On January 16, 2003 my agent, sent word that a publisher was very interested in seeing the complete of my Chick Lit Reinventing Olivia, of which I’d written only three chapters. “How soon do you think you can finish it?” she asked.
I said something stupid like, “Consider it done. Give me three weeks to polish it.” “So I’ll tell him he can expect the complete on February 2?” “Sure. No problem.”
Come February 2, I’d reached my projected end-of-the-book page count, but I still had more story to tell. “Surely, he didn’t mean this February 2?”
I know this is a terrible thing to admit, but since the publishing industry moves at an absurdly slow pace, I thought — February 2, February 22, same difference. Besides, February 2 was a Sunday, the editor wouldn’t notice if I turned it in a couples of days…weeks later.
WRONG! (Bad writer! No chocolate!)
On February 3 the editor called my agent asking where the book was. Oh, so he was serious. Oops. My mistake.
See Nancy type. See Nancy type fast in long marathon sessions. See Nancy scratch her head and wonder how she could have so much story left to tell when the book should have ended fifty pages ago. I was beginning to think it was the book that wouldn’t end.
As if that weren’t bad enough, two days later (Thursday, February 6) my little cat who is the queen our backyard decided to go on a royal adventure. Normally, this would have been fine, but this was an animal who never missed a meal. In her three-year reign of the land, she never strayed farther than earshot. When she didn’t show up for breakfast, I was concerned, but I forced myself to focus on writing.
Friday, she was still missing and I was frantic. We live on a busy downtown street and . . . Well, you can imagine the logical assumption. But a quick road check, proved “all clear,” and we went about our day as usual.
Then around two o’clock that afternoon, I took a break and noticed a huge raccoon sitting on a lawn statue we have in out back yard. Florida raccoons prowl at night. They rarely come out during the day unless they’re sick or very hungry. . . this one was particularly cheeky (not to mention about three times the size of our cat who probably weighs about seven pounds after a big meal). I opened the back door to shoo it away, but the thing just sat there and stared at me, then sauntered over to the cat food bowl for a snack.
The raccoon was still hanging around when my husband got home from work. I watched out the window as he picked up a broom to shoo the varmint away. Just then the phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID, a natural reflex for a writer with projects out in the field. The screen flashed a long distance number where the publisher who was interested in my book was located. I HAD to answer.
It was the editor.
Picture me talking to this editor for the first time, while I’m watching my hubby do had-to-paw combat with a rabid raccoon. As the editor asked if I ever planned to send him the book, the raccoon charged at my husband. The fate of my publishing career was on the line (literally), and I was watching a rabid raccoon chase my husband through the backyard.
I don’t remember exactly what I said to the editor something about having the manuscript to him the following Monday, which I did – I finally got smart and figured out if an editor cared enough to call and goad me along he was probably seriously interested in the book (Hello?!?).
My husband and my cat made it through the battle unscathed; the rabid raccoon disappeared; and I got THE CALL for Reinventing Olivia a week later. I guess you could say we all lived happily ever after.
Later, when I told my editor the tale of what happened that first day he called, he laughed and said, “The next time you even think about missing a deadline, picture me as that mad, rabid raccoon.” With that visual in mind, you can bet I turn in all my books on time.
I thought you might like a tour of my office… So come on in…
It’s a good-sized room, with a huge glass-top desk big enough for my computer, an Eiffel Tower desk lamp, photos, and, of course, my work (to the left of my keyboard). I use a wireless keyboard and mouse. To the right of my keyboard is a very cool agenda that I found at Anthropologie. I always have a glass of water and a cup of tea at hand. I live by Post-It notes (You’ll see them attached to my monitor. On them, I write various reminders and keep track of my daily page quota). Also, there’s always a couple of containers of hand lotion and tubes of lip balm within reach.
In the chair across the way my kitty-cat Marie is enjoying a quiet break from our dog, who loves to torment her. The pillow behind her says, “A friend knows all about you and still likes you.” To the left and right of her are my reading stacks. Behind her is a wall of bookshelves – stacked two-deep in most places.
This is a closer look at my “wall of books.”
This is a detail of a small shelf in my office where my dream “mantra” sits. I can look up from my desk and see it across the room.
This is a storyboard of my work in progress. I meet with my plotting partners weekly . We help each other create very detailed outlines, which we map-out on index cards (one for every scene). I tape them onto my storyboard in the various squares that represent the chapters in my books. This is my story roadmap. Without it I would be lost.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of my office. I’m glad you stopped in!
A Typical Day In My Life:
Turn on computer
Take dog out
Feed cat and dog
Workout (three times per week)/meet with critique and plotting partners (the other two days)
Shower/dress/get ready for the day
Eat breakfast/wash breakfast dishes
Answer email/tend website/Facebook/Twitter
Work on manuscript in progress
Continue work on manuscript in progress until hubby gets home
Dinner/feed and take out dog/TV/ email/ website/Facebook/Twitter/blog posts/working ahead on new proposals
MORE work on manuscript in progress
Go to bed
Wouldn’t it be lovely if life let me stick to that schedule? It’s what I strive for…my “ideal” plan. Sometimes it runs like clockwork… most of the time, well, life gets in the way. But I do have two nonnegotiables: meet my quota of producing 40 pages per week and get eight hours of sleep every night (okay, most nights). I’m trying very hard to only work Monday-Friday (so I can dedicate weekends to the family), but if I don’t meet my page count during the daytime, that means I must work into the night…or dip into weekends. But the flexibility is one of the things I love best about my job. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.