In Praise of Deadlines (sort of) Caroline

Deadlines… Writers live and die by them. Usually we cuss them. I always tell my editor to give me a date a week to ten days before she actually needs whatever it is I am writing. Lie to me. That way if I slip a couple of days, I will still make the REAL deadline and will not screw my editor’s life up. I also realize that most of us actually would never accomplish a darned thing without the pressure of a deadline. I have always envied writers who get their term papers done a week ahead of the due date. I tell myself that I work better under pressure, but since I’m never NOT under pressure, I have no idea whether that’s true or not.

I think the worst deadline case I ever personally experienced was for a paper in a graduate seminar on Bertrand Russell’s theories of divorce. Oh, for pity’s sake! Who cares? Who remembers? I certainly wasn’t able to work up any great enthusiasm either for him or his theories. This was in the days before computers when papers had to be typed carefully and corrected with White Out and ink erasers. And somehow the correction never lined up perfectly with what was excised.

I am a very fast typist, although not necessarily a clean one. I used to buy White-Out in a six pack. I finished the paper at one-thirty in the afternoon. The seminar started across campus at two. I made it, read the paper, got an A on the thing (which I did not deserve, but hey…) and vowed to be better disciplined the next time.

How did that work for me? Guess.

At any rate, I had to get the new anthology of short stories for our Malice in Memphis writers’ group edited and returned to the authors by yesterday’s meeting, so that their final proofreading and editing could be done before next Friday. The stories will be tied in to the Memphis in May festival. The publisher needs them by the first of February, so I’m already cutting it close.

How is it that when times are tight problems previously unseen surface and snarl at you? I discovered I had the wrong version of one story. The author had sent me a later one, but it hadn’t showed up on my computer. Oh, lovely. Then I received a very late story that has some problems that must be dealt with before it is publishable. Then there were the corrections the writers had not fixed. For those of you who have ever judged contests, you know that there is nothing more frustrating than to get a manuscript to judge THIS year that has not been corrected from LAST year.

At least there is time to fix everything (one hopes) that has to be fixed and still meet the publisher’s deadline.

I truly believe that with each anthology, the stories get better. Thus the writers are getting better. Hooray! That’s why we started this in the first place.

Incidentally the Malice in Memphis Ghost Stories anthology (available on Amazon) is doing really well. The first anthology of crime stories is still selling as well.

Check out our Malice in Memphis web site to find out more.


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