Let's Do the Time Warp (Again)
Several years ago, when I was still daydreaming of a time when I might write and publish books, I read a terrific Washington Post article about Robert Crais, then on tour for Voodoo River. (Perhaps my favorite Elvis Cole.) I learned two things from the article: 1) Smart writers hoard airline peanuts and 2) It is almost impossible to write while touring.
So I have been grateful for the synchronicity of the past three years, in which I turn in one book and promptly go on tour for another. My eighth book, due Oct. 1, was finished 48 hours before my first public appearance for my seventh book, "The Last Place." So I can hit the road without a laptop and with only a few cares. There will be revisions. Oh yes. There are always revisions. But for now I can travel fancy-free. And, more importantly, with one carry-on.
I've found, however, that even savvy readers may not understand the disorienting timetable of publishing. I have spent the past 11 months living in the pages of a book that has nothing to do with "The Last Place." It's not even a Tess book. (Don't panic. I'm going right back to her.) At this point, I can barely remember writing "The Last Place," which was finished in October 2001. So if you ask me: "Why did Tess order the kreplach?" Or: "Does Crow really use a Swiffer?" I may stare blankly, trying to remember who these people are. But, eventually, it should all come back to me. Eventually.
Publishing a book is grand. Finishing one is beyond description. There is nothing I like better than finishing. I like it so much that I sometimes have to force myself to delay the pleasure, rationing my work in the final weeks, so I won't rush toward completion.
How do you know when a book is finished? Well, a deadline is helpful. If the deadline is here, and you have approximately 80,000-100,000 words resembling a story, that's as good as reason as any to decree it done, lest you fall into the demon grip of perfectionism, which deems nothing is ever done. Or so I keep telling my writing students. Then there's the famous Evan Connell dictate that he knows he has finished a piece of work when he goes through, removing commas and inserting new ones.
Personally, I know a book is about to be over when the next one arrives. I was on the treadmill a few weeks back and Tess showed up. She was trying to shake the hand of a prospective client, an Orthodox Jew who stared at her outstretched arm in a mixture of revulsion and embarrassment, surprised she didn't know he couldn't touch her. After all, he tells her, she may have an Irish name, but he knows her uncle Donald Weinstein through his work with a Jewish men's group. They take kosher food to the Jewish prisoners in the Maryland prison system on the important holidays. Tess finds this information surprising for two reasons. She didn't know her uncle was in a Jewish men's group. And she didn't know there were any Jews in the Maryland prison system since the release of Jeffrey Levitt, of the Old Court Savings & Loan scandal . . .
Hmmm. Maybe I will take a laptop with me, after all.
Read The Naked Dance.
Read Self Help.
Read Mistakes Were Made.
Read Play With Yourself.
Read Musings and Advice.
Read We Were Haranders.
Read Spying on Harriet.
Read Gone Baby Gone.
Read The Last Good Saturday Night.
Read In a Strange Kitchen.
Read The "D" Word.