Hey all. Gerry Boyle here to tell you what you may already know. The writer’s day off? There isn’t one.
I say this having been in a holding pattern for some time with two completed books (ONCE BURNED, McMorrow No. 10, and THE DEAD SAMARITAN, a stand-alone crime novel written with Emily Westbrooks) as we try to figure out just where the publishing industry is going. Short answer: it’s like Maine weather. Wait a minute and it will change.
But that discussion is for another day (want a clue? Read this blog on Monday, June 17). Today we talk about what writers do when they’re not actually writing. They think about writing.
I’m headed into a new book, PORT CITY KILLSHOT, a Brandon Blake set in Portland and in a down-at-the-heels textile town a few miles to the south. I’m sketching. Plotting. Replotting and resketching. Next week or so I head down to do some location research. And then off we go.
But in the meantime I do other things. (not). I just got back from a family vacation on a warm and beautiful beach. I sat and sketched on the plane, down and back. I got up early and sat on the couch, looking out on the pale-green Atlantic. And sketched.
Case in point (and a little secret, between us). My escape is riding a bicycle around the countryside in my part of Maine. Sometimes I’m in Waldo County. Sometimes Kennebec. Sometimes I’m flying down hills way past the speed limit. Sometimes I’m grinding my way back up. All the times I find myself thinking about books. Characters. What they’ll do next. What the readers will least expect.
Because the fact is that writers may not be workaholics but they are writeaholics. Plots whirling inside your head. Characters haunting you like ghosts.
Maybe you can escape this fate but I haven’t done those drugs.The writing thing is like a blood oath. Once you’re in, you’re in for life.
I was mulling this the other morning as I pedaled my way through the hills in my neck of the Maine woods. Past pastures and forest. Horses in the fields and roadkill on the pavement. Cranking up the hills and tucking my way down. Fifty miles an hour, the trees a blur, and I’m thinking, But what would Brandon think if she were killed the next day? If she dies in, say, the third chapter, is that too soon to have established her character? Should I let her live? Would a flashback be too much of a distraction?
And then I start to pedal, crank it for the next climb. Nah, maybe not the flashback. Maybe just compress the timeline. The initial crime and the murder, all in six months.
If this sounds a little obsessive, it is. The other writing blokes on this page will tell you (chime in guys. Show them I’m not nuts).
We’re not quite normal. We’ve got to tell these stories. Sometimes we get paid a lot to do so. Sometimes we get paid jack. Doesn’t matter. The story has to be told. We didn’t choose the writing thing; it chose us. And it can’t be escaped.
I once got a great idea for a plot twist when I was painting the cupola on my barn. I was tied in and I had to unclip, climb inside, down the ladder and all the way to the first floor to find a pen and paper. I stare at people in restaurants, in the car next to me at stoplights. I imagine whole lives to go with a face in a coffee shop. You can try to turn it off but you’re kidding yourself. Ain’t happening.
So I offer this up in solidarity with my comrades in this little venture and countless others who share the same fate. And to readers who wonder where all this made-up stuff comes from. We don’t know. It just does.
So the photos with this post? Just a little scenery from one of my routes. Yes, it’s beautiful in these Maine hills. No better place to ponder your next chapter.