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The Best Laid Plans ~ An update to my mystery novel

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley

 ~ From “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns

Most of us know the line paraphrased as:

The best-laid plans of mice and men
Often go awry

Or simply: The best laid plans …

In layman’s terms, the meaning of the line is: No matter how carefully one plans, something may still go wrong, or the result may not be as expected.

If you consider I’m not a planner anyway, it is amazing how I accomplish much of anything, let alone write. In the writer’s world, I’m known as a “pantser.” I fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t plan my storyline—the ones who do are “plotters.” Some days, I envy them.

Up until now with writing flash fiction, short stories, and novellas, I’ve had the good fortune of not having to plan.

When I set out to write a novel in September 2012, a seed of an idea took root in my brain. It sprouted slowly, branched off in different directions until it began blossoming several months later. The story did not reveal itself to me in its entirety as did other stories I’d written, but for some ridiculous reason, I continued to think it might.

Given that, I committed myself to finish the novel by year-end 2013. I wrote a post in January called Scaling Back the Juggling Act to publicize it. I figured that if I wrote it down and announced my intentions, my deadline could no longer be a moving target. In other words, I had to follow through.

Fast forward eleven months …

People who know me well understand I’m private with my writing. I rarely disclose works in progress. I don’t lament when I’m struggling, nor do I announce any great revelations. Based on how I write, things can change, so there is no point giving away anything until the product is complete.

Why am I telling you this?

The main reason is that people have been asking me when my book is coming out.

And why shouldn’t they? I’m the one who said it would be ready by now.

Firstly, I’d like to say I am so honored and thrilled for the interest. The fact that my book will not be released this year obligates me to explain. Even though the deadline is self-imposed, I adhere to my own work ethics, and my word should mean something. I am disappointed in myself for not keeping it.

My inability to plan the release date is a big lesson for me. I set the fuzzy timeline but did not build in a buffer. Ultimately, I underestimated the steep learning curve of switching both genre and classification.

A few clues to my personality should have alerted me to the challenges.

  1. I am my own worst critic, and I’m anal—a deadly combination. I cannot release what I consider inferior writing just to meet a deadline.
  2. I’m fearful of my editor, Annetta Ribken, even though I absolutely adore her. That adoration compels me not to disappoint her. She knows I want to become a better writer, and that can only happen with hard truths, delivered in a way only she can.
  3. I edit and re-edit my work as I write. I know this is wrong on so many levels. For my next novel, I aim to write a crappy first draft and not worry about it. For this one, that ship has sailed.
  4. I’m not verbose in spoken or written conversation, and I’m no fan of wordiness. I’ve always admired authors who can write 100K and edit down to 80K. My style of writing is spare, so my difficulty has been to build up word count, not slash it.
  5. I love a challenge even though writing this book has frustrated me to tears. At times, I despaired as to whether I could sustain a novel.

As of now, the truth is: My book will not be coming out this year. It will come out in 2014.

I’d like to end with a quote that makes the hardships some of us go through seem rather trivial, but we can still take inspiration from it for whatever challenges us.

* * * *

It always seems impossible until it’s done.
~ Nelson Mandela

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