Early days

As the final pass of Pirate King through my hands comes nearer—the galley proofs will reach me in a couple or three weeks—the next book begins to stir into life.  This week I will take the first steps in a book that won’t become a reality for the rest of the world for a year and a half.  For me, it becomes a reality this week.

Now, this may astonish some of you who have never read these posts or listened to me talk about writing, but: Laurie King doesn’t outline.  Beyond the main characters and the place, I never know what a book is going to be until I write it—and even then, I have to burrow into the rewrite before I’m at all certain.

This makes writing a detailed proposal…tricky.

I’m fortunate, to have an editor who trusts me and will back me to the hilt.  It saves us from the farce of my coming up with some lengthy fantasy description of the book to come, which both of us know bears no resemblance with what the book will end up being.

Once upon a time, in the glory days of publishing when advances had zeros on them and telephones were used for phone calls, I handed in a book proposal that amounted to a handful of lines—more or less as a joke, you understand.  If they accepted those few lines as the proposal, it would mean they would send me a check for roughly a thousand dollars a word.  And they accepted it.  The funny thing was, those few lines made a very accurate outline of the book—as it then stood in my mind.

But that was a game that’s amusing once.  There’s less humor in publishing these days.  And I love my editor enough that I don’t really want to give her problems.  So this week, I’ll sit down at my laptop and write a lengthy fantasy of what the book will look like, even though she and I both know full well that the proposal and the book will veer dramatically apart by the end of the first page.

Lengthy, as in: maybe as much as a whole page.

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  1. Ken on February 24, 2011 at 5:52 am


    As much as I’m a big fan of your work, I’m continually amazed at how prolific you are. I’m a professional writer on the advertising end of things, but I have 3 books I’ve been working on on the side for about 8 years, and I’m afraid I might not ever finish them. Getting the occasional update on how much you accomplish in one week at least gives me inspiration to plow on. You’re pretty darn amazing.


  2. Aaron Paul Lazar on February 24, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Hi, Laurie. I loved hearing how your books are born. My process is the same – I have a general idea of place, characters, and a loose collection of themes I’ll cover, but once I start, all bets are off. ;o) If I had to outline, I’m afraid my creativity would freeze up.

    Can’t wait for your next book!

  3. RussellHolmes on February 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I too write that way. I get a general idea (including who commited it, who is suspected, and the victim) but never do I put it anywhere expect in the writing itself. I find planning takes too long and will give me less freedom when I do write it out. I cannot wait until Pirate King!

  4. Lauren L. on March 9, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    It’s refreshing to hear this from a published writer. I never outlined my papers for school and it annoyed me when professors wanted outlines and drafts. While I see the benefit of drafts, outlines are simply tedious.

    Happy writing! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with next. A friend and I already have the release date for Pirate King blocked off for a trip to the bookstore, bangers and mash, honey wine, and reading. Can’t wait!

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