Saturday, February 27, 2010
Writers have deadlines. Why are they called deadlines? Who was the genius who thought that term up?
Actually, that’s not a rhetorical question. According to The Maven’s Word of the Day:
The word deadline first appeared as an American coinage that referred to the line around a military prison beyond which soldiers were authorized to shoot escaping prisoners. According to Lossing's History of the Civil War (1868): "Seventeen feet from the inner stockade was the 'dead-line', over which no man could pass and live." This use is also found in Congressional records as early as 1864: "The 'dead line', beyond which the prisoners are not allowed to pass."
Dead line. As in dead at this point. As in cease to exist if you go THERE. Dead. Line. Deadline.
Hmmm, even though it really does feel like that at times, I am willing to bet very few authors actually DIE if they miss a deadline. So what else could it be? More Maven wisdom says:
The other possibility is that the deadline we know today as 'a point in time past which something will not be accepted' comes from an early 20th-century printing term. In the years before the first citation of deadline referring to a point in time, there are citations for deadline meaning 'a guideline on the bed of a printing press beyond which text will not print': "Make certain that the type does not come outside of the dead-line on the press" (Henry, Printing for School & Shop, 1917).
As a writer, you will always have deadlines. At first they are self imposed. You *WANT* to finish that story and have it ready to go by a certain date. If that doesn’t happen, you feel like a loser but you live. There is no sentry waiting to fill you full of lead, just a nasty wave of self-disappointment. (tastes like feet, blech)
Then you sell and, suddenly, the deadline carries more weight. You don’t get to define it anymore. There is no leisurely flipping around the manuscript looking for flaws. Nope. Your editor is waiting on that story and you have a concrete date. Copy-editors and art departments are waiting on you. You are under the gun now!
Fine, you make that deadline but there is more! Now you have a second story with a whole separate deadline. You are writing one, editing the other and oh yeah, did I mention promo? (Little things like waiting until the last minute to do that guest blog post you didn’t forget but have been putting off really jerks a knot in things). You can almost feel the deadline pressing down like iron bars.
Do that for several books.
Wow, you are in demand now! You have enough oomph behind your name to sell on proposal. Easy street, right? Wrong! Now you have a date pre-set but no real story started, just a promise and an outline. You are bound by legal issues tighter than handcuffs. If you screw up a date, you might as well pucker up and kiss your career goodbye. (with tongue)
And what about your readers, your fans? By this time, you have some. Even if it is just one woman’s library group that meets every Wednesday for prune juice and raisin cookies. They are waiting for your latest! You owe them and don’t want to let them down. *CRACK!!* Get to it!
Don’t get sloppy or lazy. That is one way to kill your writing career. (public nudity while eating Cheetos in Wal-mart is another)
Keep doing this, over and over and over. The glamorous life of a writer. It’s not all champagne and caviar. But who wants old grape juice and fish eggs anyway? Gimme a cold cup of coffee, a soft pair of pajama pants and a deadline, then watch me make magic.
I am a writer. Deadlines are my life. And I love it. I am actually on a deadline now.
The sequel to MYLA BY MOONLIGHT has been contracted by Carina Press. Titled SALOME AT SUNRISE, it is slated for a June release. So while I tappity tap tap my edits and work on the final book in the trilogy, leave me a comment(with your email addy). I will swing back by and choose one person to win a free copy of Myla by Moonlight.
You can read blurbs, excerpts, free reads and generally just play around on my website. Enjoy! *puts nose back to the grindstone*