By Kristy McCaffrey
I’m in the midst of completing another manuscript. Although this is my fifth novel, it’s the first that I wrote under a deadline. Having no publishing commitments with my other books (at least, not until after they were completed), I basked in the freedom of writing what I wanted when I wanted, of letting the story unfold in its own time.
I’m not here to tell you that one technique is better than the other, but the reality is that if you desire a writing career, you must accept deadlines. And a funny thing happened along the way. Although I was forced to live in abject terror over the early (and abysmal) state of said manuscript—knowing the publication date loomed and that it was a mess of shallow plotlines and several characters who served no point whatsoever—that deadline constantly pushed me forward. And that, ladies and gents, is what gets the story written.
Ask any writer, and they, of course, know this. I know this. I’m not reinventing the wheel here. But still, when I finally got to the end (last Friday, as a matter of fact), after weeks of worry and stressed-out dreams, I threw myself at the altar of the Deadline and screamed hallelujah. Because the Deadline forced me to get into the dirt of my story, slog through the mud, and FIX the problems. Don’t misunderstand, there were moments I thought, “I’ll just take a break and watch Modern Family, relax the mind, and let the solution find me.” For the record, that routine has never worked. I don’t know why I keep trusting it will. There’s a pervasive belief, held by non-writers and writers alike, that good stories write themselves. Um, no.
Two days before I finished an extensive edit of the novel, I hit a stall of massive proportions. The problem was the romance, and since I write historical romances, this wasn’t just some small aggravation I could sweep under the rug (although, believe me, I tried). As I entered the final climactic scene, the one where all the characters that had been running willy-nilly through the story came together (and yay, I’d managed to give them all a reason for being there), it felt flat. The hero and heroine were happy, and getting along. They were talking about love and marriage. What had I done? In a romance novel, the biggest stake in the story involves the couple, and if it’s resolved too soon, why would the reader care about anything else? I needed a dose of relationship friction, and quick.
In a world of no deadlines, I could’ve relaxed. I’ll solve this quandary eventually. Maybe the book will be published by 2018. But, if you can stand to look your fears and deficiencies in the eye (sunglasses help), a wonderful thing can happen. You’ll find the twist you need. Invariably, the solution is already present in the work itself, the writer just needs to focus and find it. The Deadline makes this happen. The tension I needed existed in the heroine. All it took was a little tweaking. After that, the ending wrote itself. Just kidding. It took me eight straight hours to pick through it, and additional editing the following day to smooth it out.
I’m happy to report that I’ve molded a tale that carries depth and theme and conflict, a story that makes me proud. So, embrace the Deadline. While it’s a love-hate relationship, within its smothering grip your best writing self can emerge.
My deadline book will be available in a few weeks!! All the deets will be on my website http://www.kristymccaffrey.com/
Historical Western Romance
Arizona Territory 1877
For two years, Tess Carlisle has tried to heal the mental and physical wounds of a deadly assault by one of her papá’s men, but with no contact from Hank Carlisle since the attack, she’s determined to track him down. Her only hope is bounty hunter Cale Walker, a protégé of Hank’s and a man unlike any she has ever known. As he teaches her strength not just in body but spirit, he also makes her yearn for something she vowed she never would—love.