As of Wednesday, I have pretty much finished the fifth manuscript in the Dixie Hemingway Mystery Series. Which means that the almost last draft has been printed out and is tidily bound in a fat rubber band, in which it will steep for two or three weeks. Then I will take the manuscript to bed with me and fix any of the glaring boo-boos that are never apparent until you’ve let the work sit for a few weeks. Which is to say that it isn’t absolutely finished, but close enough for me to have felt that it was when I put that rubber band around it Wednesday evening.
So Thursday morning I woke up to a new world. In that new world, my desk was a disaster, adorned with so many little post-it notes that it looked as if yellow moths were feeding on it. Under, on top, and alongside the yellow moths were newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and legal pad sheets on which I had handwritten scenes or ideas. There were also two issues of The Author’s Guild Bulletin. A couple of Sisters in Crime newsletters. Ditto The Third Degree from Mystery Writers of America, and one Meow, the newsletter of the Cat Writer’s Association. Also, for some reason, a printed quote from Mark Twain: “There are some books that refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn’t because the book is not there and not worth being written, it is only because the right form for the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story, and if you fail to find that form, the story will not tell itself.” I don’t remember copying that quote, or know why I added it to the stack on my desk, but it must have given me comfort at some particularly difficult spot in the manuscript.
It took me half a day to dispose of the moths and all the first-draft hard copies. I cleaned my desk top thoroughly, and I stacked the newsletters neatly because I’m sure there’s a reason I put them close at hand. By the time I’d got all the detritus from the last manuscript carted away, I began getting ideas for the next one. Just snatches of ideas, of course, the kind that you have to quickly scrawl on a post-it note or you’ll forget. And now here I am, back at the computer on my extraordinarily neat desk, with a new story percolating in my brain, and that stack of newsletters still not re-examined. I’ll look at them, I really will, but first I have to nail down these story ideas.
People frequently ask me how many hours a day I write. I think they are really asking how many hours a day I type. I only type a few hours a day. I write all the time.