Jack Cannon's American Destiny

Rachel Thompson

Saturday, April 20, 2013

DA Serra – How to Meet Deadlines & Remain Sane

How to Meet Deadlines & Remain Sane

by D.A. Serra

I know all about deadlines.  I spent years writing for television and there is no more serious deadline than “oh, the show airs nationally tomorrow night at eight”.  In TV movies there is more leeway and more time to gather your thoughts and perhaps experiment with story and character, but in series television, where I worked for years, the time pressure is relentless and unforgiving.  It taught me everything I needed to know about time-management and I’ve taken all of those lessons into the book writing world with me.

I suppose the most fundamental lesson is the relationship between timeline and outline.  The shorter the amount of time you have to complete your writing assignment the better and more detailed your outline had better be.  It feels counterintuitive because the pressure tells you “Go!  Just start writing.  Don’t waste time outlining.”  False.  Under time pressure an outline is your very best friend, and often your only friend.  Do not write into that dark tunnel – there’s a freight train at the end.

I have to say I do really enjoy writing into the black void when I can.  Sometimes taking off on a story with characters I enjoy, and seeing what comes, is liberating.  There is a freedom and a sense of surprise that is appealing.  I learn interesting things as the journey takes me in directions I hadn’t considered and leads to me to do research I would not have expected.  These are lovely moments and there are times for them, and times not for them.  If you are laboring under a hard deadline you must make/take the time to detail the entire storyline.  It will allow you to write with confidence, it will eliminate that really horrifying moment where you realize you’ve written yourself into a plot hole and have to go back – way back.

The thriller novel I am currently on this tour with, Primal, began life as a screenplay, which I sold to James Cameron.  Turning it into a novel reinforced all of my suspicions about outlines (and by the way I really hate writing outlines, it feels like drudgery to me).  Nevertheless, what could be better than a one hundred page outline in the form of a screenplay?  Every morning my writing path was a highway where I wrote from road sign to road sign with excitement and surprising creativity.

So, to remain sane when under deadline, I write a beat-by-beat outline (which takes longer than I can barely stand) along with beat personality sketches of the main characters, and only then do I start writing.  If you are under deadline and you ever utter the words “I’ll work that out when I get there.”  Just start drinking right then, it’ll make it easier when you realize you’re foiled, do not want to throw out all those pages, and do not have time to start over.




The writer who made you laugh with Punky Brewster, who made you cry with Just Ask My Children, will now make you cringe with PRIMAL. This story was originally purchased by one of America’s most prestigious storytellers James Cameron.

What if the worst happens and you are not a cop, or a spy with weapons training and an iron heart? What if you’re a schoolteacher – a mother? In this gritty crime thriller a family vacation takes a vicious turn when a fishing camp is invaded by four armed men. With nothing except her brains, her will, and the element of surprise on her side, Alison must kill or watch her family die. And then – things get worse.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Thriller

Rating – R

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