It happens too easily, doesn’t it? This loss of time.
Where did it go? I look back, month to month, and identify the actions that kept me from writing.
It must have been a year ago that I turned in my final draft of BEAT. The first thing I did next was work on the proposal for my next book. I spent about two months on an idea set in the Los Angeles Harbor. Did a ton of research, digging into the lives and cultures of the people living in San Pedro. I took a four-hour tour of a container ship, led by the ship’s captain. I did tours of the harbor on a fireboat. I studied and prepared and learned what I could about my characters’ lives.
I wrote the proposal and I sent it to my agent and he nixed it. Didn’t feel it would sell. I began again.
I put my head into a cool idea about grifters. Ensemble crime piece with twisted characters and a fresh story. I wrote the proposal and sent it to my agent and…he nixed it. He suggested that I write an international thriller—possibly for Hayden Glass. I came up with another idea and wrote two proposals using the same storyline: one was a standalone and one was a Glass book. I wrote two twenty-page proposals and sent the Hayden one to my editor.
While I was waiting on his answer, my editor suggested I write a “Hayden” short story – something we could give away for free on Kindle and other e-book venues. Something to introduce new readers to the world of Hayden Glass.
It took two months to write “Crossing the Line,” a short story prequel to Boulevard. It documents the moment a younger Hayden Glass, just one year into the LAPD (two weeks into the Vice unit), picks up a prostitute, fully intending to arrest her, and instead “crosses the line.” It’s the first time his addiction appears on the scene. The story should show up any day now, and I intend to post a pdf file of it for download from my website.
After finishing the short story I waited for word on my book proposal, busying myself by marketing Boulevard, prepping and attending conferences like Thrillerfest, doing library gigs, working the day job, spending time with my family, dealing with the impending short sale of my house. There were plenty of things to keep me from writing a novel.
Ultimately, my editor suggested that I write a standalone, and my agent agreed. But a book deal didn’t emerge and I was instructed to write the standalone without a contract.
Once I determined what I was going to write, once I had my agent on board (after all, he’s the one charged with selling the thing, it’s a whole lot easier if he’s passionate about the story from the start) I settled in to do the research.
I spent a couple months interviewing professionals and reading books about the FBI. I somehow managed to finagle a trip to Europe for a little “boots on the ground” action. I set a hard-and-fast deadline to begin writing the novel, a date that should have given me plenty of time to prepare.
That date is November 1.
I haven’t finished my research. I haven’t even finished typing my handwritten notes from Europe into my computer.
Meanwhile, the launch of BEAT has required that I spend weeks doing interviews and writing blogs. I’ve thrown myself into the marketing, doing everything possible to give BEAT a chance. And then came Bouchercon and my SF launch and all the signings and touring leading up to the conference. And there are signings and touring still to come.
That elusive “start” date feels like it’s slipping away. My wife and I have to move the crap that has accumulated in our house over the past five years and move it to a small apartment in less than three weeks. We have yet to define what is garbage, Goodwill, recycle, storage or apartment-stuff. This could take all of my time, further derailing my plans to have a book out quickly. As it is it’ll take eight months to write the book, using weeknights after work and full weekend days, and then I’ve got to sell it, execute an editor’s notes, then wait ten months to see it released.
Tonight my wife told me not to let anything get in the way of my writing. She said that she would somehow deal with everything else. I’m responsible for keeping my day job and writing the next book and that is all.
I think I’ve done enough marketing. I’m not sure how much it helps anyway. And I think I’ve done enough waiting for others to tell me what to do next.
You know, Brett Battles told me this would happen. He said it would sneak up on me, that I should write the next book without waiting for permission.
And Bob Crais told me not to get lost in the machine, but to “write the next book, always write the next book.”
I know how I get when I write. Everything else falls to the wayside. Writing is all-consuming. That means I’ll have no time for anything else. I’ve been afraid to jump in, afraid that the house will fall apart, that I won’t spend time with my family, that the world around me will crash and burn. I’m going to have to trust that my wife can do what needs to be done. Homeschool the kids, manage the bills, pack up the house and move a family of four and a dog and a fish.
November 1st. Chapter One. First sentence. Time to write.