Chaos: aka, the Professional Writer’s Life

On the night of November 24th, I had a dream that provided the seed for a short story.  This was good.  The deadline for the project was the end of November.

Taking Care of Business

Taking Care of Business

No.  I hadn’t been procrastinating.  Far from it.  I’d been trying to come up with an idea for this story for quite a while.  Problem was, I was also deeply immersed in writing the sequel to Artemis Awakening.  That was moving along so well, I was reluctant to stop.

I’ve heard of writers who can work on more than one project at the same time, but that’s not me – at least not in the formative writing stage.  I have managed, for example, to review the copy-edited manuscript for one project while writing new material for another.  However, most of the time, I’ve found that I work most effectively one project at a time.  If something time-sensitive comes up, I need to put aside what I’m working on and shift over completely.

So, since AA2 was moving along very well, the last thing I wanted to do was stop.  That’s probably why the Muse kept withholding inspiration for the short story.  I’d touch base with the project’s editor, promise I wasn’t going to bow out at the last minute, and then say to myself, “But I have a few more weeks and the novel is going so well…”

Then,  on November 22nd, everything went haywire.  I’d given my talk on “The Mythic Impulse” at UNM the night before and felt great.  The next morning,  I woke up with a nasty sore throat that mutated into a raging cold within a few hours.  I dosed myself with cough stuff and lozenges, then got back to work.

Demands on my attention were already attenuating my intentions.  On the 19th, I’d received (with plenty of lead time for once) the page proofs for Artemis Awakening.  They weren’t due until December 13th, so I figured I’d have time to write the short story, then get to the proofs.  However, I couldn’t come up with a short story idea.

That’s when the Muse stepped in.  As I’ve said before, I’m an intuitive plotter.  From the dream I had, I only remember one image and one bit of information.  I was (and was watching) a dark-haired man who was kneeling in front of a large chest in a somewhat crowded room.  He was pulling out various things, holding them to the light, and inspecting them.  I remember specifically a strand of rough gemstone beads – amber, I think.  I knew without any explanation that this man was going through the belongings of a recently deceased wizard, looking for dangerous items.

When I woke up, I knew I had my story.  But I also knew I was going to need to shift my priorities around.  AA2 was going to need to be slid to the back burner.  Frustrating, since I was so close to the end I could almost see it, but probably a good idea, because if I rushed it, I was going to do a lousy job.  I’d already dipped into the page proofs for Artemis Awakening when I’d started getting sick, since I could focus in and review while sipping tea.  Now I put those aside as well.

Monday afternoon, I typed an opening paragraph or so for the short story, beginning with the line: “The worst thing about taking out sorcerers is the clean-up afterwards.”  Tuesday and Wednesday, I wrote during every available moment.  This is not as easy as it sounds, since Thursday was Thanksgiving, and Jim and I were expecting people over.  This meant trips to the store and making sure I had bread dried for stuffing and…

By Wednesday night, I had a rough draft.  Thursday (Thanksgiving) morning, I went over the draft again, filling in and polishing.  Friday, I read the draft out loud to Jim, catching an astonishing number of typos.  Overall, I felt pretty good about the story.  After adding my changes, I e-mailed a draft off to my friend, Paul, who often does me the kindness of proofreading.   Then I went to work again on the page proofs for Artemis Awakening.

Paul sent me back the file over the weekend.  When I looked at his notes on Monday, I realized he’d found an astonishing number of typos and missing commas and suchlike – proving once again that a writer is the worst person to review her or his own stuff, especially when the story is fresh and time is tight.

Monday is my busiest day of the week for a lot of reasons so, much as I wanted to, I couldn’t address Paul’s notes right off.  Still, I had every reason to believe I’d be able to get the story in by deadline.

Ah, hah!  The careful ones among you will already have noticed that I had missed that end of November deadline.  What I didn’t mention was that during my correspondence with the project’s editor, he had told me I could have to the end of the year if I needed.  I chose not to delay.  The page proofs for Artemis Awakening were going to pull me out of my work on AA2 anyhow.  I had the inspiration for my story.  Time to get both done.

So that story and page proofs are what I’m up to this week.  Next week, maybe I’ll be able to merge myself back into AA2.  Of course, Christmas is coming.  I’m having guests…  But I have two deadlines in March and February is a short month…  Looks as if chaos won’t be going away any time soon.

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4 Responses to “Chaos: aka, the Professional Writer’s Life”

  1. Tori Says:

    Great first line for a story!

  2. Paul Says:

    Now I’m looking forward to when I can buy the story in print, knowing the circumstances under which it was written. I think they should ask you to read an audiobook version!

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