fear of disappointing myself. None of which happens to be an option, not in my world. And no, asking for an extension is the very last thing I’d ever want to do — seems way too diva-ish to me.

So how do I get it done?

MOST IMPORTANT: Just say no! No going out to lunch, no volunteering, no gabbing on the phone — put your foot down and protect your writing time during those all important peak productive hours. Which leads to…

Identify your peak productive hours. Some people are morning people (yeah, well, not me) while others do their best thinking in the afternoon. Whatever time works for you, make sure that’s when your butt is in that chair and your hands firmly on the keyboard.

Portable writing tools. I love my laptop, but I love my Alpha Smart more. In fact, for the first time I’m writing nearly my entire first draft on it. With a readout too small to allow any kind of real editing, I can produce pages in a fraction of the time it takes me on the computer. The results need tons of editing later, but I’ve got something to work with rather than a blank monitor (and a looming deadline) staring me in the face.

Tune out the world. I have special headphones designed for this purpose. I don’t even have to have music playing — these puppies have a noise reduction function that muffles everything. Ah, silence! Actually, though, I do sometimes write to music, channeling the emotions I’m hearing into my characters.  

Develop some good stress reducing strategies. Exercise works great for me, not only as a release but to get my brain moving — hey, it’s a muscle too. I also use quiet music and an aromatherapy eye mask I keep in the freezer for little “mini-vacations” during the day.

Reward yourself for every goal you meet. There is ALWAYS some form of chocolate in my house. Or for a special treat I’ll run out for a latte.

Let it go. Know when your manuscript is finished. In the quest for perfection there is always that temptation to keep tweaking. That’s a pitfall a lot of us fall into. If you find yourself changing contractions into full words and then back again, it’s time to let it go and hit that send button.

Start immediately on your next deadline, or you’ll find yourself sweating bullets all over again a few months hence.

Any other good tips out there for defusing that ticking bomb?

Deadlines are my friend…mostly
by Annette McCleave on November 11th, 2008
Currently working on: Outline for Book II
Mood: Optimistic

To start, a big THANK YOU to all the soldiers who’ve risked their lives for ours, both past and present.

On a good day, I love deadlines. After all, what’s not to love? When I look at my deadlines, I get an immediate sense of where I am and how much further I need to travel. A deadline keeps me on target and often fills me with warm feelings of accomplishment.

The problem is not every day is a good one. Indeed, the frequency of not-so-good days is directly proportional to the proximity of my deadline. The closer the deadline gets, the more I panic. I resort to counting out the diminishing number of hours and minutes, my heart beating like the drum of doom. And then my muse goes AWOL. She plops down in front of the TV with a big bag of Cheetos and a diet Coke and wails ‘What’s the point? We’ll never do it!’

Luckily, I’ve been there before–I know exactly how badly she behaves. So I plan ahead. I have a lovely little spreadsheet that I update hourly. It’s nothing fancy, just a simple daily calendar with two sections: Plan and Actual. Regularly checking my planned progress against my actual allows me to turn up the burner before things get out of hand. I work an extra hour or an extra-long weekend to wrestle my muse back under control.

What do I do if LIFE interferes with my schedule and panic-mode hits anyway? Get up from the computer, take a walk. Make myself another cup of java. Eat some chocolate. Or go have a nice hot shower. Some rah-rah self-talk sometimes helps, too. Basically, anything that calms me down is fair game. Panic is my personal evil villain, and I need to conquer him to finish my book on time.

How about you? Got any tools or tricks that help you reach those deadlines with your blood pressure still on the charts? Wanna share?

Deadlines for masochists
by Jessa Slade on November 10th, 2008
Currently working on: Chapter 4 of Book 2
– Wherein our heroine talks way too much
Mood: Blah blah blah


“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
- Douglas Adams


For number redacted years, nobody cared whether I wrote or not.  Heck, sometimes it was hard for me to care.  So to get words on the page (and from thence to gets words to an agent and an editor) I knew I had to set my own deadlines.


Just Do It.  It’s so pithy a catch-phrase you’d think it’d be easy to follow.  In the coming week as we study our topic of deadlines, you’ll get lots of great tips and inspirational stories about setting and meeting deadlines.  And now I’ll tell you WHY you’re going to Just Do It.




Pure.  Simple.  Arrogance.

Arrogance gets a bad rap because the dictionary says it’s the assumption of superiority based upon presumptuous claims.  But what the dictionary doesn’t understand (and this is odd because writers and dictionaries go together like insert cleverness here) is that as a writer, arrogance is your very special friend.

 Because at the beginning, all you have are presumptuous claims.  Maybe just an idea, or a few chapters, or maybe the whole book, or even the whole book that’s racked up a few rejections.  But damn it, they’re YOUR presumptuous claims.  And the world deserves –NEEDS to hear them.  That’s why you’re a writer. 


I’m not talking about braggadocio.  Quiet arrogance works better.  (Refer to last week’s topic on the dark hero.)  A rock-solid core belief that you have something important to say can be the difference between bulling your way through to that NaNoWriMo 50K-in-a-month deadline… and very, very clean toilets.


You may ask yourself, do I have something important to say?  You will have doubts, you will have nay-sayers, and quite possibly you don’t have anything important to say.  Ha!  Did your hackles go up at that last one?  Good girl.  Hold that impression of smoldering, narrow-eyed, taut-spined resolve – that’s the arrogant you.  Time for her to step up and Just Do It.


Put the arrogant you to work.  Put her name and pride and heart on the line.  According to experts in goal-setting, making your deadline public helps you achieve it.  Put your ego where your arrogance is.  So how about this.  Post your deadline in the comments section.  And then give me a line from your most arrogant self why you WILL make this deadline, clean toilets be damned.


Even better, Twitter your deadline and your arrogance.  Follow our Twitters and we’ll follow yours… and I will keep track and mock you if you miss your posted deadline.  And you promise to mock me back if I miss mine. 


I think this is the beginning of an arrogant friendship.