Speed bumps on the Way to Committing Fiction

by Gail Z Martin

I wouldn’t have said that last year was an ideal time to write one book, let alone two. My dad died, and although he was ninety years old, there’s never a good way to say good-bye. I also discovered how incredibly complicated it is to be the designated person to take care of things when someone dies. I remembered a quote I read once (I think it was from one of Erich Maria Remarque’s books), something along the lines of: “It’s easy to die, but not to be dead.” I beg to differ. The person who has passed on doesn’t have to fill out paperwork.

So a good part of last year was tied up in appraisals, auctions, research for dad’s odd collections, paperwork and lawyers. It was sad but necessary, and while it led to a number of ideas that have been incorporated into some of my upcoming books and short stories, it also made finding time to write quite a challenge.

The of course, there’s promotion. It has to be done, and has to be consistent, but it never sleeps. Then again, neither did I, since the one way to stretch the day and get more done involved staying up into the wee hours. I’m a night person, but my best creative time is probably noon – 8 p.m., perhaps until after 11 p.m. for short sprints, but it all worked out in the end.

And there’s research. Research gets me back on track when I’m hitting a wall, and the need for fact-checking is always present. Then sometimes I go looking for something specific and can’t find it, or I am not sure what I’m looking for but I figure I’ll know it when I see it, and the next thing I know, an hour or more has gone down the rabbit hole.

I’ve also grown to appreciate the value of a really thorough outline. I have apparently somewhat perfected the art of writing an outline that my publisher loves but which when I sit down to write the book from said outline, it suddenly seems lacking in specifics. I have learned how to fix that problem, and along the way, developed my own way of critical-path flowcharting the action to know who is doing what to whom.

Did I mention my dogs? I swear they know exactly when I’ve caught sight of an idea and the creativity has begun to flow, because that’s exactly the moment they decide they need to go out. On the other hand, they’ve gotten very skilled at sleeping on my feet, which was cozy in the winter.

And then there are the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life that doesn’t care whether you’ve got a book on deadline–dentist appointments, phone calls, school lunches to pack, and that sort of thing. These things don’t seem like challenges until you’ve got your word count figured out day by day, and then they loom large when it comes to chewing up the time on your calendar.

But in the end, both Deadly Curiosities and the sequel to Reign of Ash, War of Shadows, got written, edited and final-submitted. And I’m still here to tell the tale. Now it’s time to start working out the daily word count for the next round of novels!

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