Can’t Stay Long: A Writer On Deadline

This will be short, raw, uncut: I’m on deadline. I’m also a little hung over from a wonderful dinner with friends, where there was paella, cheesecake, and bourbon. No one paid attention to the time until suddenly, it was tomorrow. Which is today. And I have so very much to do.


They’re heeeeere . . . the first round of REMEMBERING edits (I believe that’s the title we’ve arrived at. First Lesson in publishing—don’t get too attached to your title. And don’t balk at change. It will make it easier to move onto the Second Lesson: You’re not as good a writer as you think you are).


I knew to expect the manuscript at some point on Friday. I knew that once that manuscript arrived—Track Changes activated, the accompanying letter meant to brace me for all the notes my editor left within—it would be weeks before I returned to TUI, my novel-in-progress. It would mean saying goodbye to characters I was just getting to know, interrupting a train of thought, a progression of story I was finally settling into. I reached a stopping point, the end of a scene, a turning point in my protagonist’s life, 40,000 words into a complicated, emotional story that I hope to make even more complicated and emotional when I can return to it. One critical character is in the wings, waiting for my cue to make a first, defining appearance.


I saved TUI in all the right places, closed down Scrivener, left my editor’s e-mailed attachments unopened, and went for a long walk. I regretted what I had to leave behind, felt vulnerable and anxious about the work on REMEMBERING that lies ahead, and just ridiculously excited for this next part of the process—seeing my novel take its final shape and come roaring to life.


Returning to REMEMBERING means welcoming back characters who’ve become such an important part of my life. Characters who’ve changed my life. Do they know? Do they have any idea that in a year, their pasts, presents, futures; their mistakes, secrets, and hopes will be open for all the world to read? What have they been up to in the months since I laid them to rest on my hard drive? What will I be asked to change? How will I give them even greater depth, higher stakes, complicate their choices and alter their stories to make a more cohesive whole?


As I walked and breathed, buffeted by winter winds, I was reminded how this uncertainty and this feedback are so priceless. We write in isolation much of the time, hoping against all odds that we will be called forward, chosen, set on a path with a team of professionals devoted to making our work the best it can be. It’s a what-if I barely allowed myself to imagine. As I begin to consider the suggestions and changes, I accept that this thing is now bigger than me. REMEMBERING has left the shelter of my imagination and enters the real world of publishing, and I with it.


In between REMEMBERING and TUI sits my second novel, THE CROWS OF BEARA. Last week, this happened:  The Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature 2014


The writer hugs herself with glee. And gets to work.

From the ruins, a dream. Copyright 2014 Julie Christine Johnson

18 thoughts on “Can’t Stay Long: A Writer On Deadline

  1. Wow, the stars are certainly in alignment with your writing Julie, no uncertainty there, roll with it my friend!

    What an exciting dilemma, to have to work on the manuscript that will be published thus setting the current unfinished novel aside, while the middle child gets high praise from the judges. Prepare yourself for becoming the thing you’ve always been! An exceptionally talented writer. 🙂


    • Oh Claire, thank you for the wonderful words of encouragement! None of this feels real–fortunately, the pace has slowed a bit, so I have time to plan, consider, and most importantly, write. It’s a wonderful life. I’m crazy-grateful!


  2. Hello Julie,
    I have come across your reviews on Goodreads, almost 2 years ago.

    Since then I have enjoyed reading your thoughts on the wide variety of books you select. I have also chosen a few of your highest recommendations for my book club.

    And I have enjoyed reading your blog. I appreciate your honesty and raw emotions; that you are willing to share your life so openly is a rarity.

    I want to thank you for both.

    And I want to wish you all the best in the new year. May the success in getting your first novel published continue. May your ideas and writing flourish. May you feel happy and fulfilled in your writing. May you share your stories with us for many, many years to come. We love it so.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Beata,

      What a wonderful surprise. I didn’t realize you were Quantoid on Goodreads! I am so honored. Your comments are just incredible- thank you for reaching out to me, for saying these beautiful things. I feel embraced.

      Warm regards- Julie


  3. Dear Julie: I am so proud of you. Can’t wait to read the book. Where can I obtain it? All the best to you and Brendan. You are an amazing woman. Love, Mary Anne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Mary Anne- thank you! The book is set for publication in February 2016 and I’m hoping it will be everywhere! But definitely in Barnes & Noble and the other chain brick and mortar, via Amazon, and in as many independent bookstores as my publisher can get it into.

      Much love to you and Don. I’m so blessed by your support!


  4. So you see, you are actually a better writer than you think others may think you are. I’m looking forward to the final edits of my work. Editors are people too and subject to the same doubts and concerns. They just have (usually) more experience and better English grammar skills.

    YOU are the creative mind. Don’t forget or minimize that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love this, Mike. I’ve dug into my ms these past three days, doing a full read-through, making notes as I go, but not making any changes- I need the full breadth and depth of my editor’s thoughts before I accept or reject or rewrite anything. It’s emotional, for sure, and I can do only a few hours a day. But I find that the next day, after I’ve let things sit and settle down, my brain is finding ways to solve the problems she points out. It’s a fascinating process. I can also see how much I’ve grown and matured as a writer in the intervening months (and years). I have five weeks for this first round, then we’ll start the back and forth until my FINAL final is due April 1. 🙂

      Good luck to you. Let me know how you go!


      • I have been working hard for the past 2 years re-writing a novel I started over 20 years ago. Since I finished that one I have written 2 more and all 3 have been contracted for publication. I expect to have an editor assigned for the first after New Years and will be going through what you are doing right now.

        I know all will need work BUT I want the works to have the same feel and flow I tried to write into the characters and scenes. It will be a learning process and will no doubt help me with the next project.


  5. Congratulations Julie! And thank you for sharing your process and journey with the rest of us. Remember that though you may feel as if you are alone, there are so many of us out here rooting for you and cheering you on! Your feedback here is priceless to the rest of us! 🙂 Happy Christmas Julie! x


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