On Wednesdays the Wickeds all weigh in on a topic. This week, a topic that is near and dear to our hearts–the realities of Book Jail. Book Jail is the crunch time before a book deadline. Wickeds, how do you know when you are in book jail, and that the deadline is looming, aside from the calendar?
Liz: Having recently been liberated from Book Jail, I can speak with authority on this topic! I know I’m in Book Jail when…the whole world seems to blow up at once. Usually, a couple of cats get sick and at least one needs to go to the vet. A special project inevitably comes up at work. Often, a personal crisis is thrown in. The computer may or may not have an issue (hopefully not fatal, but very definitely a close call). And when you go to drown your sorrows or chase them away with potato chips or sweets, we’re out of wine and the cupboards are bare. You can’t even go out to get more because ALL the clothes are dirty (of course you haven’t kept up with laundry), and you can’t spare the 20 minutes anyway to drive to the nearest liquor store. It’s truly a desperate time!
Sherry: I’m in book jail! I know it because when anyone asks me to do anything my answer is: After May 15th. While in book jail I decide my hair looks okay in it’s natural state (it doesn’t) and makeup isn’t necessary (it is, trust me on that one). And when my daughter asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day I said: for everyone to pretend I’m not here for the next two weeks (fortunately they ignored that comment). I also know I’m in book jail because I make grandiose plans for after. I’m going to clean out every closet. I’m going to organize the storeroom in the basement. I’ll put the hundreds of loose photos into albums. Any bets on how much of that will really take place?
Edith: I know I’m in book jail when I’m casting about for guidance on revision. The book is done, but have I polished it enough? Have I eliminated all those superfluous words, those trite phrasings, those unnecessary descriptions? Have I used all the senses without being stupid about it? Is there another book on revision I could consult? I keep looking for a lifeline, sure that I could make the story better – but how? And then, of course, just when I need full attention on the book, I get proofs in on another series, an event I need to attend, or copyedits on yet another series. Gah! Just send me to somebody’s empty house for a week and don’t talk to me.
Jessie: For me book jail usually is about head games. And bags of baby carrots. Lots of bags of carrots. This year marks my fourth time in five years that I have a September 1 deadline. My stints in book jail usually coincide with the weeks I’m at the beach and I use my fervent desire to get onto the sand to get the day’s work done early. But I can’t always seem to make it work and that’s where the carrots come in. If I end up spending the whole day at the desk, listening to the sounds of beach carts rolling past and smelling the salt air, I have a tendency to hop up from my desk and make unnecesary trip to the refrigerator. I’ve trained myself to grab the baby carrots instead of more tempting options since I wear my jaw out before I eat enough of them to turn orange.
Barb: I’m embarrassed to tell you I am very whiny when I’m in book jail. “Why is everyone outside playing except me?” (They’re not.) “Why is everyone at that movie/concert/play except me?” (They’re not.) By the same token, I love finishing things and I love revising. I love it when I can read the book through in a day or two and really get a sense of the pacing and overall coherence of the story. And I love being in a position to focus on just one thing, instead of spending half the day on a to-do list that pulls me hither and yon. So the truth is, I actually love book jail.
Julie: I’m heading into book jail soon. I know because the first bag of Fritoes has been purchased. (Fritoes, chocolate and end of day Malbec are my book jail foods.) I am being asked to do things on weekends, and defaulting to “no”. I am also rereading my plotting cards every day, and Ruth, Ben, Bezel and the gang are with me most waking hours. My challenge with book jail is that the rest of my life continues without sympathy.
Readers: Do you have deadlines that make you ignore all the other things in your life? Writers: What happens to when you are in book jail? Have any of you managed to avoid it?