Years ago, when I was an aspiring writer — pre-published, some folks call it nowadays, although I would maintain one is pre-published only if one has a contract to publish* — I read a profile of Robert Crais. He was touring for Voodoo River, which happens to be one of my favorite Elvis Cole books, and the article portrayed a man subsisting on airline peanuts, appearing before sometimes-thin crowds**, and — this was the part that bothered me — never finding time to write. I swore it would be different for me if I ever got published and was lucky enough to tour. And it is, largely because most airlines don’t serve peanuts anymore.
Seriously, I can write while touring, depending on the schedule. In my head, it plays out like an affirmative version of Green Eggs and Ham — “I will write my words on a plane/I will write them on a train/I will write while in a Starbucks/I will write as ninjas come at me with nunchuks.”***
But this has not been one of my better writing weeks. Most of the problem is the book itself. Key scenes are missing in the first third and while I advocate galloping through the first draft, the absence of certain information sometimes makes it hard to go forward. It’s like trying to build a house when the foundation is shoddy. So I have turned back, a little reluctantly, and tried to figure out what’s missing. I’ve also tried to find opportunities, as I think of them, in my own work — glancing references that, upon closer inspection, might become vital parts of the story. It’s important that I get the early chapters in shape now because it’s only going to get harder in the weeks to come. I call up the calendar on my laptop and peer at it anxiously: How am I going to get through the next two months?****
I am very grateful for the opportunity to tour. But I feel as if I’m working only when I’m writing. Events, interviews, e-mail, etc. — that, to me, is the equivalent of filling out my expense account at the Baltimore Sun. Vital, and in my best interest, but I never thought of it as work, more like acceptable busy work when I was too tired to do real work.
This weekend marks my last normal one for quite some time. Be kind to me on the road if our paths cross. And keep checking here for updates, but perhaps not every day.
*If you want to insist that writing diligently and hoping to publish constitutes being pre-published, then I maintain that I’m pre-pregnant.
**Although I’ve always been candid about attendance at my events, I do regret it when bloggers come to a poorly attended event and put it in the context of “Oh, poor Laura, she’s such a loser, no one came to see her, unlike this Big Name or that Big Name, who drew a hundred people at the same store.” Attendance at signings is a function of many things. I never take it personally when people don’t show up, because it’s not really personal. In fact, I keep in mind the story a Really Good Independent Bookseller once told me about a New York Times Bestseller and All-Round-Great Guy who had a crowd of zero one night, and for no reason that anyone could discern. (Weather, competing events, the bookstore advertising the wrong date, geography.)
***You try to come up with a PG-rated rhyme for Starbucks.
****My always supportive SO said to me this morning: “If your day met my day in the street, my day would beat the crap out of it and leave it in a quivering puddle on the side of the road.” The thing is, he’s right. Context helps.
*****The asterisks are stolen from the blog of Stuart MacBride, which explains the title of today’s entry, part of the old adage: Immature artists imitate, mature artists steal.