Aftermath of a Deadline

You’ll have to excuse the minimum posting I did last week. In addition to all the hospital visits I was doing, I was also finishing up a story to send in for an anthology which deadline was March 1.

Deadlines. The pitchfork for writers’ behinds.

What made this deadline so insidious was that the story I was working on was my first ever science fiction story. Now, let’s get one thing straight. Science fiction is not fantasy. Yes, bookstores just love to lump the two together on bookshelves, and there are magazines out there that showcase the two together. But you can’t write a fantasy story and say, “Oh, I think I’ll pitch it as science fiction.” Doesn’t work.

Fantasy involves faith of a sort. Something inexplicable happens and people wave their hands, saying, “It’s maaaaagic!” Why is that cup hovering over the table like that? Magic. Where did Brian go? He was just here a minute ago? Magic. You can pull weird shaped beasts out of your butt and screaming, talking bird from the stuff of the sky, and in fantasy, it’s not just normal, it’s expected. No explanation is needed. It’s mysterious, it’s magical, it doesn’t really require you to think. In a way, it’s a lot like an English class. There are rules, but they’re so bendable and flexible, if you know what you’re doing, then fantasy can appear to have no rules at all.

Not so with science fiction. Dammit, there better be an explanation for why stuff is happening, and it must make scientific sense. That cup hovering over there, it’s because of the magnetic forcefield that only affect ceramics. Brian disappearing? He’s phased out of the time continuum and his molecules refuses to cohere. Science fiction is like a mathematics class. It’s rules are rigid, precise. 2+2=4, and don’t let any fantasy namby-pamby try to make it 5 with their maaaaagic. You’ll have the science geeks screaming “Foul!” so quickly, your website will shut down from all the comments of the science geeks proving that 5 is so not the answer, it will always be 4, and by the way, you suck.

(To all you science fiction geeks out there…yes, I know 2+2=4 and not 5. Please don’t flame me.)

So what’s a fantasy writer to do when she writes a science fiction story for the first time and haven’t the faintest clue of what she’s doing? She goes to her hubby, of course, especially if that hubby is a geek who reads Wired and Stephen Hawkings: The Universe in a Nutshell for fun. Who hosts free ‘geek’ nights, where guys come over with their laptops and they watch fanfic Star trek parodies. Come on, he’s got my two-year-old singing the theme song to Voyager.

(And to my hubby, yes, I also read Wired and I really enjoyed the Star Wreck movie, which makes me as much of a geek as you. Please don’t flame me.)

Anyway, my hubby helped me out with the story, ensuring that technological mumbo-jumbo sounded just right. This meant going over draft after draft, nailing down what exactly my character was supposed to be doing and making it gel right with the literary aspects of the story. It actually was a lot of fun–it’s pretty neat to get my hubby involved in a project like that, but due to the time crunch, it was also pretty intense. The night before the deadline, Daddy had to take care of Daniel while I sat in the bedroom with the door closed, hashing out another draft to make sure it was absolutely *perfect*. With this deadline, I only stayed up to midnight. Not bad.

Usually, if I finish a story and mail it off, there’s a bit of…oh, what’s the word I’m looking for…Emptiness? Numbness? Weariness? Maybe all three. It’s a sensation that happens when after putting all my time and energy into a story, suddenly, I don’t work on it anymore. There’s a sense of loss of a sort. A vacuum. Sure, I can always dive into another project–I usually have three or four simmering at one time. But for a day or two, I just can’t do it. And if the story I was working on had a deadline, that vacuum feels a lot worse because I usually expend a lot more time and energy into finishing up that story.

So I take a small break from writing. I sleep a lot. Over the weekend, I noticed I was extremely tired. The only writing I did was on Willow, and I didn’t even finish the chapter I was on. I need to finish it up today. I wonder if the more I write and get stories out, the less that sense of loss will come on me. I don’t know. On the one hand, I find it extremely annoying. I want to write! I just can’t sit here, vegging on the couch, watching anime. But on the other hand, I think that sense of shutdown time is needed. I need to get my energy back up so I can work on the next project, and if I need a couple of days to just veg, then so be it. It helps me to go to the next project refreshed, in a clearer state of mind.

It works. Today’s Monday. I’m finishing up this blog. Today, I jump into another story that’s been sitting on the backburner for a while, and I finish up a chapter of Willow and immediately move on to the next. All weekend, I sat like a bump on a log, but today, I feel energized, ready to take on the day. And that’s pretty rare…for a Monday.