Writing On Deadline

Why haven’t you posted in a while, Melissa, you ask?

To which I twitch a little, and laugh nervously, and say, why, because Book Two is due at the end of the month and I MUST SPEND EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY WRITING!

That’s right, you say, this is your first book written on deadline! What’s that like?


Here’s the biggest difference, in one sentence: There Is No Time For Puttering.

I used to fret about whether I was in the right mood, whether the stars were aligned, whether I was really feeling it that day. I used to like to let drafts sit and simmer for a while before diving back in, so I could get some distance and perspective and see what needed fixing. Heck, I used to swear it was vitally important to go work on another project for a while and then come back with my palate all cleansed so I could look at a book with fresh eyes.

And you know what? I can totally skip all those things and just roll straight from writing into editing, as it turns out. Heck, I can write when I’m sick! When I’m traveling! When there are wasps building a nest in the headrest of the deck chair I’m sitting in! (This actually happened, no lie, and I was like WHATEVER THEY SEEM LIKE PERFECTLY NICE WASPS BECAUSE THEY’RE LETTING ME WRITE UNLIKE MY LOVELY CHILDREN WHO ARE INSIDE THE WASP-FREE HOUSE.)

If I got stuck on something, instead of mooning around for days masticating it, I’d be like RIGHT THEN, I’m gonna go walk this here dog, and I’m not gonna stop walking until I have an answer. And you know what? Maybe dogs are magic (OF COURSE THEY’RE MAGIC THEY’RE DOGS), but it usually worked.

And the really weird thing is, so far it all seems to work just as well as when I take my time and putter around and let everything stew in my subconscious for months. (Of course, it really helps that I already know these characters and world quite well. Not sure that’d be the case if it wasn’t a sequel.)

You know what else is different about writing on deadline? The stakes are waaaaaayyyyyyy up on your choices. I got 2/3 of the way through a draft, and then I was like, crap, I just thought of a way to make this much better. And I had to decide whether to go back and rewrite large chunks of my unfinished draft, with the deadline looming, or go ahead and press on to the end and get a completed draft to send out to my alpha readers that would contain a bunch of stuff I knew I was going to change.

I went back and did the edits. It was totally the right thing to do. I love how the book is turning out, and it was a much better direction. But it was SCARY. It set me back weeks.

Deadlines are terrifying. But they’re also really motivational.

There’s none of this “Eh, I’m too tired to write.” None of this “I guess I should do this boring pile of laundry instead.” None of this “I’m going out with friends” or “I should take a break because I’m forgetting what my husband’s face looks like.” THERE IS ONLY THE BOOK.

And wow, when there’s only the book, you can get a lot of shit done.

Speaking of which, excuse me…I gotta get back to these edits. I’m on deadline.

Published by Melissa Caruso

Fantasy author of the Swords & Fire trilogy: THE TETHERED MAGE (Orbit, 2017), THE DEFIANT HEIR (Orbit, 2018), and THE UNBOUND EMPIRE (Orbit, 2019), as well as the Rooks and Ruin trilogy, beginning with THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (Orbit, 2020). Melissa's debut, THE TETHERED MAGE, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Morningstar Award in 2017. Melissa loves tea, adventure, and the great outdoors, and has been known to swordfight in ballgowns. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two superlative daughters, and assorted pets. Represented by Naomi Davis of BookEnds.

2 thoughts on “Writing On Deadline


    *aspires to be like you one day and then realizes that might be easier if she gets her *own ass* in the chair and puts in the work like you’re doing, so she cuts off this blog post to go and do just that*

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: