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October 2004


By A Spider's Thread

The church bells in my neighborhood ring at 6 p.m., and this has long been my unofficial quitting time. But on September 30th, I didn't leave my desk until more than an hour later, when the final page of my tenth novel rolled off the printer.

Oct. 1st has been my deadline for the past five years. Sticklers may wonder how a book that is printed out after business hours on Sept. 30th can arrive in New York on Oct. 1st. Technically, it can't, but Oct. 1st was a Friday, so I thought I was being considerate, refusing to dump a manuscript on my editor on the eve of a beautiful fall weekend. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.*

It then occurred to me that I had finished my tenth book on the eve of the tenth month and if that doesn't entitle me to the hoary cliché of a Top Ten list, I don't know what does. So - ten things to do when you finish your tenth book just before the tenth month.

* Actually, the book made it to New York by noon. How can that be? Well, it turns out that there is this thing called "the Internet" and it's not just for clever girls with peachy skin. My editor informs me that most manuscripts are submitted electronically now. Who knew?
  1. Listen to compact discs bought in anticipation of this moment, including this and this. Refuse to be embarrassed by any of them, even this and this. Okay, maybe this was over the top. But it's a surprisingly good work-out CD.

  2. Head out into the autumnal dusk to buy vodka and almonds, while listening to "Let Go" on Walkman. "There's beauty in the breakdown?" Man, I thought it was "There's beauty in the rain." Still, works for me either way.

  3. Call family, assure them you are alive.

  4. Write taunting e-mails to those you know who are still laboring under their own punishing deadlines, then begin reading roughly 300 e-mails you have ignored. Joe Wallace, this means you.

  5. Organize TBR pile. Jim Winter, you are so in the on-deck circle. Also -- if D.C. must have a team, I agree, call them the Homestead Grays.

  6. Contemplate everything that's really, really bad about the "finished" book until you are curled up in the fetal position, sobbing quietly. (I didn't really do this. Well, I didn't cry.)

  7. Begin to clean house, quickly lose interest.

  8. Check out Sarah Weinman's blog, which hasn't been updated for 36 hours. Ascertain from Terry Teachout's blog that Sarah and Terry are at the opera together. Try not to be jealous. After all, you and the Old Hag had a date this week, too. And the Old Hag understood my deadline pain, whereas Terry probably wrote two books in the time it Laura's signaturetook Miz Hag and me to consume our drinks, and Sarah then promptly read both of them. Why do I like people who make me feel so inferior?

  9. Exfoliate.

  10. Come up with a really lame way to update your website.

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