Life on a Deadline – 5 lessons (and a bonus!) learned

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As many of you know, this past summer was a whirlwind of writing as I created the second two books in the Melusine’s Daughters series. In less than three months I wrote over 130,000 words.


Because I insanely sold a three book series to my publisher with a three-month consecutive release schedule for the summer…. With only the first book written. Not something I’d recommend – or something I would do again. However, not only am I very proud of the books I wrote and know it’s some of my strongest writing to date, I also learned a lot from the process. So, in no particular order, here are the top five things I learned:


(1) Character GMC is vital – Knowing the internal and external GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) of your main characters is a necessity – especially if you don’t outline or pre-plot out a book. My stories are much more character driven than plot driven, but without something to do, nothing happens and the characters’ journeys don’t happen. I use GMC to make a list of all the things that have to happen for my heroine and hero so that they get their goal, learn what they need to learn and face the fears that have been holding them back. That list helps me create the scenes and actions necessary. Don’t know GMC? Debra Dixon wrote *the* book on this which is now only available as a download. Buy it. Use it. Memorize it. I re-read it yearly.

(2) The earlier I can get my first 1,000 words done – the better – As much as I might not love getting out of bed, mornings are my most productive times. What takes me an hour or so to write in the morning will likely take twice that in the afternoon. I start my day with Morning Pages (Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron) and during this period as soon as they were done I’d dive immediately into my writing. When I could get the first 1,000 words written by 10:00 am the rest of the day was more productive and I was more relaxed and able to take care of myself (a very important part) and everyone else. 1,500 words before breaking for lunch was mandatory or not enough would get done for the day and the stress would ratchet up, not something anyone wanted to see.

(3) Speech to text software is a gift – My world didn’t stop while I was writing these books. My sons still needed me as did my husband and other things around the house. Go figure. I could not always start my day at the computer or even be certain I’d have a lot of time there. Using the speech-to-text software on my phone and dictating a scene into the Notes app was a huge help. As long as I had a fairly clear idea of what the scene was going to be about, I could dictate 1,000-2,000 words in an hour or less. Yes, it needed a lot of cleaning up later on the screen, but that was also a good time for extra editing and filling out the scene. Several days were made more productive thanks to this software.

  • CODICIL: Sex scenes don’t work this way – at least not for me. I tried talking one out because that’s where I was in the book. Nope, nope, nope. What reads well on paper sounds really bizarre when I say it out loud.

  (4) I can trust my process – While there are some similarities, of course, I’ve found that no two books are created in exactly the same way. Occasionally I write a book linearly from beginning to end, but not usually. Once I know what scenes need to happen there are times when I will pick and choose which ones to write. Holly Lisle calls these “candy bar” scenes – the ones that are so sweet and good that you can’t resist. Starting with one of those each day can really help my productivity as the day goes on. Yes, it means there are holes that I have to fill with action or transition. Yes, sometimes it means that a later scene needs to change and deepen because of something that happens earlier in the book but was written later. It doesn’t matter. It all fits together in the end and I am a happier more productive writer when I can (cue Frank Sinatra) do my way. Always be on the look out for ways you can – and do – trust yours.

(5) Writing Fast Drowns the Inner Critic  – one of the benefits of doing National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) in November, beyond getting 50,000 or more words written, is when you write that fast and keep moving forward without going back and editing yourself is that your Inner Critic can’t chime in. Sure, the IC will try, but it’s easy to say, “Sorry. Busy. Not now.” I was on a pace faster than Nanowrimo and my IC didn’t stand a chance. As a result, I was able to get more done and take more risks – I didn’t overthink a scene, I just put it in if it felt right. There was time to take it out later in the editing process. Overall, I think it made for a better book. I know it made for an easier writing experience.

BONUSIf you’re going to do something this crazy – make sure it is doing or is connected to what you’re passionate about. I love writing. I love getting to know a character, discovering their fears and desires and then uncovering this as the story progresses. I devoted long hours, most of my brain cells and countless cups of coffee to this effort. Not only was it worth it, but during most of that time no matter how stressed or crazy it got, I also loved it. Yes, I would – and will – write a series under a different deadline in the future, but not one moment of this made me want to stop or give up writing. I love the quote (in the image at the right) from Julia Child.  Writing is definitely something I’m passionate about. I hope you know, find, and live yours.

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