Once upon a time, almost three years ago to the day, I got the urge to write a near future SF mystery story set in a subaquatic city involving robotic pets. I had been inspired by a mini-documentary about the AIBO robotic dogs in Japan. It only took me a couple of weeks to write the novella. I knew it was good, but it wasn’t great. I needed another set of eyes on it.
Then, the awesome Marie Bilodeau offered to edit it. She did so in short order and had some insightful things to say about it. While she did love it, there were some definite, specific issues—some of which she outlined in her email to me. The rest she left as comments in the manuscript. I knew she was right about it all, but by that time, the shine had worn off the project, it was just a personal story I had written with no market in mind, and I had other contracted novels to write.
Thus, it languished in my email for three years.
It’s no secret that I’ve been taking the first quarter of this year easy. I’ve pushed myself hard for the last five years (five novels and six novellas and everything else), thus when this year’s contracts got delayed, I decided to relax a little. Until I remembered I had several personal projects I wanted to work on. Which I did…sorta. None of them had due dates or markets in mind. Still, I wanted to work on them while I waited.
Thus, I did—on one of them: Dear Penpal. But mostly I tinkered at it. What should have taken merely a month to write is only 1/3 written in the last four months. As a full-time writer, this won’t do. If I don’t have contracts or deadlines, I still need to write. I have an agent and cats to feed.
Coming to this conclusion, two things in the universe conspired to help me. First, another publishing professional like me (author/editor/RPG writer/media tie-in writer) asked for an accountability buddy on a discord we’re both on. As someone who never wants to be the smartest person in the room, I knew her by her considerable reputation and jumped at the chance.
(As an aside, I’ve discovered the perfect accountability buddy for me is someone I know in a professional capacity, am friendly with on acquaintance terms, and respect, but not someone I hang out with on a regular basis. We chat during our meetings, but it is all work related chat. There’s something about wanting to impress this familiar stranger that really pushes my “get it done” button. But I digress…)
The other thing that happened is that Uncanny Magazine opened up for novellas from May 1-15. At the time I read that, I had about two-to-four weeks to whip my languishing novella into shape and submit it. Suddenly, I had a deadline. Not only that, I had a professional author I was now meeting with weekly to talk about what I did that previous week—did I meet my goals? Why or why not and what’s next?
Long story short—I revised, edited, and polished that SF novella in just under three weeks and submitted it to Uncanny Magazine. Whether or not they accept it (and I hope they do), I’m pleased to have finally finished it. It’s a wonderful story. Thanks to Marie’s astute observations from three years ago, I think the novella turned out pretty good.
Now, I have Dear Penpal to work on while I wait for the various (editing and writing) projects that are on my radar but haven’t landed yet. After all, I have an accountability buddy to answer to and time to do it. No excuses left.