I learned a great many lessons from Dick Giordano when he was my boss at DC Comics. Perhaps the most invaluable one was that freelancers will always over-estimate the amount of work they can get done in a given time. On their best day ever, an artist will have drawn four pages. From them on, when opportunities arose, they would gauge their ability to fit in the work based on that never-to-be-repeated output. That way always led to danger.
Freelancers forget it was a one-time occasion, much as they never factor in holidays, conventions, illness, family obligations and the unexpected. When I made up the schedules at DC and Marvel I always factored in fudge time, revision time, and the like so people then would see a script due six or more months before publication and scoff. I cannot tell you how many times disaster would have been averted had people actual met my dates and not the ones in their head.
Personally, I think my best may have been a 6000 word day where I was adapting a script and things were flowing really well. However, I know myself and recognize I am good for 3000 word bursts. When taking on assignments, I tend towards being realistic so if an 80,000 word novel is offered me and I divide it by 3000 words, that means I need just under 30 days to write the book, but that’s once there’s a plot, a chapter outline, research, rewriting, etc. And I never have 30 consecutive days so that should be at least doubled if not tripled, meaning three months minimum.
Quite often, publishers want a book within six to twelve ACmonths so if I need three months and they offer me six, everyone should be happy. It’s when you need three months and the publisher is asking for it in two or less, you have to take time to assess if you really can push yourself this once. I know I can do more than 3000 words at a shot if pushed, if everything is working. I can’t do it consistently and I suspect the finished product will be rougher than I am happy with but it also means the deadline is met and there might be time for more polishing during copy editing.
Of course, here at Crazy 8 Press, we set our own schedules. Most of us have a good sense of how much we can write and take slots accordingly. Rarely do we need to meet a specific deadline but when that happens we make deliberate plans. As a matter of fact, we’re all at work on stories for an anthology debuting at Shore Leave in August as we celebrate our third anniversary. More on that later, but for now take comfort in knowing we’re all striving to deliver our personal bests.