Writing under Duress

Despite what the title implies, I’m not talking about a situation like King’s Misery (I’m told it’s good, must did that out of my room, actually) or Alan Wake (yeah, that went right over my head. Spent five minutes pissing ammo up the wall on the end before I worked out what to do!), but a more mundane form of writing when you just aren’t up for it.

                You know the drill; deadline in five days and Mr Mountjoy upstairs decides to shit on your head from a very, very great height by tossing a cold your way. Every writer’s had it happen to them, and every writer’s had to deal with it (particularly if, like me, you’re on a writing-intensive course. Then you’re doubly screwed because you have a lot of deadlines all at once and you’re stressed out, working all hours of the night trying to just get the poxy stuff done. Not exactly the best condition to be incubating a cold).

                So, you have a deadline looming over the horizon, which is coming at you faster than Sebastian Vettell charging down the main straight at Silverstone, and you have a cold. Now, in an ideal world, you’d go to bed with a nice hot cuppa of your favourite beverage (hot choccy, marshmallows, lots of whipped cream, ta. Sprinkles on top if you’ve got ‘em), wrapped up nice and warm under your duvet, and burn the bugger out.

                In case it’s not come to your attention, this ain’t an ideal world, and the aforementioned Mr Mountjoy does rather like to make things a tad tricky. So, instead, you’ll be in your bed, laptop on, caffeine and sugar practically on a conveyor belt, trying to bash out enough words in a somewhere-near coherent manner to reach your word count and keep Bob the Editor and Fanny the Agent happy.

                The reality of the situation is this: There are gonna be times when you want to pretty much shoot your laptop, your editor, your agent, and the numpty in the PR department who came up with this utter bollocks for a deadline anyway, along with yourself for coming up with the stupid poxy idea you’re currently flailing wildly at trying to knock for six when, realistically, you’re getting clean bowled.

                Three little words of advice: Deal. With. It. By and large, you’re stuck with what you get – you may be able to get an extra week or two, if you’re very, very lucky and have an awesome track record, like George RR Martin or Jim Butcher, but until then, you’re pretty much boned, sorry.

                Nobody said this lark was easy. If it were, then everyone’d be making 20pentabillion quid out of it like Rowling.

                I speak of this subject now because I’m coming off a cold myself. It wasn’t fun, I can tell you that much. There are clothes I’m debating whether to stick on my next barbeque, they’re so covered in nose gunk, and I’ve still got a bit of a cough writing this, but fear not, I am on the mend and am ready to write once more! I’ve also had a remarkable situation to the one described above in the last year.

                Christmas, 2011. I have nine assignments spread over four units, all due in for the last Friday of term or the Monday after that. It’s pretty much bottom of the ninth, and I’m on my second strike with a week to go. By this point, I’m thinking it’ll be a minor bloody miracle to get it all done.

                And I get a cold.

                Oh, joy, your blogger writes with as much sarcasm as he can possibly muster.

                God knows how I did it, I certainly don’t, but it was done, and done well, if my grades are anything to go by. It wasn’t fun, it certainly wasn’t easy, and it’s not something I want to ever have to do again (but I probably will), but it got done, and that’s probably the best way to say it: Keep calm and keep at it. Don’t go and kill yourself over it, it’s not worth it, but do what you can. You’re not going to be physically capable of working more than maybe a few hours at a time a few hours a day, but that adds up. If you can get a thousand words a session and have two sessions a day for five days, that’s ten thousand words (and, incidentally, if I remember right, that’s about an eighth of a novel by most standard word counts). Eight times five is 40. That’s just over a month... Actually, that’s not a bad schedule to keep if you’re healthy... Anyway, keep that sort of schedule up and you’ll have yourself a novel in about a month. Not bad for someone who’s sick as a parrot, eh?

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