Status Report and the Value of Deadlines

I just finished my first draft of Like a Continental Soldier, the third book in my Waking Late trilogy.  Now I have to fix it, send it to a beta reader knowledgeable about muskets and early rifles, fix it again, send it to a couple other beta readers, fix it again, commission a cover, and I’ll be ready to publish.

Other news on the story telling front is that I have deadlines, which means I will have more short stories ready to publish, starting in January.  A few people formed a critique group and invited me to participate.  We must each submit a 5,000 word short story once a month and meet by Skype to go over our comments to each other.

This is very good for me.  I started being able to write in any kind of productive way because I read Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem, which described National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), and its sneaky, secret ingredient, namely, The Deadline.  If I’m remembering his story correctly, he saved up his money, took six months off from work to write, and wound up spending that six months building a bridge for a squirrel outside his window to get from a branch to the fence.  Thus he learned the importance of deadlines, and founded NaNo, which requires its participants to produce a 50,000 word novel in one month.  This can be done.  I’ve done it.

The first time you do NaNo, you may not quite understand how important that single month is.  When, however, you learn that your brain shuts down somewhere around December 3 because the deadline is gone, you realize you really do only have 30 days to get the words down on paper.  The following year the adrenaline flows, you buy your family a ham so you don’t have to cook, and you learn to crank out a couple hundred words at breakfast, 700 at lunch, and a thousand in the evening, maybe more.   If you don’t do this every day you can’t “win” NaNo.  Eventually, all that writing in November carries over into the rest of the year and you no longer need a crispness in the air and the changing of the leaves to tell you to get to the keyboard.

Likewise with the critique group.  I don’t want them to kick me out for slovenliness.  It could happen.  Also, knowing there’s going to be a meeting at the end of the month makes it important to produce my story and to read all their stories, too.  Fortunately, the writers all seem to be in the Human Wave camp, so I don’t come away feeling like life is hopeless and everyone in it is rotten to the core.  That’s a plus.  Even more betterer, I enjoy the stories, and get a little bit of that feeling of wonder and excitement I had as an adolescent reading Analog and other science fiction magazines.  And, betterest of all, they tell me what I need to fix in my stories.

I’ve sent the first story to Analog.  I have to revise the second one and will also send it in for consideration.  Analog has thousands of readers.  As an indie I need the exposure.  Then as each one gets rejected, I will start posting them either on this blog or on Amazon and other e-tailers.

I am not a pessimist to plan on rejection.  The magazines get so many submissions that it would be like winning the lottery to get published there.  I am actually an optimist to send anything in, but I am a realist to plan on what to do after I hear back in a few months.

All of this is a very long way of saying that I hope to be publishing something every six weeks or so, starting in January.  Wish me luck.

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2 thoughts on “Status Report and the Value of Deadlines

  1. Alrighty then! I was starting to get worried. If you put it up for “pre-order”, I’ll jump. Looking forward to the short stories too – maybe you can assemble a collection.

    Muskets…heh. If you’re a Virginian (as I am) you might enjoy taking one out for a spin, if only for the sake of familiarity. The smell of the powder, the flash from the pan…you get a real respect for folks who had to use these devices to feed and defend themselves.

    Regardless, best wishes while I wait to see what Gilead and company do next.

    • Thanks! I was starting to get worried, too. Not since my first book has it taken me this long to draft anything. I kept stopping for research, a lot of which doesn’t show up, but one tries not to say anything too wrong. I have found You Tube very helpful but I will think about more direct experience with the muskets. Also, thanks for the advice on pre-orders. I think I will do that. I need a cover first and that will take a couple months.

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