Kathleen Kent: The Importance of Deadlines

My first novel, The Heretic’s Daughter, took about five years to research and write.  I had no pressing time constraints or deadlines to complete the work as I didn’t have an agent, a publisher, or even the prospects of one.   I had no one telling me I had to finish the book by such and such a date, with the possible exception of my family who kept asking, “Are you ever going to finish that book?”

The process of writing The Wolves of Andover was very similar to writing my first novel—with the exception that I now had a commitment to finish the book by a reasonable date for the publisher.   Deadlines are a good thing.  They keep trains running, planes in the air, and projects finished on time.  But in the back of my mind I had a little voice of doubt whispering that deadlines might inhibit the creative process.

With the exception of a few anxious moments during the last few months of revisions before submitting the final manuscript, I’m happy to say that the looming deadline kept me focused, disciplined and inspired (perhaps it was the extra adrenaline firing up my neuronal pathways).

Before beginning the novel, I spent several months doing background research.   In this case, research took me to Wales, and it was there that I began building the plot and development of the main characters.  I took copious notes while walking through the countryside, or riding on the train—the photograph shows a view from the Mount Snowdon rail car and a little stone hendre, or summer house, long abandoned.   While writing, I referred to these notes constantly.

It took about two years to complete this second novel and, because of the compressed time, I worked more closely with the editor making draft changes.  I am also blessed with an agent with a keen editorial eye and she is often my First Reader.  I try to write for a few hours every day; the operative word here is “try.”  Life has a way of throwing into one’s path sick relatives, runaway pets, school projects, and so forth, which, I believe, is actually a good thing.  These obstacles keep the mind more flexible, supple and committed; a bit like a challenging and complicated exercise machine for the brain.—Kathleen Kent

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