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Writing for a Deadline vs. Not

A sunny bay through the trees.

The view from my window for the next week.

I met Kate Jacobs twice in passing before she became my editor, but I only met her for real as my editor a week ago when I was out in Las Vegas for ALA. She’s a warm, fabulous person, and we had a lovely long talk together face to face. She asked at one point if she could do anything to help me with the first draft I’m writing for Vault of Dreamers Book 2, and I said she’d already helped. She’d given me a deadline.

For the record, I like writing without a deadline. It gives me the freedom to explore ideas and ponder a novel-in-progress in a deep, curious way. I can let my subconscious worry out loose ends and come up with solutions. I can balance the writing with time for my family and friends in a way that feels whole and rich.

But with a deadline, I’m a different writer, both better and worse. I’m essentially given permission to be obsessed. I can neglect everything and everyone else in my life and sit in a chair for 12 or more hours a day drilling out words and brainstorming ideas. I know I’m writing a first draft that’s awful, but it gathers bulk and collects a dust storm around it, and all the while, in the back of my mind, a voice is saying, this is due Friday. I can’t care how bad it is. There isn’t time. It might sound counter-intuitive, but for creativity, little is more freeing than a deadline.

It’s key that I trust my editor. If I didn’t, frankly, I’d ask for an extension so I could bang this novel into better shape. I’d never risk the embarrassment of sending in something so raw. But since I do trust her, I’ll get Kate’s input early in the creative process, and I just know that will help.

In the end, the point is to write the best book I can. A deadline is simply another tool to get me there.

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