Grasping Tentacles of DOOOOOM

There’s a stage in writing when I’m too busy writing, and thinking about the specifics of the novel, to think about the task of writing itself.

Of course I am thinking about writing. I have to be, because I’m doing it. By the time I reach the point I’m describing, I’m writing intuitively, and I feel like I’m using so many skills at once that I can’t describe what I’m doing except with bizarre hand-waving gestures and metaphors that don’t make sense to anyone but me. *wiggles finger while waving left hand and looking expectant*

So, I have about ten days left to finish the manuscript of The Duke and The Pirate Queen. The draft is essentially complete, but I’m still doing a lot of things at once. I’m adding new material and editing old material to accomodate new ideas and doing some last-minute research and line editing and worrying. (I always worry, even if there’s nothing in particular to worry about.) I’m also not-doing: not reading as much, not paying attention to my surroundings, not seeing my friends with my usual frequency.

When I get to this point in a novel, I may know what I’m doing, but I still grasp for help with every limb, and will occasionally, at weak moments, return to favorite books on writing in the hope of…I’m not sure. It’s too late in the process for most of the advice to be useful. It might be reassurance I’m seeking; the knowledge that there are other writers in the world, and they had deadlines, and they figured out their manuscript issues in the end.

That, or it’s like gorging on carbohydrates – the more you eat, the more you want.

Today, I think I’ve moved beyond the grasping stage. I have a complete draft. It’s by no means perfect, but I can see the whole shape, and thus it’s a lot easier to see what else I need to add. I’ve printed out a copy, because sometimes I can see – or maybe I really mean think about – the novel better when I can look at it in a different way than before.

Besides all that, having a complete draft is a great balm to the spirit.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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10 Responses to Grasping Tentacles of DOOOOOM

  1. Tumperkin says:

    I not-do a lot too.

  2. Victoria Janssen says:

    It's odd, but not-doing is not the same thing as not-writing, which is its own thing.

    Some days I am articulate. Today is not one of those days.

  3. Ember says:

    Chocolate and wine help all.
    (Sorry, it's not deep, but it's all I've got!)

  4. Victoria Janssen says:

    I am SURE my eating habits will go to the underworld of your choice this week.

  5. Jeannie Lin says:

    Congrats! I like that thought…if other writers can power through, so can you.

    I call the complete draft my human-consumable draft. There's still a lot of work to do, but I can feed it to readers without them spitting it back out.

  6. Natasha Moore says:

    I always have to print my draft out at some point. It's just easier to see the big picture that way, even if it's in a stack of papers. :) Congrats on getting the draft done.

  7. Savanna Kougar says:

    Wow! I'm glad I don't have that kind of deadline. I prefer getting my mss done and polished, then sent.
    Now edits, so far, I've maaaged those deadlines fairly well.
    Chocolate works for me and while I appreciate wine, it never works when I'm writing.

  8. Evangeline Collins says:

    Congrats on finishing the draft!! The last couple weeks before a ms is due… :-O The frantic typing, the 'I can do it, I can do it, nope not gonna get done, I can do it..'. LOL I just escapted the grasping tentacles of doom (very apt description, too, BTW), and frankly I'm still surprised I managed to get the thing done on time. It's suprising how much one can write when that deadline is smack, right in your face.

    Good luck, and I'm sure the book will turn out beautifully!!

  9. Cathleen Ross says:

    I heard recently that some authors turn in a draft to meet their deadline and then send in the real thing a few weeks later. I'm assuming they let their editors know.
    Cathleen Ross

  10. Victoria Janssen says:

    Jeannie, "I can feed it to readers without them spitting it back out" nearly made me spit out my coffee. Must remember that one….

    Savanna, I've definitely had to adapt my writing habits for deadlines. It helps me a lot to keep track of my wordcount the whole way, so I have a target. But even if I have enough words, I can get a big rush of ideas towards the end of the time. As in, "how could I have forgotten that?!" Maybe it's all the adrenaline that does it!

    Thanks, Evangeline! I was reading through it last night and I don't think it's bad at all.

    Cathleen, it depends on what you mean by "draft." My drafts are usually very clean so far as the prose goes; however, for the initial manuscript I turn in, I try not to suffer over some story decisions, because I know there will be a revision period down the road, when my editor will have suggestions for me; she might want some additional scenes, or think I have too many scenes (for instance, I cut a sex scene in the first book at my editor's suggestion, because there were too many happening close together).

    At the same time, I try to make the story as close to final as possible. I guess what I mean is that I remind myself that I might have a better idea for a particular scene in a month, and it's a relief to know I have one more chance to alter that scene.

    I think you'd have to talk to your editor before submitting a messy draft. I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that. If there were extenuating circumstances, I'd rather consult with her and find out ahead of time if I could have a little more leeway.

    Of course, it's easy for me to say that, when I'm only writing one novel at a time, one per year!

    I ought to write a blog post on that. Thanks!

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