Last-Minute Wonder

My parents had a lot of rules when we were growing up.

And when I say a lot of rules, I mean at least 186–my little sister and I made a list at one point, that my mother swears still exists to this day. Soteria and I even wrote a song about it that we performed at Christmas a couple of years ago. Needless to say, the rules in my family are a tad infamous.

Now, not all of these were silly, needless rules. In fact, most of them were rather clever. One of my favorites is still “If you ask me if your friend can spend the night and your friend is standing right there, the answer is automatically NO.” But tops on my list will always be, “Your father and I will help you with every homework assignment and every project you have to do for school…until 24 hours before it is due. After that, you’re on your own.”

One thinks that a genius child like myself would have taken full advantage of this rule and sweet-talked my parents into doing everything for me, well in advance.

Instead, this rule taught me how to perform to the best of my abilities at the LAST POSSIBLE MINUTE.

There’s a story Soteria likes to tell about watching me complete a science project once, in which I had to correctly scientifically categorize 100 leaves and write three papers on the topic. I already had the leaves — I completed the rest on the bus on the way to school and turned it in second period. That was seventh grade. I made 100 on the project.

She still hates me for that one.

I can’t even call it procrastination, because it was more like Self-Imposed Ninja Boot Camp. I *knew* I had it in me to complete certain tasks, at the highest level, in a short amount of time. And I would allot for that time–on the last possible day, at the last possible moment. On top of which, since I knew the rules, I never complained about my lot in life.

I honestly think this down-to-the-wire stress I put myself through in grade school taught me quite a bit about being flexible, and coming up with an executable Plan B about five seconds after Plan A hits the fan.

This year, my life hit the fan. Seriously, starting on New Years Day, there was a family incident bad enough for me not to go into. This was followed by my grandmother’s death in February, my mother’s shoulder surgery in March (and then surgery on the other shoulder last month). I got nominated for two major awards, and lost them both. I got an offer on my house in Tennessee. My niece almost died during emergency heart surgery. We moved to a new apartment. The eldest Fairy Goddaughter went off to college. And about 100 other things (falling in vomit, anyone?) just slightly weirder than my typically abnormal existence.

And this whole time, I’m trying to write a novel. Trying. Book Three of the Woodcutter Sisters Series. I wrote Book Two in about three months, so I know this is possible. I know I can do it. But the words come out like molasses. Once again, I’ve got my spoon and I’m digging my way out of Shawshank.

My personal deadline is the release of Book Two: HERO. October 1st. And, failing that, the book launch party for HERO at One More Page Books on October 5th. But that’s it. I mean to be done.

So here I am, writing this blog post a week before my release date. And you know what? THE BOOK IS HAPPENING. I’m turning out 2000-3000 word days, and the words are GOOD. I’m even more in love with this book than I was when I started. Which is AWESOME, right?

But mostly, I’m annoyed with myself. Why couldn’t I do this weeks ago? Months? Is this going to happen on Book Four? (Gods, I hope not…)

I’ll add an edit-update to this post when it goes live to let you all know how the manuscript is coming. But in the meantime…

…what do YOU do to stop yourself from waiting until the last minute?

[Edited to add: It is 11:21pm EST on Monday night, and I sent the finished first draft to my editor 10 minutes ago. Thus clocking a total of 33,500 words in the last 19 days…and on 5 of those days I didn’t write at all. So…yeah. There’s that.]

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17 thoughts on “Last-Minute Wonder

  1. Congratulations on completion!
    How do *I* keep from waiting to the last minute? I’ll get back to you on that. What’s the deadline for answers?

  2. You are so awesomesauce, Alethea-Mermaid!!!! I wish I could be you. Seriously! 😉 Big smoochies!

  3. Ha! We had the SAME RULE, and it saved countless hours of negotiation. It also saved our son from a kidnap attempt in seventh grade – but that’s another story.

  4. In high school, I was great at finishing projects last minute and doing well on them. It definitely teaches flexibility, though it can certainly be stress inducing. Congrats on book completion!

  5. Congrats on HERO’s release, Alethea! I’m so excited for you! (And can’t wait to read…) I would really, really love to take a look at the list of these rules. I bet that’s some interesting reading!! Xxx

  6. Good gracious, that sounds like a lot. o.O

    The Woodcutter Sisters series looks interesting! I still love YA and now I have fun sharing some of my old favorites and finding new ones for my 11 year old. 🙂

  7. Alethea,
    As I’m the biggest procrastinator on the planet, I’m here to say that we still always manage to pull it out in the end.
    Once in my speech class we had weeks to prepare and I actually started early and everything. I was so proud of myself. Then two people before my turn, the guy gets up and starts talking about global warming and other environmental issues which was my speech! Way back then, the subject was kinda new. I thought my research was original. He had all the same information. Same examples. Same figures…So, I freaked out for the rest of his speech. Then I freaked out for about a minute while the person in front of me went up to give her speech. Then I planned for Plan B since my Plan A hit the fan. 🙂 I walked up with my notecards as if there was one word on there that could be used, but I shuffled through them and completely winged in. I talked about the merits of volunteering time for those less fortunate than ourselves. In the end, I got a perfect score.
    I always think that if I hadn’t been such a procrastinator that I never could have had the guts to completely change topics literally at a moment’s notice.
    I also changed the location of my wedding two weeks before and had to let more than 200 guests know. But that’s another story.
    Love the rules too! I have always said the one about asking me in front of the person. But I always end up helping with the last-minute projects. As they get older, I don’t. I tell them it’s time to sink or swim. They seem to be swimming.

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