Crunch Time: Fighting Deadlines and Unreliable Printers

I'm all about luxury.
Earlier this summer I signed my first book contract. The only downside was it was going to be a rush job, I had a little less than two months to finish the book. Like any self-respecting writer I did a lot of interviews and some weekend photo trips but didn't bother writing a word for the first month.

If you're a regular Happy Hour Todcast watcher, you'll know we were renovating our house and that during the renovation I was consigned to Space Station Russo in my attic. The only thing a writer likes better than a looming deadline is a quasi-legitimate reason to procrastinate. I found it in my exile to the attic. I couldn't write because I was busy with my day job. I couldn't write because I had a ton of freelance work to do. I couldn't write because the kids were home from school, because the house/neighborhood was too noisy, because I wasn't ready just yet, because I hadn't finished all my interviews.
As July became August, I let my boss know I would need a week off at the end of the month. The book was due on August 22 and by August 1 I had written about one sixth of it. Plus, the opening was a tragedy. Equal parts boring and pretentious, it would require a complete rewrite. When I sat down to write the final 33,000 words on Saturday, August 16, I had a picture of how it would come together, the only question was whether I would run out of time or patience first. The publisher had offered me more time, but I told her that every day she added was only going to be used poorly.

My non-office wasn't too great either.
I had some interviews to do early in the week, but, by Wednesday, I had the bulk of the first draft done. The problem was I hadn't done much editing. After I saw the disaster that was Chapter 1 I was afraid that reading the thing back would only depress me and convince me that the book never would see the light of day. I printed out some chapters for my wife to review, line edit a bit, and comment on. On Thursday morning I set out to finish the text. Friday would be for the preface, introduction, etc.
I did my own indexing, which meant that Thursday afternoon was spent going line by line through the text, marking the important words (mostly proper names and breweries). It is fine, boring work, especially with the book not finished. A great tool I've discovered is productive procrastination. When I "can't write" for whatever bullshit reason, I edit, review photos, write cutlines, etc.
Choosing the index as a means of productive procrastination wound me up a little tighter than I'd have liked.
By late that afternoon, after a day's worth of indexing, I got within striking distance of the end of the book but was way further behind than I needed to be. I printed up the first part of the last chapter for review and went to get a drink. If the cost of bourbon rose at the end of the summer, that was me. Sorry.
When I came back, my chapter hadn't printed. The printer said I was out of paper. I took the sheaf of paper out, reshuffled it (as we've all had to do occasionally) and printed again. Still I got the "no paper" error message.
Again and again.
He had it coming.
After about 20 minutes, I smacked the printer as if it were an old television. Then, without trying to reprint, I smacked it again. Before too long, I realized I was punching it with all might might. It felt glorious. I drove my fist into the machine over and over. Something inside gave way, and I felt the murderous satisfaction of knowing I was doing terminal damage. I hoped that the printer had the equivalent of a liver and that it could feel me crushing it. When I was bored of punching it, I picked up and threw it. That's when I discovered its "printer organs" hadn't given way. What had given way was the scanner glass, which I had been punching it into finer and finer pieces. My wife was forgiving and elected not to have me committed. She even insisted on vacuuming up the glass while I took a walk.
Over the coming weeks as the publisher goest through the editing process, I'll recount the story of writing the book here. Over at the +State of the Beer blog, I'll tell beer stories that didn't fit in the book. Finally, my contributions will resurge at GCFL, where I'll post shorter versions of these blogs, as well as continue with some of my other blogging shenanigans.


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