Why Crime Writing Isn’t As Easy As You Think – Because Stuff Happens

FirstLightFrontAl Lamanda: Writing a mystery is not as easy as you might think when fall decides to fast-forward to winter and you have to put your latest chapter on hold to shovel the new foot of snow off the roof, and deck, and driveway. And then repeat this process every other day until spring. Oh, I know I live in a cold weather state where I’m supposed to love to play in the snow, slide down a mountain on sticks and hike through the woods wearing tennis racquets on my feet, but I have deadlines to meet here and snow is nothing but one big distraction for me.

And the holidays are always good for lost weeks at the keyboard. Especially when you have to drive hundreds and hundreds of miles to eat an enormous meal (at a time of day when you’d usually have no more than two pieces of toast) with a large group of relatives that I have divided into three categories. The first category consists of the “I have a great story to tell you that your next book should be about” and, of course it’s the same long-winded story as last year, and the year before that. (For the record, I don’t think a story about elderly people with ailments such as arthritis and eczema, using their various ailments like a super power to solve a murder is on my horizon anytime soon.) Category two is the critics. The, “I hated the end and I would have written it differently crowd. They bring notes on what my next novel should be about according to what they think I should write about. The third category is the “Where’s my free books bunch?” I wonder if I showed up at your office would you give me free dental work, or a free life insurance policy, or free electrical work simply because we are somehow related?

Additional winter fun that slowed the progress on my latest project was ice. Not the friendly little cubes mudof the stuff you find floating in a glass of bourbon, but the sheet of the stuff that grows on your three-hundred-foot-long, uphill driveway after the three day spell known as the January thaw. And you desperately need to get to the library, but you’re not going anywhere because you drive a car and not an M1 Abrams tank. So you call this guy you know who delivers sand (who knew people did this for a living back home in New York?) all winter and by the time he arrives and you help him spread the sand, the library is closed. And, for the next three days, so is your research.

And the evil cup of coffee. Because, in the middle of a chapter that you forgot to save because your mug was empty and you just had to have more, you go to the kitchen, and, (did I forget to mention the raging February snowstorm that was happening at the time) power goes out and the entire chapter you worked on for hours and hours is gone as in it ain’t coming back anytime soon.

new snowAnother delay came at the hands of having all four seasons in one week, a particular favorite of mine. Where on Sunday it’s a lovely fall day and you’re staring out the window instead of writing and longing for summer. And the very next day is summer and temperatures sore to eighty-one degrees and you open every window and door and for one afternoon you pound the keys like a madman. And you go to bed feeling like you’ve accomplished something and wake up the next day to four inches of snow on the ground and thirty-two degrees, and you spend half the morning trying to remember where you put the snow shovel. And the day after that, which is a lovely spring day and the snow melts quickly and you have a yard and driveway full of mud and you need chest waders to get the mail.

With forty or so pages left to write in my latest mystery, it was looking good that I would meet the required deadline. Until I happened to mention that the old sofa wasn’t as comfortable as it once was, which led to a week-long hunt for a new one that dwarfed the old one and cramped the room, so out with the old entertainment center and in with the new, sleeker one, which meant, of course, shopping for a new, sleeker television, which, when all was said and done made the windows appear old and worn, so hello window guy, can I waste three days picking out windows with you, and while we’re at it, let’s throw in new doors just because.

So winter is done, and so is my latest mystery novel, and I will write another because it makes the stuff that happens so much more interesting.

About MCWriTers

Kate Flora is the author or co-author of fifteen books, including her Joe Burgess police procedural series, her Thea Kozak series, two true crimes, a stand-alone suspense and a memoir, as well as many short stories. Her books have been Edgar, Anthony, Agatha, and Derringer finalists. She’s twice won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction and won the 2015 Public Safety Writers Association award for nonfiction. She divides her time between Maine and Massachusetts. Flora is a former international president of Sisters in Crime.
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5 Responses to Why Crime Writing Isn’t As Easy As You Think – Because Stuff Happens

  1. Linda Lord says:

    Your librarian can point you at loads of online reference sources you can access from home. Best wishes with finishing your latest book.

  2. Richard Goutal says:

    You forgot to mention how the tiny thought about the uncomfortable couch led to a list of expenses that created a debt surpassing profits on the current book project. On to the next book.

  3. karla whitney says:

    Thanks Al. I needed a good laugh and great ‘reasons’ that keys don’t get tapped for spells at a time. My family not only provides novel suggestions, they tell me how easy it would be for them to write a novel if they had the time. It all makes me laugh.
    Anyone who has the privilege of turkey watching should consider that time spent a requirement. My husband roots for Tom Turkey who puffs and struts so magnificently while the hens peck, oblivious to his massive efforts. I often hear him calling from the deck, “Come on ladies, give the poor fella a break!” (That makes me laugh too.)
    BTW we enjoyed your panel discussion at York library with Lea Wait and James Hayman, and your books are on our short pile for summer reading.

  4. Gram says:

    If you are going to live in New England you must get used to four seasons in a week, sometimes in a day occasionally! Where else can you get such variety? Isn’t it fun!!! 🙂

  5. This year the big distraction was deer. For the first time ever I put out deer feed to tide them through the harsh winter that never seemed to end. I got to watch them close up, get to know them as individuals and families. Spot, the big buck with a white teardrop splashed on his nose; Blackie, unusually dark; several mother-child pairs; all kept my nose glued to the window pane. And kept me away from the keyboard.

    Many thanks for a good laugh and the comforting knowledge that other writers get distracted, too.

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