I’m almost a year into this grad school thing.  My thesis, when I am done, will be a carefully written, parsed, edited, revised and scrutinized novel.  In between point Once Upon A Time and point The End, there are deadlines.  Every month, my peers and I are required to submit thirty pages of new material and two essays on the craft of writing.

There is no leeway or flexibility for these deadlines.  It doesn’t matter if the dog ate the homework, aliens are invading, or Lindsey Lohan entered rehab again.  The show must go on, the pages must be produced, and the submission must be made.  At 12:01 a.m. the day after the deadline, it is too late.  Do not pass go, do not collect a grade, continue to pay tuition.

Behavior and thought process change as deadline looms.  Writers, not good at math as a group, calculate words per minute.  Normally rational people rub talsimans.  Very religious people pray to false gods.  A large segment of facebook friends go radio silent except for the occasional “I’m fucking screwed” status update.

I am far on the minimalist end of the writing spectrum.  When deadline is nearing though, I bust out adjectives, adverbs and similes like a guy trying to unload stolen shit on Canal Street (see?).  “That rock” becomes “the greyish but somehow vibrant in its lack of color stone, about the size of a slightly deflated basketball…..”

More dialogue goes in.  One word of dialogue takes up a whole line of text.





One Beavis and Butthead conversation would eat up five or six pages of narrative.

In the end, I go back and delete all the space consuming crap, put my ass back in my chair, lament the time I wasted inserting it in the first place, and I grind out words I’m proud of….and that hopefully, my mentor doesn’t hate.

I’m Darren, and I write, and I have a deadline coming.


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7 Responses to Deadlines

  1. Lori says:

    …and a warmy sweater.

  2. Suzi says:

    Deadline time! Thanks for the ideas on space fillers Darren….I may have to resort to this. And you’re correct, writers are not so good at math … if ony I had written one or two pages every day, I wouldn’t be feeling the crunch now!

  3. Rob Greene says:

    Tip for filling space: every few pages have one of your characters lose his temper, forcing him to count to 20 VERY slowly. Like one number per line. Then do a search and replace to switch all your common nouns to “humumnukunukuapuaa.” You’ll make that deadline in a flash!

  4. Brother, the time does seem to fly. I started off 2 weeks ahead of the deadlines until this past month … now I’m trying to squeak it home … you remind me to smile.

  5. beth garland says:

    Darren, thanks for making me laugh. Loved it.

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