Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Whoosh...That was my deadline!

Image by Joshua Kopel, via Flickr

Time was when I always met my deadlines, even when I was writing four books a year and had a part-time job. My latest 3 or 4 books have all been turned in late.

My work-in-progress, the 24th Daisy Dalrymple mystery (Superfluous Women) was due June 1st. My editor will be happy if I get it to him by the end of July. We both have our fingers crossed.

I have an excuse. I have multiple excuses.

The most fundamental is the length of the series. After 21 books, I've run through a great many of the possible permutations of plot, character, motive, mode of death, and so on. One of the difficulties of a series such as Daisy's is finding new reasons for her to become involved in investigating murder, and ways to get her husband, DCI Alec Fletcher, on the case. The longer the series grows, the more my powers of invention and imagination are taxed. It takes time to come up with new variations.

I've also slowed down for physical reasons. A herniated disk with two relapses, "trigger thumb", a broken foot and subsequent problems with the opposite leg, leading to months of physical therapy: only the thumb directly affected writing, but the rest made everything else—shopping, laundry, the inescapable chores—take forever. And that's not including time occupied by medical appointments.

On top of that, my dog, extremely healthy since we got past the horrible state she was in when I adopted her, all at once had to have endless visits to the vet.

Another factor is the endless opportunities for promotion now so easily available. It's no longer a matter of a signing tour once a year. It never stops, though I don't take advantage of half the possibilities. That's one good thing about being with a major publisher. They still do a lot of promo that small publishers expect their authors to do for themselves.

My editor has been very understanding. In fact, he said to my agent, "I get the impression that Carola would like to slow down a bit." Actually, I'd already slowed by the time he said that! He adjusts and readjusts publication schedules with aplomb. At least, I don't hear about any frantic hurrying and scurrying there may be behind the scenes.

The only penalty is that I have to wait longer for the parts of my advance that are payable "on delivery and acceptance" and on publication. I'd already gone past due-date a couple of times when Minotaur offered the latest 3 contracts.

All the pressure is self-imposed. I've always been a better-early-than-late person (though when I stunned my dentist by turning up a day early for an appointment, I was not making sure I arrived in good time, I'd simply mixed up the date). Knowing for weeks that I'm going to be late, and for more weeks that I am already running late, makes me uncomfortable.

Self-imposed and reader-imposed, I should say. People eagerly awaiting Daisy's next adventure and the next Cornish mystery are dismayed to hear they'll have to wait a year for the former and two for the latter.

I'm writing as fast as I can!

Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.


  1. It would be so much easier if we could just punch a time clock; set our assistant(s) on the task of finding several previously unused "permutations of plot, character, motive, mode of death, and so on"; and put our 8 hours in writing productively and without interruption. But the routine of a writer is so rarely this simple and well organized. As noted above, life gets in the way, sometimes hurling such a multitude of diversions and digressions in our paths that we even forget (temporarily, of course) that we are writers -- with deadlines. The challenge is to get past all the interferences and embrace the joy that comes with creative expression (often no small task in itself). Love the reality of this post, Carola. You've nailed it!

  2. The muses are sadly put out by the vagaries life throws at us. I love long series, like Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. Keeping it fresh is important. I imagine after 21 books, I'd need a long vacation!

  3. I've missed my last few deadlines as well. Never seems to be enough time and weird stuff just keeps popping up.

  4. I've gone way over my self-imposed deadline of May 1st, but it still feels ick, even though I'm not letting anyone down but myself.

  5. I hadn't considered that particular aspect of a long-running series, but it makes perfect sense. And I'm sorry to hear of your health woes and those of your dog. My sympathies, and while I can't promise to "contain myself in patience," I certainly understand why you are writing more slowly, and I'll be ready and eager when the next book comes out. I've been a fan for a long time; that's not going to change just because the books are a bit farther apart!

    1. Thank you, Lark. It will come, eventually!

  6. Thanks Carola for all the many books you've given all of us - your "eager readers". I always look forward eagerly to your next book - whether it takes a year, or two, or longer. I'll be one of the many faithfully waiting. Life never seems to slow down, though I've noticed I definitely have. If someone had told me ten years ago (I'm now almost 53) that I'd have to have neck/back surgery, carpal tunnel, and look forward to cataract surgery in a couple more years I would have laughed myself silly. It's no longer silly, just a bit painful. Be well, stay safe, and I very much look forward to reading your next book in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

  7. I understand your health reasons as I have similar problems. I do enjoy TousSaint books.

  8. My first Daisy book was Mourning Wedding. Enjoying that, I glommed the back list and soon caught up with current releases. I just read Gone West, another satisfying experience. I still have Heirs of the Body to look forward to.

    I commiserate with your creative, health, and personal problems. I too underwent considerable angst when I failed to complete important projects because of advancing age, infirmity, etc.

    For me, it does not matter how long it takes you to complete a book. I care that the completed work live up to your usual standards.

    Kay Webb Harrison


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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