Wicked Wednesday: You Know You’re In Book Jail When

Book Jail (1)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!

Liz in book jail on one of our retreats.
Liz in book jail on one of our retreats.

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.

IMG_9007Jessie: 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?


23 Thoughts

  1. I need to be in book jail at one of your houses. I am too easily paroled here by my kids who always need things, especially rides. In addition to book jail, I’m I’m short story confinement. The deadline for Level Best submissions is May 31st. and I’ve only read 100 stories out of 135 with more to come. I need an assistant!

  2. Book jail: my best excuse for keeping the world at bay. Like Barb, I love it, albeit in a bit of a perverse way. I really appreciate how people respect what book jail requires. I will say, it really helps if the weather is bad when you’re in book jail. Rain is good. Snow is better. Anything short of a power outage. Comfort food also helps get me through. Bring on those grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.

    1. The winter of 2015 was hugely productive for me – entirely because I didn’t have to commute anywhere (sorry, Julie and Liz!).

  3. For the past few years I’ve had a pretty regular schedule, with a book every four months. Now things are getting a bit muddled, since I decided I was writing a paranormal romance series, with floating pub dates (the next one is August, I think), and then there are short stories for (hopefully) anthologies, and, oh yes, the rest of my life, which seems to include buying a house in another country. Problem is, my editor is dragging his feet, so I fear there will be a traffic jam shortly.

    How do I cope? The cats are a big help. I’m sure you’ve all noticed that petting a soft animal is very soothing. Baking (and consuming the baked goods) helps too. Anything that doesn’t involve using my brain, which is still churning away on plot points in the background.

    I haven’t missed a deadline–yet.

  4. Book Jail–I’m a repeat offender, trying to redeem myself. I just got copyedits in on A KILLER KEBAB and turned them in a week early! Go Me. In addition to writing and revising my own books, with the attendant copyedits and proofreads (not to mention promo, but we won’t go there), I also do paid editing for other people. I’ve learned to not take jobs during the 30 days before I have a book due, which is tough on the wallet but better for my sanity and my finished products all around. My Book Jail bread and water consists of coffee with half and half in the morning, flavored teas in the afternoon, and a lot of peanut butter on Ritz crackers. Sometimes cheese and crackers, but mostly peanut butter, and sliced apples. Oh, and takeout! BTW, I’m about to enter Book Jail again next Monday. Finishing up an editing project, then diving in to finish the second half of a book I started a while ago. BTW, I love you all, Cell Mates!

  5. Learning coping mechanisms from you all – let’s see grilled cheese and tomatoes, wine, baby carrots, cats, Cheetos, followed by more wine and more Cheetos. I haven’t learned the skill of reducing/refusing/delaying other commitments – working on that.

  6. Ladies, love the book jail post. But baby carrots??? LOLOL. I can only write for so long and then get incredibly antsy. That’s why the laundry is done and food sometimes appears. Then I settle down and return to my work. Just finished one round of final edits. Yikes.

  7. No book jail (so far–never wise to tempt fate!) but then no day job, no kids, no near neighbors and no social life, either. I live in the middle of nowhere year round. The test will come later this month when we will have renovations to our house going on two weeks before my June 15 deadline. Right now, I’m doing a read thru/revision after the ms. has been resting for about a month. It the book holds together, all’s good, but if I find a major plot or character development problem, I’m in trouble. And then there are all those talking heads scenes to beef up, and unnecessary words to get rid of, and . . . I need to stop reading blogs and get back to work!

    1. Right now three strong people are hammering on my roof. LOUD hammering. But I’m going to finish that short story come hammering hell or high water! And then I get to garden in the sun…

  8. I recently tried to work in an extra book before reading the books I’d agreed to review and needed to get read and a review drafted before Malice. Does that count as book jail even though it just meant I was reading more?

      1. Your book jail is made of real books as well. They just haven’t been created yet. Mine have been.

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