Halfway to a Russell…

The last couple years of my writing life have been a bit like having my laptop set up in front of one of those machines that spits balls down the length of a cage at a person holding a bat.

It’s not impossible, to dodge, hit, or field the missiles and toss them back while trying to create a story, but it can be somewhat distracting. And I do find that  I can handle two or three interruptions in a morning and still go back to the words–although when it comes to four or five, eventually my brain says Hey, look, can we go do something else?

Which makes milestones (if you’ll pardon the confusion of metaphors here) all the more important, either when they’re off on the horizon, or when they’re reached, and falling behind.

Yesterday I hit one of those nice, round, if meaningless and deceptive milestones: the more or less halfway point of a theoretical first draft. My first drafts are a kind of expanded outline, whose purpose is to set up the machinery of the plot and to sketch in the characters.  A first draft is not a novel. Mine are rubbish, utterly unreadable for anyone but an experienced editor.  For this stage, I aim at 300 pages.  Since the final manuscript will be over 400 pages, it gives an idea of how very skeletal the story is in its early form.

(And incidentally, that doubling up of metaphorical imagery–baseballs and mile markers–is not a bad illustration of the difference between a clumsy first draft and a hammered-down final one.)

But: I now have 150 pages that I didn’t have at the beginning of March. Better yet, there are no conferences, Mystery Writers of America workshops, book festivals, or trips to New York coming at me from down the other end of the batting cage. Which means that with a touch of luck, I may be able to keep my head down and write.

Here’s hoping I don’t get knocked off my seat by anything thrown at me by the pitching machine of life.


  1. Robbin Stull on May 29, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Do leave a bit of time to have fun too. Wait, who am I kidding, you have grandies, of course you’ll have a bit of fun.

  2. Kristin Gerhard on June 1, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    Disruptions, Travel-Related.
    Disruptions, Unnecessary.
    Disruptions, Unwanted.
    My personal bugaboo is not on yur list:
    Disruptions, Self-Inflicted–SEE Procrastination. Which is why you’re a professional writer and I’m a librarian.

    • Laurie King on June 12, 2019 at 10:29 am

      But where would I, a writer, be without you, the librarian?

  3. Robin Retzler on June 2, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    Looking forward to your next novel, whenever it comes out and whatever it is.

    • Laurie King on June 12, 2019 at 10:29 am

      Next June, fingers crossed…

  4. Don Weingarten on June 16, 2019 at 12:27 am

    I very much enjoyed Island of the Mad, as I have all the Mary Russell books. I am delighted to hear you have another work in the — er — works. Looking forward to reading it.

    • Laurie King on June 16, 2019 at 9:02 am

      And I’m looking forward to finishing it!

  5. Sylvia4 on June 18, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    Hoping that you’ll be writing about Mary til you’re as old as Mary is now and beyond!!! Will never be able to bear the end of this series!

  6. Sasha on October 29, 2019 at 4:17 am

    How / Where would it be possible to get a signed copy of the newest addition to the series when it becomes available? Or of the entire series to-date? It would make the best gift for someone very special!!

    • Laurie King on October 29, 2019 at 11:52 am

      Best place would be my local bookseller, Bookshop Santa Cruz. I’m there all the time.

Leave a Comment