In the heady days surrounding SitL‘s acceptance of my story “Breathe” into their anthology Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2, I made a decision I would live to regret. Sort-of.
Silence in the Library is an independent publisher working on a brilliant business model. They create a Kickstarter for each of their books. If the Kickstarter funds, they consider the book popular enough to publish. If it goes over the minimum funding goal, they do something even more fun – they offer “stretch goals” available at higher and higher funding levels. Let’s say the goal is $5000, and they reach it. If they get $6000, all backers get an extra short story by another author in their lineup. As the number of backers increases and stretch goals are achieved, everybody gets more cool stuff. It’s really fun and motivates people get in on the Kickstarter. Like I said, brilliant.
After my story got into AD2, I was so excited. So when the editors asked all of us contributors if we’d like to throw in something as a stretch goal, I said, “Hey, I’ll write a prequel to my story “Breathe.” They agreed, sight-unseen, and offered this (at the time) nonexistent story to the first 100 backers. Since it’s not in the anthology per se, I get to keep the copyright myself, so I can submit the story wherever. Good deal, right? I just had to have it to them by the time the Kickstarter ended on January 14.
So here’s the part where I would end up temporarily regretting this decision: January 14 was also the first day of classes for spring semester, and on the 15th I would be interviewing candidates for a new position in my department all day. Both of these require a ton of prep work. So does completing a story. Also, I would have to teach myself how to put a word doc into e-book format. This sounds like a simple file conversion. Turns out, it’s not.
Add to the above the fact that I am also a terrible, terrible deadline-pusher. I almost never exceed a deadline, but I frequently get pieces in just under the wire. I have written a conference presentation at the actual conference before. This is not one of my better traits. Yet, perversely, I feel most alive at the eleventh hour, cranking out a piece of writing with a deadline looming. It’s a nasty feedback loop of reward for these efforts. I find the process incredibly stressful, but I have always, always gotten things done when they needed to be done. And generally, I’ve felt pretty good about the product. The dopamine payoff of that moment that I push “send” after a marathon, Herculean effort is, frankly, addictive. This is not healthy.
Despite my usual pattern, I started the story well in advance of the deadline. Then I found myself at about 10K words, two syllabi still to write, a course delivery website that just wouldn’t cooperate, 100+ pages of application materials to re-read, and I didn’t have an end for the story. I mean I had it in my head, just not on the screen. The day-job stuff obviously came first.
The night of the 14th, I had already explained to the editors that I would not have the piece to them when I had hoped. I stayed up until 3:00something tying up loose ends on the story. So I guess it was actually the 15th when I finished it at around 12K words, definitely past the deadline and significantly longer than I thought it would be. Then I got about 3 hours of sleep.
We conducted interviews on Thursday until 4:00, and then I still had to go through the entire story and make sure it was coherent (questionable) and format it as an e-book for download from SitL. The latter involved some very intricate reformatting of the original word doc, which I could never, ever have done without this blog entry, recommended to me by multi-talented AD2 editor Maggie Allen.
So yeah, this process took quite a while. But most importantly, it WORKED. I finally got home from the office at 10:00p.m. after pulling a more-or-less all-nighter the night before.
And I still couldn’t sleep.
The excitement of completing my story “Run” and getting it in to the editors and seeing how cool it looked as an e-book – on my Kindle! – plus the day full of interviews… well, my brain just wouldn’t turn off. I slept from about 11:00 until 1:00, and basically no more after that.
Friday was an interesting day. I felt oddly energized. After such an insane week, I just said, “Okay, Friday, show me what you got.” Classes went fine. I met with some students about beginning-of-semester stuff. I did other worky stuff. Then came home and crashed.
Woah – what a week!
I’ve included the cover to the prequel story above. I plan to release it on Amazon’s Kindle publishing platform and offer it probably for free. But not before the Kickstarter supporters get their awesome (?) premium for being the first 100 supporters. I’ll link it on here under Fiction when I release it.
Also, I really don’t recommend an all-nighter for anyone over 30.