Focus, focus, focus
Last week Jeanne Stein mentioned that as she's under an August 1 deadline for her third book in the Anna Strong series, she's become intensely focused in her writing.
I know the feeling. Last March I thought I had finished the sequel to Nymphos, book two titled X-Rated Bloodsuckers. I sent the manuscript to my agent, who after reading it, let me forward it to my editor at HarperCollins. My editor returned the manuscript in early May with five pages of notes. (Nymphos had seven.) I had six weeks to polish the story to her satisfaction.
I'm not a writer who gets worked up over suggested changes. I appreciate any reader's criticism. My words have to speak for themselves and if they don't convey the message I want, then I was a writer have to improve them.
When I completed the manuscript in March I thought I was done. My critique group had looked at it. I had read and reread the manuscript dozens of times. My editor and her assistant had their nits about style, etc., but they also had substantive comments. Two weeks before I had to turn in the revised manuscript, I asked a friend to give it a read. She doesn't like fantasy, much less vampire stories. My challenge was to hook her into the story.
She kept bringing up point after point, mostly about characters reactions to the situations I'd put them in. Suddenly, I had a week before my deadline and I was still rewriting whole chapters of my story.
A cold panic embraced me. Every thought during the day was about fixing my story. I pulled an all-nighter. For three days after that I plowed forward on an adrenaline rush. Story problems that I thought I had resolved emerged from my unconsciousness. I'd wake up early in the morning, wet with sweat, and unable to sleep, start up the computer and get at it.
Ironically, every change simplified the narrative and tightened the story around the original premise. With two days before the deadline, I was done. I hope.
Now as I'm working on book three, it's hard to generate that same concentration. Previously, I was already writing in my head before I sat at the keyboard. Now I stumble around for a half hour before settling into the zone. The longest journey your story takes is from your head to your hands. And right now, that distance seems like a long dusty mile.
How do you get focused?