Handling Novel Writing Deadlines, by Paul Volponi
Chances are that when you land your first book deal, you’ll be sitting on a completed manuscript. You’ll be given a general publication date which will usually be aligned with an industry marker. Common release shedules are Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter – followed by the year. For example, Summer 2015. That designation will now trigger some deadlines for you to meet as a writer. That’s right: deadlines.
I know, you were probably thinking – Hooray, I’ve finished this novel and it will be published. Well, not so fast. Here’s how these deadlines generally run: After a gap of several weeks, your editor will return a marked-up manuscript. Nowadays, it’s mostly done electronically, to save paper and the cost of mailing. At this point, the editor will point out any potential flaws in the work, including scenes or lines which may be crystal clear to you but not to potential readers. Grooming the work in conjunction with your editor’s notes may be done several times. Hence, several soft deadlines, though each succeeding one may get a little firmer as you progress and edge closer to the publication date. During the editing of my novel Black and White, which features two narrators (best friends Marcus and Eddie) in alternating chapters, we made several passes through the manuscript making sure each voice was clearly distinguishable from the other. Eventually, there will be a hard deadline for a manuscript that is completed in its content.
No, you’re not done yet.
Next the manuscript will go to copy-editing. After a few more weeks, the copy editor will present you with possibly 100 inquiries: spelling, meaning, accurate connections to worldly events, detail consistency and other things you would never have imagined. This will provide you with another deadline (usually a short one) to resolve all of these inquiries.
In my teen novel Rikers High the copy editor had a tough time with authentic jail slang. That slowed the process down a bit and was fairly frustrating.
Writers can feel a lot of pressure to meet these deadlines. I’ve been through this process 11 times with three different publishers, from the world’s biggest to a small one-man operation. It can either move ahead easily or be very daunting, depending on the work, the publisher and what’s going on in your life at the time. I was able to make every deadline for my first 10 novels, including having to face a change of editor mid-stream on my 8th work. It wasn’t until my most recent time through the process that a particular deadline couldn’t be met (here I faced a change of editor and a new person coming in to run the publishing company). So the book was pushed back approximately six months. Having that happen is never a good feeling, especially when you’re busy planning and writing the next novel.
How can you deal with these deadlines? Stay loose, calm and focused. Plan your goals week-by-week, instead of day-by-day, to avoid any low feelings. I also encourage fledgling writers to meet their own personal deadlines while compiling a potential manuscript – deadlines such as, I’ll finish this new chapter in 10 days. I believe the practise really helps. Remember, this is your novel. No one is more qualified to get it successfully nailed down than you.
Paul Volponi’s author website: www.paulvolponibooks.com
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