Trials and Tribulations of Starting a New Series

It’s been a while since I did an update from the writing trenches. As I’m now back into the writing of the first book of the FBI K-9 Mysteries, LONE WOLF, I thought now would be a good time.

After recently completing the fifth book in the Abbott and Lowell series, I’m finding it interesting (also, just a little frustrating) how difficult writing this new book is. Stepping into a Matt and Leigh book is like meeting up with old friends and, in a lot of ways, the characters write themselves. The setting is established, minor characters get the opportunity to grow, and the science is familiar and comfortable. It’s up to us to find interesting cases with a twist, but a lot of the backstory is already in place. There’s no mental gymnastics to get rolling, not at this point, as the time when they were new and shiny seems a long way back (2009 to be exact).

So here I am—new location, new law enforcement setting, new characters, forensics I’m not familiar with, technology I need to get up to speed on, new research contacts to make, and a whole field to become familiar with (dogs) so I don’t drive Ann-the-dog-expert completely insane correcting my every small error (let’s try to cut it down to the big errors alone because there’s no way I’m going to get this 100% right). As a result, when I sit down at the keyboard, it’s hard to get in the zone and get writing as fast as I’d like. Yes, we have wiggle room in the schedule for me to stumble a bit now, but I hate doing that. I like having a schedule and sticking to it. On the bright side, I look at what I’m writing and I can see it’s not garbage, so what is going down is working, it’s just a little like pulling teeth at this point. But we’re just past the 20% mark now and only slightly behind my self-imposed schedule with an end of August deadline, so all is not lost.

It doesn’t help that the day job has never been crazier; in fact, I suspect this has a lot to do with the writing not flowing so easily. My extremely competent and bench-savvy co-worker was recruited out of the lab to work in a downtown Toronto biotech company. I couldn’t be happier for him and he well deserves the position, but man, oh man, I want him back! In the meantime, we’re wrapping up multiple projects (one, a five year international clinical study which is HUGE) and, with the help of three fantastic students—one of whom is my own daughter—we’re going to survive this summer and get the work done. All while completing a draft of the first book in a brand new series and essentially not seeing more than 2 days of vacation until the fall.

It’s at moments like this that I remember Nora Roberts’ famous quote: “Every time I hear writers talk about ‘the muse,’ I just want to bitch-slap them. It’s a job. Do your job.” I think I need that on a poster to hang near my laptop. Nora, you’ve got it absolutely right. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard, do the job, and this book will get written on time!

Photo credit: Jeroen Bennink