When I am in full writing mode, I have no clue what day of the week it is. Therefore I am already coming to appreciate that little circle on the calendar signifying it is Wednesday and thus my turn to post on the Lady Killers.
All writers have their own way of attacking a new book. Mine is short and very intense periods of writing. I have friends who take two or even three years to write a book. If I had a deadline two years away I would probably wait until three months before the deadline and then do my usual thing. I've come to realize that I work best under pressure. Also I tend to live, breathe and sleep my work. When I'm in the middle of a book, I am wholeheartedly living that story. I find it hard to shut off. When I'm driving, I'm talking through the next scene, much to the consternation of fellow drivers who see a demented woman shouting to herself in the car they have just passed. I mutter when I walk, when I throw laundry in the machine, when I water the garden. Worst of all, I wake up at night thinking, "Wait--he'd never have said that!" and instantly I'm wide awake and have to find pencil and paper to scribble down my thoughts.
So it's clear that that kind of behavior only works in short bursts. If I lived like that all the time, I'd be in a straight jacket by now. I've also been known to take on the character of people I'm writing about. If a character in my book has a horrible husband, my poor John gets yelled at. If my character is anti-social, mad at the world, then you'd better not cut me off while driving.
Every book I write has the same pattern: I start knowing very little. In my current story, Molly has to go to Ireland to find a woman left behind by her family as they fled to America in the famine. My plan was that she would then somehow find herself involved with the Irish freedom struggles. So that's what I know when I start. With every book it is the same feeling of terror that this time there will be no story, that the story will be too slight, that I'll say everything I want to say in fifty pages. By the time I reach around page 150 and the story is nowhere near completion, I heave a huge sigh of relief.
Why do I put myself through this torture every time? Because I've come to realize that I work better scared. I am living the plot through Molly Murphy's eyes or Evan Evans's eyes as the case may be. I'm solving it as they try to solve it--not as an all-knowing puppet master, pulling the right strings to make the story come out the way I want it, but as a shadow, tiptoeing behind my characters and wondering how it's all going to end. This method must work okay, I suppose, because my books have won seven major awards, out of 14 nominations.
It's a crazy way to live, to be sure, but I don't think I'm built for leisure. Put me on a beach in Puerto Vallarta and after two days, I'm scribbling down ideas and wishing I'd brought my laptop.
I have three books to write this year--an unusually crazy load. I keep promising to cut down to one a year, but then I come up with a good idea and I can't wait to write it.
So I'm glad to know it's Wednesday. It's a small link to a real world where people have work days and weekends. Now back to the book....