Saturday, 17 January 2009

Here's the story in a nutshell

Stephen Parrish posed an interesting question in the comments section of my previous post: Why would I deliver an unpolished manuscript?

Well...

New e-pub, Ravenous Romance calls for short stories. I submit If The Shoe Fits for their Sex & Shoes anthology. It is accepted. I am now in their author stable.

Later, same pub asks for ideas for novels. I pitch The Toast Bitches, a story about four women in a large media company.

They like the premise. When can I deliver chapters? Oops. I haven't started writing it yet. I ask for a couple of weeks and whip something up.

They like the three chapters. Here's a contract. When can I deliver the manuscript?

Like an idiot, I say December 15th. That should give me about two months for a 50K novel. Unexpectedly, a month-long ordeal turns my world upside down; I can't bring myself to write a hot, sexy novel. So I ask for an extension. They say, okay, no problem. They knew about the situation and are very understanding.

So, like an idiot, I only ask for an extra month when I should have asked for more time. Christmas happens, New Years. Afraid to ask for another extension and look like one of those 'difficult authors' people talk about, I work my ass off to deliver by deadline.

Lesson learned: Ask for WAY more than three months to deliver a manuscript contracted on spec.

17 comments:

Stephen Parrish said...

This is a great topic for discussion. I hope experienced authors join in.

You hear about "the sophomore slump," the phenomenon of a second novel tanking in quality and sales, because the author was under contract, and under pressure, to produce a second novel. To what extent should an author fail to meet the terms of a contract in order to preserve her reputation as a writer?

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Yes, I've heard about authors 'phoning it in' because of time constraints, rushing to complete the novel to meet a deadline.

In my case, there is no set publication date, so hopefully we'll have time to work together and polish it further. I hate to put the editor in that position, though.

Erica Orloff said...

I think sophomore slump encompasses a lot of things. No one feels the exact same passion for every book. We're learning all the time, and so on. I always feel like honesty is best . . . in actuality, there is often some padding in schedules. I'd say something like, "I have it done, but given my circumstances, I don't know if it's as funny as I could make it. Can I have some wiggle room in galleys or take a week now to punch it up?"

All I can say is writing changes once you start operating on the principle of deadline (I sold my first as a completed novel and since then have only written in proposal). The point of "letting go" changes . . .
E

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I'm relieved to find out there is wiggle room.

AstonWest said...

I'll have to remember to ask for a lot of time if I ever go writing on spec. :-)

McKoala said...

Interesting. I write commercially to deadline all the time. I like to think I could do the same with fiction, but I'm not convinced I could. I don't think I could write a whole novel in three months or less, although, as you know, sometimes it's amazing what you can do under pressure. More experience probably helps too; more confidence in style and approach. I feel I'm still working that out.

However, I can rewrite and edit to ridiculous deadlines - and nail it, too. That much I have found out from my agent!

wordtryst said...

Ha. I'll remember this if I'm ever in a similar situation.

Jen Bluekissed said...

Thanks for the insight here! I bet you were stressed for awhile!

You should get your blog listed with technorati and put a button on your site so your readers can fav it!

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Technorati -- another puppy to feed? Looking at their site reminds me to use tags, something I keep forgetting.

bunnygirl said...

I'm impressed you got the manuscript finished, all things considered. Writing fiction to deadline is one of the big concerns I would have if I were ever offered a contract and it's one of the reasons I don't pursue publication very aggressively.

You and the commenters have given me something to think about, that's for sure.

Queen of the Road said...

Big congrats, Sandra, on finishing!

I ALWAYS over estimate how much time I'll need, thinking, "I'll look like a star when I bring it in under."

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Heh, Doreen... next time I'll ask you first.

BernardL said...

I can't think of anything more nerve wracking than being under a deadline for a novel I haven't even written. No author wants to spend three months or more writing a novel a publisher may not want; but I can envision even more dire consequences for contracting to produce a novel, and simply not being able to deliver. Until you mentioned this dilemma, Sandra, I hadn't even given selling an idea rather than a finished novel even a thought. I don't think I could do it.

michelletrudeau said...

Honestly are we not our best under pressure. I am sure your readers will enjoy evry second.

michelle

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Thanks, Michelle.

I'm relieved to report that Holly likes it, and I should hear from a copy editor soon.

I told her I thought I'd dropped the ball, tripped over it and fell on my face, but if she thinks it's okay, then... Yippee!

Barbara Martin said...

This is food for thought for me should the occasion arise. Thanks for raising the topic, Sandra.

writtenwyrdd said...

Wow, I think I'll have to bookmark this one for what not to do. I shall learn from your painful experience.