Okay, so, it’s time for a confession.
Now, if you’re one of the people who pre-ordered a copy of my last book, Midrealm, you already know what I’m about to tell you. But here it goes.
I missed a deadline.
Two, in fact. I missed the deadline of Episode Five during the weekly release period. And I missed the deadline of the Book One Finale.
Now, the deadlines I set for those two projects were impossible. The Finale in particular was 75,000 words long, and I gave myself a week to write it. It took eight days instead. So it’s not like I was sitting around jacking off. I worked my ass off to get it done when I did.
But still, I missed those deadlines.
And that is NOT okay.
WHAT TO DO?
Now, you as an independent artist might have this come up occasionally. Truth be told, it’s no different from what every entrepreneur goes through. You’re the CEO of your own miniature company. That means that you’re going to have things come up that you weren’t expecting. Cover art will take longer than you thought it would. Editing will take an extra day. You’ll finish your novel and suddenly realize it’s a flaming pile of dogshit.
These things happen.
I think it’s important that you don’t hate yourself when these things happen. Instead, you’ve got to spend some time sitting down and analyzing WHY they happened. But don’t just go, “I need to work harder.” That’s the motto of Boxer from Animal Farm, and look where it got him (SPOILER ALERT: Eaten by humans).
The old adage, “Work smarter, not harder,” applies here. If you actually analyze what you’ve done, you can see where it broke down and why you missed those deadlines. It might be a discipline problem, in which case, yeah, work harder. Or disable your internet during “art hours” so you’re not on Facebook all the time. But it might be as simple as you didn’t build sufficient padding into your schedule. Maybe you didn’t organize the steps of your production line well enough so that concurrent actions were happening, you know, concurrently.
For example, don’t set a designer to work on the cover of your book AFTER you’ve written it. They should start working on that cover as soon as you’ve got a decent outline and an idea of what you want on the cover. If they don’t get going until you’re done with the book, with the first draft even, then you’re adding days to the end of your production schedule that could have been saved earlier.
Similarly, if you’re hiring an editor to work on your book, get your book to them soonest. Find out how much time they estimate on the project, and then get it to them a week before that. If they complete it on time, great, you’re a week ahead. If they fall behind, you’ve got a week’s worth of padding to yell at them over the phone (don’t yell at your editor over the phone. They’ll correct “duck” to “fuck” in your YA title).
WHERE I MESSED UP
Returning to me (because my narcissism can only stand talking about hypothetical other people for so long) Midrealm fell behind because I made plans to write the whole book as the episodes were coming out. That didn’t give us enough time in editing. That didn’t give us ANY padding if I fell behind on an episode (as I did with Episode Five because I got sick). And that didn’t give us any time to get a proof copy of the complete volume. Now, I’m a pretty good formatter by this point, so the final product ended up looking great (by the grace of God). But what if it didn’t? Then I’d have to go back to square one and figure out what was wrong with my formatting and do it all over again, pushing the release of the book back even further.
And so, rather than beat myself up about that, I’m learning those lessons and adapting them to the next project.
That’s why Wyrmspire, the second book in the Realm Keeper series, is going to be finished before the end of October, even though the full volume doesn’t come out till December. That gives us almost two months to revise, revise, revise, get a proof copy, revise again as necessary, and then mail the book out with plenty of time to reach our pre-order customers before Christmas (presents! Wheee!)
I know better after this last book. And I’ll take that knowledge and apply it to the next one. That’s keeping it together. That’s not giving up after the first “failure,” even though the book wasn’t. That’s adapting what you do and making it better every time.
You think the big-time publishers, when they were starting out in a brand new industry hundreds of years ago, did everything right the first time? Hell, they STILL don’t do everything right—otherwise their books would always be in stock everywhere around the world in any bookstore you walked into.
So don’t beat yourself up about things. Realize that they’re not okay, but don’t slit your wrists. Learn from your mistakes, and make sure they don’t happen again on your next book. Or film. Or whatever.
That’s keeping it together.
If you have horror stories about art projects that went terribly wrong—that you learned a lesson from—I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
Want more like that? Check out this post: Errday I’m Juggling.