Deep Breath

When is the end not the end?  When it’s a book, and its author knows that a first draft is crap.

I sent a very rough first draft of Dreaming Spies off to my editor today.  This proto-novel is an exceedingly thin 270 pages, missing one of its two endings, with sporadic character development, a peculiar way of jumping locations, long bits where nothing much happens and the author is clearly muddling her way through the undergrowth, and settings that bear only a passing resemblance to the countrysides of Japan and Oxfordshire.

But those 270 pages are there, where they weren’t before.  And now I can take a deep breath, and talk to my editor about where the story is going, and dig in to make a mess into a book.


  1. Susan Gainen on February 3, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you for this post. It is a wonderful reminder that writing — like all creative endeavors — is messy and complicated, unlikely to come out perfectly the first time, and, above all, worth working on.

    An inspiration to me as I sit down to paint more and write more about the Pandas from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul.

  2. Merrily Taylor on February 3, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    We have faith in you, Laurie, I know a butterfly will emerge from this somewhat battered cocoon…

  3. Teresa on February 4, 2014 at 7:52 am

    I love hearing about your writing process, and learning from you. Thanks for writing, and for telling us how you’re doing it.


  4. Rosemary on February 6, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    It’s reassuring to hear that even successful authors have to go through the whole messy, chaotic process. It gives me hope! Thanks for sharing:)

  5. Rayleen on February 11, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I’m so glad to hear that it’s coming along, even if it’s slowly! As a huge fan of the Russell series I can’t wait for the newest book!

  6. Barbara on February 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Laurie, any plans for another Mary Russell novel?

    • Laurie King on February 16, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      This is a Russell novel.

  7. Mer Boel on March 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    So glad! So excited! I love hearing about your process, this post and the last one are very inspiring. As a music composer often the longer forms for me are much like this — I listen for what is next, I put in bits and pieces that seem to be calling out to me, I try to hear what is missing, what is wrong, where it is headed, how to then get there in a satisfying way. How fun to hear this described for the process of writing a novel! My husband and I are both HUGE fans of your writing. Thank you so much!

  8. Judy on March 18, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    I just discovered the Mary Russell stories on and am obsessed. I love your series and am truly in awe of your writing. I listen during an hour commute and find myself making the trip longer to listen to more! I am dreading getting to the end of the published stories. I guess I will have to begin your other books. Thanks so much for giving us these great stories.

    • Merrily on March 19, 2014 at 8:20 am

      Judy, in addition to reading Laurie’s other books – which are excellent – come over and visit us on Letters of Mary (a Yahoo Group), where a dedicated group of Russell fans has produced some excellent fan fiction to entertain us in between the “real” Russell and Holmes adventures. You will us filling in some of the blanks Laurie has kindly left us (where did Holmes go after he fled Russell in the bolt hole in “A Letter of Mary”?) and taking Holmes and Russell to places that Laurie hasn’t visited yet.
      And Laurie very kindly supports us, which we take as a great honor!

  9. Sarah on March 22, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    I only recently got into this series (just finished The Moor today) and I have to say that I absolutely love your writing style and the stories you come up with. And the food mentions, of course–they make reading the novels really cozy! Glad to hear there’s a new novel coming out 🙂

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