I have a Pirate King!

Well, friends, here it is: draft one of next year’s Russell & Holmes novel, Pirate King:

I came home from the God of the Hive tour (which had also been a trip to Portugal/Morocco/France/England) in mid-May with 70 pages of Pirate King written, about half what I had hoped for by that time.  And inevitably, being gone for two months meant it took a third month to catch up and get my desk cleared for action, so it wasn’t until June 3 that I sat down to finish it—and to finish it before I went off on the UK leg of the tour in mid-July.

I’m a fairly fast writer, especially for the first draft which is mostly Just throw the damned thing onto the page. Unless I need to visualize precisely how things work or figure out some shadowy character, I don’t go back and do any rewrites or substantial additions, just push on after that elusive conclusion, hoping that my copious notes about research gaps, sub-plots to be developed, and characters to make more of in the early pages can be deciphered at the end.

My usual pattern is to set a minimum goal for the day—generally 1500 to 2000 words—and work maybe 6 days a week at that.  This time (for those of you interested in the nuts and bolts of this odd job I do) my word count between June 3 and June 27 shows six days of no writing (four of those I was away from home, two days I was reading what I’d already written.)   Only three days have under 2000 words (well, four, if you count the final day’s 1,924 words.)  Five days have over 3000 words.

Speaking personally? At 3500 words, smoke comes out of my ears and when I go down to start chopping the vegetables for dinner, I can barely make conversation. So that speed is for me quite high.

So, am I finished with the book?  Hah! she said, grimly.

As I’ve mentioned before, my first draft amounts to little more than an expanded outline, 300+ typescript pages of confusion, idiocy, outright contradiction, and the occasional small, very small snippet that will make it into the final version virtually unchanged.

But there are very few of that last.  For the most part, every page I produce will expand by a third, thirty chapters will turn into thirty-four or -five, people who just appear and start talking will be given some kind of introduction, and bare descriptions of facts received will become a discovery of that information instead.

As it stands at the moment, Pirate King is 270 pages of typescript (terrible, unreadable typescript.)  Figuring that I average around 250 words to the page, that’s 70,000 words.  And considering that a reasonable length for a crime novel these days is in the neighborhood of 100,000 words (The Game was 120,000, Touchstone nearly 180,000) you can see that I have a way to go.

But I have the bones of my story, skull to metatarsals.  And now that I have those bones, when I get back from the UK tour in August, I can begin to flesh it out.

So raise a cup of grog to Pirate King—or at any rate, the faint, ghostly foreshadowing of Pirate King.

Posted in ,


  1. Laraine on June 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Brava, brava! Looking forward to this future pleasure! Enjoy the UK tour.

  2. Davina on June 30, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I’m only two books in to your wonderful series but am delighted at news that more is yet to come!

  3. Strawberry Curls on June 30, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Woooohooooo! That must feel marvelous, and miraculous as you still have some time left on your self-imposed deadline. Congratulations on getting your new baby onto the page, in any form. We your readers, are delighted, and will Begin the official frothing at the mouth to get our hands on it in due course.


  4. annburns on June 30, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I am very interested in the nuts and bolts as you put it – thank you for giving a glimpse into the way you write. You wouldn’t know any of your books start out like that when you read the finished products. Have a wonderful tour of the UK – and think about a tour downunder sometime. Please! cheers – Ann

  5. Beth Havens on June 30, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    I look forward to the Pirate Story, I always thought Holmes would make a decent pirate. And I think Russell would scare the heck out of Bluebeard.

    “With sloping masts and dipping prow,
    As who pursued with yell and blow
    Still treads the shadow of his foe,
    And foward bends his head,
    The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
    And southward aye we fled.”
    the rhyme of the ancient mariner

    Write On!
    MissBHavens as usual!

  6. Meredith on July 1, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Yeeeee Gods. that’s burning up the page, that is. Errrr… does this mean you could write two books a year? (backing away) No, No, Laurie, put down that axe!

    Seriously, have a great time in Greater Britain. I will try to send some of my abundant nieces and nephews to see you. best//Meredith

  7. Chris on July 1, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Well done!

  8. Laidee Marjorie on July 1, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Very happy for you, Laurie, and (selfishly) for us as well. The first big hurdle has been jumped and cleared with room to spare. “Pirate King” lives.


  9. Christi on July 1, 2010 at 6:04 am

    It’s fascinating to have a glimpse at how you make your magic. Thank you so much for sharing!

  10. Megan on July 1, 2010 at 8:41 am

    I shall add the health of Pirate King and yourself to the list of well-wishes cemented with glasses of rum at this weekend’s celebrations.

  11. RussellHolmes on July 1, 2010 at 9:49 am

    GOTH was awesome and I cannot wait for PK! I am on the edge of my seat to see what will come Russell and Holmes’ way next!

  12. Sara on July 2, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Congrats and enjoy England! (Then high-tail it back so we can read Pirate King!) Oh gosh- there isn’t going to be a 25 weeks of Pirates, is there?!? I can’t take it.

  13. TheMadLibrarian on July 3, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I think 25 weeks of your fans channeling “Talk Like a Pirate Day” might drive you (and us) round the bend!

  14. Kathy on July 3, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Write on! I can’t imagine how you do it. I can come up with ideas and plots, but any attempt at writing is very feeble. So, glad we have you!

  15. Kerry on July 4, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Great news for all concerned! I’m having such fun visions of Russell glaring at parrots and shaking her head in dismay at Holmes in a pirate’s scarf. Enjoy the UK!

  16. Lauren L. on July 5, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Congratulations! Glad to hear it’s shaping up. It’s always good to hear about the process.

    Enjoy the UK tour!

  17. Commish24 on July 5, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Will see you at Marylebone Library and still hoping to buy you a drink after!

    • Laurie King on July 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm

      I’m not sure what I’m doing that evening, other than the event, but I hope to have some time afterwards, yes.

  18. Cathy on July 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I can’t wait.

  19. Janet O'Kane on July 13, 2010 at 11:22 am

    As an aspiring crime writer I find reading about published writers’ ‘nuts and bolts’ practices fascinating. It’s also so reassuring to learn that your books don’t spring to life fully formed. I’m faced with my first draft and was despairing at how unfinished it looks. I feel a lot better now. Thank you.
    Enjoy your visit to the UK. I’m glad you’re going to be visiting Scotland as well as England.

  20. Sharley LaMora on July 18, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Laurie – 2nd time through all the R/H series – taking tmie for minutiae: your series stands the test and gives back even more.

    You write like I paint in oils – Once the subject and support are sorted, first lay in everything – note where things intersect, what suddenly becomes glaringly obvious, what needs careful thought. Note the actual focal point, the lightest lights and the darkest darks. Then back over it all (rarely does first layer ever make it to the “top”) putting in accuracy, corrections, adjustments for continuity and perspective, then finalizing with the brushwork, the calligraphy, the highlights – the stuff that people will see.

    Your series’ always do remind me of art – each novel its own style, era, subject, support, media. No two replicas.

    And now Pirate King? Intriguing! Juicy! Yay!!!

  21. Miriam M. on July 20, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I have read the entire series so far and my daughter is finished GOTH. We await anxiously HRH the King of the Pirates!

  22. Merrily on July 25, 2010 at 6:13 am

    Laurie, way behind on Blog reading this week, but so happy to hear that your first draft is done – and that you are having a good time in England. Enjoy every moment (well, not the airline ones).

  23. Sherry Barbaro on July 26, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I believe you and your readers would enjoy a poem written by E.B.White in the between-the-wars period of your novels. You may find it easily on line
    “Song of the Queen Bee” by E. B. White. I found it published in a collection titled “Second Tree from the Corner” by E.B. White, published in 1935.
    I am addicted to your Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. Just finished God of the Hives and look forward to its sequel. Glad you didn’t kill off Mycoroft.
    Sherry Barbaro
    Raleigh, North Carolina

  24. Kasia on December 10, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Wooo hooo! Another Holmes and Russell? AND with a title that has the word “Pirate” in it? I think that this may just be the most awesome thing ever. So excited!

Leave a Comment