Friends, Dead Freds and Deadlines

Liz here, in book jail, but quite possibly on the verge of parole…

It’s been a long few months.

Seriously. I don’t mean to complain, but it really has. There’s been a lot going on in my world, and then at the end of January, I got a little surprise. I realized (thanks to my super-on-it-editor at Kensington) that I had screwed up. I thought my deadline for my next book was April 1, and I was meandering along towards it, doing my usual “I’ll do it later” thing. (Granted, this time I had a better reason for doing that than others, but still.) Anyway, I was wrong. Or delusional. Turns out the book was due March 1 instead.

Heart attack? Oh yes. With a few panic attacks thrown in. When I learned this, I had about half my word count completed, but my story itself seemed to have gone by the wayside. I was stuck in the middle, so I wasn’t progressing. I was procrastinating, because I was dealing with some difficult personal and professional experiences. I was already feeling like it was an impossible task.

So to lose four weeks felt like a bad joke.

But seriously – I had no time to wallow. I had to just figure out how to get it done. And of course, this is where the Wickeds came in.

It’s no secret around here that I’ve struggled with the whole plotting vs. pantsing thing. I write about it often, usually around a deadline when I’m once again reminded how plotting could’ve saved my sanity. This time, I had plotted. I even felt good about the plot. So to still be stuck was killing me.

And then Jessie stepped in. She FaceTimed me one afternoon and walked me through an  amazing exercise where I laid out my plot, told her where I was stuck, and we spent the next two hours re-plotting and brainstorming and generally untying all the knots I’d worked myself into. By the time we hung up, I felt better. I used her method of posting “Dead Freds” all over my wall into some semblance of an outline. Once I had all my scenes mostly laid out and where I wanted them, I started inputting them into Scrivener. img_1984

Then I started writing. And miraculously, I started making progress. This was the best exercise I’ve ever done – and I’m totally going to bug Jessie to do it again (and again!) for my next book(s).

When Sherry read the first few chapters for me, she pointed out a potential (huge) issue that I was able to fix fairly easily, before it turned into a big problem with the finished draft. As always, her fabulous eye is just what I needed. I replotted a bit, then started again.

And through it all, Barb, Julie and Edith have been cheering me on – Barb from her own cell in book jail, Edith through her knee surgery, and Julie through her always-busy life. It’s been hairy, but I think I’m going to do it. As usual, these guys saved the day. And put up with me at the same time. I promise I’ll make it up to you all…

Now let’s hope my editor likes the book once I finally get to The End!

Readers, what’s gotten you through a difficult time or an impossible deadline? 


40 Thoughts

  1. Three hundred cheers for Jessie, and for you, Liz. So glad you broke through the blockage and can see your way to The End. What a great method! I’m about to get back to a half-written first draft that’s been on hold for six weeks, and I’m a little afraid of what I’m going to find. So I’ll bring tape and my own Dead Fred pad on retreat with me in a couple of weeks. I might need to find a bare wall and do the same exercise!

    1. HI, Edith: I bet the enforced break will be helpful. You will bring a fresh eye to it all. I often I could wish I could put every WIP away for a while before I do the last revision.But there are those pesky things called deadline. Glad you are feeling better!

  2. Hang in there! You know the story is in your head somewhere–the problem is dragging it out and writing it down.

    I’m wrapping up edits on a book that is nearly 94,000 words long. Most of mine come out a 75,000. This one just kept growing, but there’s no filler or padding. Maybe it’s working on Irish time and things take longer to develop.

    My, that Dead Fred looks familiar. I think I’ve buried one on my desk somewhere.

  3. My mentor, Matthew Clemens, has saved my sanity too many times to count. I mean, it’s right there in the word ‘mentor’, isn’t? Although he is much more to me than a mentor – he’s a friend and, really, a surrogate father.

    We friended through a friend on FB because we kept chatting at one another on her posts. A few months in he Messaged me offering to read anything I had (I’d been talking about how I’d done NaNo) and it took another few months before I sent him this idea that had been percolating for years. When my phone rang five minutes later and I saw his name show up on the caller ID, I was terrified. He essentially told me that if I didn’t write the book he was going to get on a plane and stand over me until I did (this is no longer a threat, obviously, and he doesn’t try it anymore 😉 ).

    So many times in the seven months of writing it (and 15 months of revising) did I need his help to hold my hand, kick my ass, talk me through, and be my Spaghetti Wall (if it sticks, it’s done) and without him I would never have had the courage to try or the fortitude to keep at it.

  4. Congrats on breaking through. I can’t imagine the stress that being stuck caused you. I love Dead Fred. I haven’t seen him before. I think I need Dead Fred. 🙂 When I’ve been stuck in my story I turn to my critique partner. She’s amazing and has helped me out too many times to count.

  5. The same thing that got you through-a support group of friends who have “been there, done that” and know how and are willing to help. What a wonderful group the Wickeds are! And congrats for getting it finished.

  6. I’m not sure what I did before meeting Jessie and having our monthly FaceTime meetings. I think I spent a great deal of money on therapy! Liz, I am glad you made it to the “other side.”

  7. Congrats on getting so much done. Aren’t good friends the greatest? (Or is that aren’t great friends the goodest?) (And yes, I know that’s bad grammar. So there.)

    I’m facing huge deadlines and impossible situations at work over the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I think my only recourse is going to be to hold on and try to weather the storm. Because I feel like I’m the only sane one at the moment. No promises I’ll still be sane in two weeks.

  8. Liz, I can definitely sympathize with your situation. Glad it worked out for you–with a help of some good friends. Although I look forward to having a three-book contract, the idea of having tight deadlines to complete the next two scares me to death. Being a plotter, I know I couldn’t get through without an outline–otherwise the stress would prevent me from thinking or creating. For others who need to outline, I highly recommend K.M. Weiland’s book, “Outlining Your Novel.” It is filled with great tips on plotting and lots of other sage advice about writing.

  9. Trying to set a goal of working a certain amount of hours on a project a day. I have a cross stitch wedding sampler that I was making for my cousin who got married last May. It turned into it was going to be a Christmas present and now a one year anniversary gift. Wish I could have someone help me out!

  10. Liz, I’m glad you got through with Jessie and Dead Fred! I cannot imagine the nightmare of having four weeks go “poof” I’ve been lucky enough to run problems by my editor extraordinaire Barb Goffman. And I really miss the plotting parties with Sherry and Barb. Now back to book jail. Hang in there!

  11. Man, I am jealous of all those sticky notes. I’m still feeling my way in the dark. I have to try that next time. Maybe you and Jessie can coach me at our next retreat.

  12. Oh, Liz! I’m so sorry that happened — and so glad you had just the right support. 🙂 I’m amazed you had/made time to write this blog! I don’t know what I’d do (other than cry!) if I didn’t have a support network for writing emergencies. Wishing you a wonderful conclusion to this story!

  13. I’m both a plotter and pantser… I plot loosely and then tighten along as I progress but there are times when I feel so overwhelmed that I know I need to stop writing and start outlining. I’m feeling a bit stuck on what I’m writing now and am looking forward to really sinking my teeth into the progression of the story versus the details that I love but can get distracted by. As for how I get through it? Solitude, lots of coffee, something sweet, and some tunes for the little breaks inbetween.

    1. I love that Sonia. Sometimes I feel the same way about being both, then I beat myself up for not being “enough” of a plotter! I agree, solitude, coffee and snacks are the other saving graces.

  14. What a great support system — I admire the heck out of it, and am a tad bit envious! And a new use for Dead Fred — I’m sure he’s delighted to die again and again for the sake of your story, Liz!

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