Finch Finished: Killing Deadlines

(Not exactly the meal one might expect to celebrate finishing a noir/hardboiled cosmic fantasy, but if you know the writer can’t cook it all begins to make sense. A lovely selection of sushi with two brilliant cheeses [especially the black truffle sheep cheese] and some awesome sugar snap beans, all washed down with a good South Australian Wolf Blass Shiraz-Cabernet blend.)

I turned in Finch to Victoria Blake at Underland Press today. This was the version in response to her notes and my own step back to look at what I’d written more objectively.

I was more than two weeks late turning in this final version, I have to thank Victoria for her patience. I was also four months late turning in the novel to begin with. In fact, I’ve blown every single deadline on this novel. There are a few reasons for this, including:

(1) I’ve never written an original novel to deadline before, and misjudged the time it would take when integrated with other projects.

(2) I didn’t understand that the day job gave me time to think about my novels before writing them, and that this time to think cannot be compressed just because you no longer have a day job.

(3) I usually set a newly completed novel aside for three to four months before returning to it.

So in a very real sense the blown deadlines weren’t about being blocked but about needing extra time to do the job right. I have no regrets about any of this, in the selfish sense of wanting Finch to be perfect. (I do regret making Victoria wait, just because I know how an editor can get nervous.)

And it has made me think more about what it means to be a “professional.” By most definitions of the word, I am a professional writer. I make my living entirely from my writing, most of it from books supplemented by reviewing and a few teaching gigs. But blowing deadlines isn’t considered being professional. Quite the opposite.

Except, as far as I’m concerned, a “professional” writer is someone who does whatever it takes to make the work as perfect as they can, no matter the cost. In that sense, I feel very professional in completing Finch. It’s now as perfect as I can make it (sans the final copy edit). When it’s published readers will, of course, make their determination as to whether my sense of perfect is anywhere close to their own definition of the word. But, for me, it’s done.

Going forward, I might build extra time into any deadlines for original novels. But I’m more likely to just try to finish a novel before selling it. Some writers can write a perfectly good novel to deadline. I may not be one of those writers. if not, I will be joining (or remaining in) some august company. Many if not most of the novels I most admire were not written to any external deadline.

In the meantime, I’m gonna celebrate and be contented with the fact that I’ve given this novel everything last ounce of effort I possibly could give it. Or anything, for that matter.

14 comments on “Finch Finished: Killing Deadlines

  1. LCC says:


  2. Natania says:

    Huzzah! And I have to say the St. Albray is an excellent choice, as well!

  3. JeffC says:

    Awesome! Can’t wait to read it…

    The sugar snap peas threw me for a loop. I see sushi and a bowl of green pods I think edamame, not sugar snap peas. You are just too “out there” for me!

  4. Zak Jarvis says:

    I’m totally chomping at the bit to read it. I heard you read from it back during Clarion in San Diego, and the book is SO VERY up my ally it’s like you wrote it just for MEEEEEEEE!

  5. Dan Read says:

    Congratulations, Jeff. I look forward to buying and reading it, and supporting Underland in the process.

    FWIW, my opinion on the deadline thing is that there is a certain amount of leeway that editors and publishers of fiction should expect to provide an author. Authors should do their best, but creation is not a purely mechanistic process. Companies that make their living buy marketing the works of artists should expect to make room for certain irregularities in the output of artists. On the other hand, if you’ve been hired to write a Batman novel and agree to a deadline, an editor would not be unreasonable to hold you to it. But something totally original that you’re are dredging out of your depths? Of course, there are blown deadlines, and then there are blown deadlines…yours seems well within the limits to me. :-)

    So I vote, yes, professional indeed–proven doubly so by your desire to improve, and your conscientiousness about it in the first place. My guess is you never went dark on your editor.

    Celebrate with a beer for me, Jeff! My current favorite treat is Victory Storm King. Yummy.

  6. Larry says:

    Drats! There goes my plan for starting a snarky LJ called “Finish the Book, Jeff!” :P

    Congrats on getting it done and getting it done to your satisfaction. That’s what matters, no?

  7. Gratz! Looking forward to the read and once again thanks for the writing process insights. Platypus! (Sorry, but it is Friday here still).

  8. Bill Ectric says:

    Jeff, you should be commended for employing the Jack Sparrow approach. A deadline is like the pirate’s code, “really more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.”

  9. Congratulations!

    We’re all waiting with pitchforks and torches outside the bookstores.

    I am, anyway. And, they’re all looking at me, funny.

  10. Seth Merlo says:

    Congrats, Jeff. Really looking for to it and saving my pennies for Underland’s ltd hb :o)

  11. jeff vandermeer says:

    yeah, I need to get more details on the limited. haven’t seen the one for Evenson yet.

  12. James says:

    Congrats. But where are the Finch coasters?

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