by | Dec 19, 2018 | The Writer's Life, On writing | 10 comments

By Robin Burcell


The end of the year is a busy time for writers. We might be working, but  many of us are also thinking about Thanksgiving, do we brave Black Friday shopping (no, we don’t—at least not in this house!), or do we get out the holiday decorations that weekend or wait until December. A lot of writers also participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month. You can read Rogue Jamie Freveletti’s post about it here.). Some hit it officially, others use it for inspiration to jumpstart word counts for an impending deadline.
I would fall into that latter category, frantically trying to juggle my daily word count with the approaching holidays. I’m not sure how I’m so lucky to always have a deadline smack dab in the middle of this holiday madness, but I’m grateful for the work, so I really can’t complain. My kids know all about December deadlines. If I’m close to meeting it, the Christmas tree gets decorated that year with all the wonderful ornaments, many of which are older than my grown children. If I’m lagging behind, the tree gets decorated with bells and bows (easy to put on, and even easier to rip off and shove in a box). And a few times over the years, though my twins might not remember it, when they were babies/toddlers, I decorated the tree so the bottom had no breakable ornaments. Same thing the year we got a new puppy. No matter which way we go, full-on decorating or easy-peasy unbreakable, the trees are pretty. The former, though, with the ornaments I’ve collected over the years, is the one they look forward to. It reminds my kids of home.

With the decorations up, it’s time to think about what’s going under the tree. I have friends who start shopping for gifts in October. I wish I was that organized. One year, I had such a tight deadline that I was writing on Thanksgiving Day, then ordering all my Christmas presents online that same evening when the so-called Black Friday sales officially started. While it was great, because I had my entire list done in a couple of days, I lost track of a couple of boxes, and didn’t find them for months. (In my defense, we were having tile installed throughout the house right before Christmas.) I found the missing packages a few months later. (Thank you, Nordstrom, for your generous return policy!)
This year, my deadline was December 15th. (Another co-written book with Clive Cussler, THE ORACLE, which hits the stands May 2019.) I was offered a deadline in January, but asked for it earlier on purpose. My goal was to finish the book at the end of November. (Those who know me can quit laughing now.) I planned to unofficially participate in NaNoWriMo to up my word count, thereby being able to enjoy all of December and the holiday fun and madness that comes with it. For those who don’t know, the NaNoWriMo goal is to write about 1600 words a day. I needed a mere 800 words a day to make that goal. No problem, right? 
My brain, however, refused to participate. 
As usual, I typed THE END and emailed the manuscript exactly on my due date. Had I been given that January deadline, my subconscious would know this, and I’d still be working on the book. So, yes, since I don’t own a time machine (unless you count my TARDIS ornament), I had to work a bit harder, my ten hour days turning into fourteen hour days. Still, I made it and I now have nine full days to get shopping done. 
I’m curious if my fellow Rogue Writers have similar difficulties working through the holidays, or if they participate officially or unofficially in NaNoWriMo as a way to jumpstart that end-of-year-writing.  But what I really want to know, Rogue Readers, is when do you start your holiday shopping? 
Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Karna Bodman

    Oh Robin – reading your holiday "routine" made me smile and also feel a bit exhausted. I have no idea how you do it all — especially with those adorable twins, puppy, a deadline and all the rest. As for shopping, I pick up items for the kids whenever I see them – months in advance and store them away…and have to complete it all in plenty of time to ship many gifts to relatives in Canada (and fill out those pesky post office forms). I salute your "work-a-holic" talents and can't wait to read THE ORACLE. Thanks for a great post.

  2. Gayle Lynds

    Oh, those December deadlines. It seemed to me I was always on them, too, back in the day when my kids were still at home. The worst part of them was being in my office with the door closed and working night after night while I could hear them laughing and talking and having a grand time in the living room just beyond the wall. The best part was the joyousness of having everyone close, that picking up gifts when I saw them over the previous year (yes, that part I had organized!) had paid off in time I could spend with them, and then the music and the tree and the dinner and everyone pitching in, which brought all of us closer together. Although I deeply regret the time I didn't have with them, the time I DID have with them is seared in my happiest of memories.

  3. Robin Burcell

    Thank you, Karna! Now that they're grown, I'm grateful they still come home for Christmas and there's very little shipping. You have to be very organized to get packages out on time!

  4. Robin Burcell

    So true, Gayle! And cherish them. I had French doors on my old office, so though they were closed, I could peer out to see then laughing (if they were in the kitchen, that is). Not sure that made it any easier, but at least I didn't feel quite so cut off. I will alway regret the time apart, so try to appreciate every moment with them now, especially now that I know how fleeting time is!

  5. S.Lee Manning

    I now admit that I will get little writing done between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In some ways, I find it easier to not have to try to both juggle the holidays and write. That way – when I do write – it's a bonus – an unexpected surprise. I can be pleased with myself. If I try to fit my writing schedule into December, I wind up angry at myself and disappointed in my lack of discipline. then it ruins my mood for the holidays which is what's messing up writing in the first place. Besides, January is long, cold and boring. Great time to write.

  6. Robin Burcell

    I do agree. Which is why I liked having the deadline land before Christmas. Every year I've had it stretch over to January, I never get anything done, but I still have the stress of having it loom over me. Now, I actually get to relax. A bit. (Not like the work ends once you send it in. Just that it's not so pressing!)

  7. Jamie Freveletti

    Loved this post! Yes, it seems like a project takes as long as the deadline allows, doesn't it? I, too, participated in NaNoWriMo and didn't come close to my planned word count. It was a good experience, though, and I plan on trying again next year. And I adore the Tardis ornament! Happy Holidays

  8. Robin Burcell

    I know! Isn't that TARDIS great! I, also, plan to do NaNo again next year. Happy Holidays!

  9. Chris Goff

    I'm still laughing. How hilarious! This year I was super organized. I had my shopping done and some packages just before Thanksgiving. I got my Christmas letter written… That said, I've had deadlines looming at holiday time, and it's no fun. Like you and Gayle, I struggled with everyone else having fun while I was chained to my computer. And I've had a NaNoWriMo or two where I failed miserably. I don't think I've ever participated that I've made my word count. You made it! Enjoy Christmas!

  10. Robin Burcell

    Well, made NaNo 15 days late! LOL. But thanks! And yes, I'll be able to relax!