I wrote my first mystery, Fools Rush In, in nine months. To celebrate finishing the book I bought a modestly priced bottle of champagne to toast my accomplishment with my family. That was 1998. The bottle is still in my refrigerator. For whatever reason, my family saw nothing to celebrate.
Where Angels Fear took five years to finish. I carried the manuscript to the hospital every day while my mother was dying. I put it away out of guilt and took care of my father until he passed away. There are more important things in life than finishing a book.
Last week I put the final touches on A Snitch In Time. It took a decade to write. During that time frame I retired, moved three times, was poisoned and nearly died, lost one kidney and got on the transplant list. I also worked as an acquisitions editor, lectured, learned about the industry and marketing, blogged and networked. I know it wasn't time wasted but I feel like a slacker.
Writing books should become easier, not harder--right? Theoretically, they should take less time to pen and, with experience, better crafted. There was no writers' block involved, no lack of faith in the storyline. My fans have been patient but they'll probably have to read the first two books all over again to refresh their memories. I have to do one more edit to make sure everything tracks before handing it over to my publisher.
Every book has a different story behind it. The first novel was written in a critique group. I was competitive and eager to be read so I handed in a new chapter every week. Lots of feedback, lots of encouragement. It was also based on a real case I worked as a secretary with a narcotics team. The investigation unfolded as I was writing the book.
The second in the series was loosely based on a case I handed over to the vice squad. Half of the book was heard by the critique group but I dropped out before I finished it. Only a few close writers whose judgment I trusted got to read the full manuscript.
But this book—nobody has read this book. And that's scary. I haven't had any feedback and sometimes wonder what I'm holding in my hands. It's like flying on a trapeze with no safety net. I trust my talent to tell a story, but I've been out of law enforcement for ten years and this time I'm working solely from my imagination.
My point is, no two books are written under the same circumstances, no two writers are alike. I get irritated when interviewers want to know what my “routine” is. There is no routine to my routine, it changes every day. Writers are not wind-up dolls placed in front of their computers, fingers automatically plucking out words. Our minds get fuzzy with age, our energy lags, life makes demands. While living inside our imagination is a wonderful experience, it can be limiting. There's a very real world out there that needs our attention as well.
However, last week I wrote “The End” and called a few friends, demanding them to take me to dinner to celebrate. I've learned not to wait for kudos or someone to pop the champagne cork. This is my celebration of another milestone in my career and my life. Party on!