Francesca Burgess considers eternal tweaking and how life interferes with deadlines.
Seven years ago I started submitting short stories to magazines. Deadlines didn’t feature unless I was writing a seasonal story and needed to get it subbed within a certain time frame. Not having a deadline can be a problem where I’m concerned as I tend to tweak and hold on to a story far longer than I should. With competition entries the deadline is a definite cut off point which can be advantage if you’re like me.
When I started writing novels in 2009 I had no deadlines for them, no publishers, editors or agents to get them off to by a certain date. For someone who edits and tweaks ad infinitum, this can be an even bigger disadvantage than it is with a short story. My first good idea was to join in with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place every November. I’ve done this successfully every year since. However, it doesn’t mean that I don’t go on to tweak and edit endlessly later.
My second good idea was to join the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2011. This was extremely effective at giving me a kick up the proverbial. Apart from having to get a manuscript in each year, there is the opportunity to meet publishers, editors and agents. If one of them shows an interest in a novel and asks to see the whole thing, this gives a deadline and a reason to stop ‘fine tuning’.
The cut off date for the NWS is 31st August. Every year it’s been my aim to get the manuscript off by the time I go to the Caerleon/Fishguard Writers’ Week, at the end of July. For the first three years I succeeded.
For the first time this year, my fourth year in the NWS, I took it to the wire. And I mean the wire. It was one of those times when, deadline or no deadline, life itself got in the way, quite literally in the birth of my granddaughter, Seren. But death also played a part as my much-too-young brother-in-law passed away with cancer. Hence visits and funerals to Wales and to the north of the country. In between all this we were preparing for my eldest daughter’s wedding in the West Country, brought forward in the hope her uncle would make it.
So writing and editing this summer – the new novel plus the last one which I’ve been editing twice over for different interested publishers – has been fitted in between the hatch, match and dispatch of human existence. Sometimes life is like that. In the midst of it we have to face all sorts of complications, both wonderful and terrible. Maybe, at some point in the future, all of what I’ve experienced this summer will itself go into a book.
Now I have NaNoWriMo looming once again in nine days time. Life continues to be complicated but I am hoping to get my 1,667 words written each day.
Wish me luck!
National Novel Writing Month http://nanowrimo.org/
Romantic Novelists’ Association: http://www.rna-uk.org
RNA New Writers’ Scheme: http://www.romanticnovelistsassociation.org/join/new_writers_scheme