Beginnings

Apropos of the last flurry of blog/comments, the Telegraph has a project going, encouraging people to write a novel in a year (thanks to Sarah Weinman for the tip.

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In the meantime, I too have begun the novel for the year. Or at any rate, I\’e2\’80\’99ve begun to push ideas around on my plate like a kid with a bad appetite. \’e2\’80\’9cOh I like this, no, maybe that wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t do it. What about\’e2\’80\’94oh, I don\’e2\’80\’99t know if that idea would carry a novel on its back. Hey, here\’e2\’80\’99s something interesting, I could use it\’e2\’80\’a6\’e2\’80\’9d

Last year was the first time in my life as a professional writer that I had the luxury of an almost uninterrupted six months for writing a book. I always used to begin a book in September, because everything told me that the year started in September, when the school year began. I would try to get a first draft finished by Christmas, to have the holiday with the kids–and occasionally even managed to do so, before picking up the dreadful pig\’e2\’80\’99s ear in January and trying to make a silk purse out of it.

Then when I was writing LOCKED ROOMS, I took the fall off, sort of, anyway, using it to catch up on a lot of unfinished projects like renovating the web site. The break was nice, and necessary, but the spring of 2004 was unfortunately crowded. I started writing in January, only to have Left Coast Crime in my backyard in February, which of course demanded house guests and an open house party for a hundred or more writers: two or three weeks’ work gone there. So when that’s finished I pick up my thoughts and start again, only to have two conferences and surgery in March and April, then the Edgars at the end of April, and a due date of June. I ended up writing the final hundred pages in a week and a half, just holding my nose and plunging in, and in the end it worked, producing a first draft that was no more disjointed than any other.

Having shifted my pub date from March/April to June, this meant that last year I had, as I say, the luxury of six nearly uninterrupted months in which to write THE ART OF DETECTION. And of course (you can guess it, right?) I couldn\’e2\’80\’99t deal with the freedom. I hemmed and hawed and made sixteen false starts, dithered and stumbled my way into a first draft that was just a little late, but I am rarely even a little late. And the entire summer was then taken up with an intensive rewrite, ten very solid weeks of reshaping the story to my satisfaction.

So maybe I do better under pressure?

I shall try to move things along in a more timely fashion with TOUCHSTONE. But I won\’e2\’80\’99t be terribly surprised if, come June, I\’e2\’80\’99m still three chapters and a twist from THE END.

Comments

  1. Hmm… I’ll definitely check out the thing about writing a novel in a year. It made me wonder, though, if you’ve ever heard of National Novel Writing Month? The idea there is to write a novel in a single month. It’s INSANE.

  2. Ms. King –
    Poor you! I’ve found after many years of being a creative person (dare I call myself an artist? Hardly …) that I can only work under a deadline. Thus, I set myself lots of deadlines to keep myself on track. Sigh . . . then I end up passing the deadlines with little progress, because none of them are the “real” deadline, and end up getting a LOT of work done right at the very end. Remarkable how much I find can be accomplished in a week’s time (and then a trip to the hairdressers to cover up all those gray hairs I sprout in the meantime, ha!)
    Oh well – nice to know I’m not the only one. Looking f’ward to the new Kate Martinelli in the meantime.
    Denisen

  3. Hi Laurie! I have a neighbor who recently built a home made of rastra blocks (composed of cement and styrofoam). A good friend is having her new home built of hay bales, with a living roof. After considerable thought, I’ve decided I might be able to construct a largish shed out of books I already own on the craft of writing. They pretty much all boil down to the same message: “Do these exercises. Too bad you can’t write. Buy my next book.” Always a carrot held out in front, but rarely the swift kick needed to project the would-be writer into the reality of actually becoming a writer. This is sad … dishonest, even. All that is really needed to produce a rough draft of a novel is to be chained to a desk with only paper and pen, and not fed until words flow onto the page. Hmm…! I think I’ll write a book about this … 🙂

  4. Hee hee, well said anonymous. Even so, I appreciate what Laurie R King write about the process of writing on this site. When I was in Australia I stumbled across a book that I enjoyed very much: “Making stories. How ten Australian novels were written” by Kate Grenville and Sue Woolfe. What I liked was reading about how completely different these writers were working. There is no common recipe, obviously.

  5. I loved my NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) experience this last November. Came out of it with 50,000+ words (definitely a first draft!) and am still working on it. I also met lots of people from all over the world . Nice perk for someone who works in solitude. Very supportive. I highly recommend it, and will look into writing a novel in a year.

    I’m definitely deadline driven, Laurie, proven by having just flailed and flopped my way through a year off (so I could write, ha!).

  6. i’m in a writing group with a few friends, and they were interested in NaNo last year. the month deadline sounded too chaotic for me, but i took the opportunity along with their month long efforts, to begin my year deadline. i’m a sculptor, and wouldn’t you know it the last year has been my busiest yet. i’d continue working on my story whenever possible, but as of jan 1st, missed my deadline. i’ve cleared my schedule for the rest of the month, (a luxury i know) and am determined to finish by feb. i’m about 3/4 of the way through and have about 200 pages. this is after three false starts of about 60 to 80 pages each. it reminds me of sculpting in that it’s something i’m driven to do. i feel much worse; crabby, off kilter, detached, depressed, whatever, if i don’t do it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    A little off subject, but I have a “good new mystery author” alert for Laurie and others. Sometimes, you know almost as soon as you begin to read a book that an author is going to be very successful. I had this reaction to the first book I read of Laurie’s, way back when. The new author is Sheldon Rusch, and the book is FOR EDGAR. It is the kind of book that makes you purr. Check it out for yourselves. Reader

  8. You may get this all the time, don’t know if you have time to glance around, but I just thought you’d enjoy seeing raves from fangrrrls.
    Thanks– am much looking forward to “Art”, I must say!
    http://www.livejournal.com/users/calligrafiti/311217.html

  9. Bett Norris says:

    A writer myself, I languish in that parched desert that stretches endlessly while waiting to hear from a publisher. My writing process is this: I get up every morning at 3 or 4 am and stare at a computer screen, debating whether to even open Wordperfect. Check the news online first; get some coffee, visit favorite websites, check email, play a game, read the local paper online, get more coffee, sit and think about what I wrote last and whether I want to see it again (usually not) and try to remember that working on something new is the only way to keep from going insane while I wait to hear from my publisher, check the time, curse, I’ve got to get ready for work, shut the computer down, and get up the next morning bleary-eyed at 3 am to do the same. On weekends and days off it is much the same, only I have many more hours to fill avoiding my own work. It is immeasurably satisfying to learn that established authors have even a touch of the same problem.

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