Thursday, August 18, 2011

When am I expecting?

Wow, here's a question I was trying not to have to grapple with.  I had hoped (foolishly, I now recognize) to have the entire book manuscript drafted and ready to go by the end of this summer.  Since that is obviously not going to happen, I've set myself to getting the prospectus ready in its stead, along with two chapters ready (enough) to send with it.  But this means that I must declare in the prospectus when I expect the completed manuscript to be ready. 

When the fuck is that?

Given that I have a 4/4 load this year (albeit one with few preps), and that my revised thinking about the manuscript puts it at about half-written – if I'm shooting for approximately 75,000 words – I wonder what I should say.  Can I produce the completed manuscript by the end of this academic year?  My can-do, happy-go-idiot self says, "Yes!  For sure!  You can do this!!"  The sour, self-defeating pessimist in me says, "No fucking chance.  You've never taught full-time before.  You're still on the job market.  You didn't even know a month ago that you'd look like a blithering fool if you submitted a 50,000-word manuscript as a pseudological text to a university press.  Why don't you just eat a shotgun and be done with it?" 

Clearly, the latter voice has a tendency to go a little too far with things, so I'm treating that one with appropriate skepticism.  But the former voice has previously demonstrated a slight tendency to bite off more than I can chew.  In either case, the problem for me is that I don't know what will sound reasonable to an acquisitions editor who has seen many such cases.  I don't want to sound cluelessly optimistic about how fast I can produce a usable manuscript, but it certainly won't do to put the date too far into the future, either. 

Has anyone else dealt with a similar scenario?


  1. Do not eat a shotgun --- they taste terrible! Surely there are better food options, even where you are.

    Ok, so you need someone who has actually gone through with this stuff to weigh in, since I did proposal stuff and then never actually revised and sent out my manuscript.

    But, I know what it's like to teach 4-4, and that feels really tiring and overwhelming. Composition classes probably are more intense in the writing and constant grading than whatever pseudologists do, but you are going to have to come up with some sort of lecture or assignment or activity for your classes each day they meet, and this can take up a lot of time (and it can take up more time than it should, too, since there's this urge for perfection and whatnot, but I can let a lecture prep take up my entire non teaching day when really it should have taken maybe 2-3 hours)

    Plus you will be applying out to jobs again and that tends to suck away at one's will to live.

    So, if it's half done, will you need to write up two more chapters from scratch? Do you think you can draft out each chapter one per semester, or will it take longer than that? A year to draft one chapter, the summer to draft the next, and later still to work them up into a polished state?

    Now that I think about it, maybe playing with a big general to do list and a calendar will help you. Make a list of what you want to do to change the book manuscript and start estimating how many weeks for each item on the list. Then you can start assessing whether these items are really doable on a 4-4 load etc.

    And this is not meant to be depressing at all!!! You can do it! Go, go, go!!!!

  2. Ok...take a deep breath. Everything is going to be ok.

    1. It's halfway done. You aren't starting from scratch. That's big because you already have momentum and direction. So take a moment and celebrate that. *woohoo*
    2. Teaching a full load is admittedly a challenge BUT you CAN work on your manuscript. You just need to commit to working on it steadily (weekends, office hours, etc...whenever you can grab the time). It will be worth it when everything is said and done.
    3. You could say the end of the academic year, or you could say a year from now (maybe August 1st). I'd go for the latter: if you put a year in your prospectus--that gives you next summer as well to finish up!
    4. Finally, deadlines change--publishers don't love it but they should be willing to give you an extension if you do end up needing one, so the prospectus is a ballpark. The contract will specify a date, though--and it should be one you can live with (though on the books I've worked on, small extensions were granted with no problem).

    Best wishes--I know you can do it!

  3. Just read what Sisyphus said and I agree: it depends on how long it takes you to draft the chapters and polish them. So if it's two years, then it's two years!

    But I don't know if I would send a prospectus YET if it were two years from completion...might be worth it to wait in that case.

  4. I have no wisdom to add beyond these two, but I will also say that extensions are pretty much expected among our reputedly deadline-flaky fraternity.