by Janis Patterson
I am a pretty organized kind of person – where work is concerned, that is. We won’t talk about my housekeeping. With my books, however, I am very orderly. I try to write a fair number of words every day – though I don’t always make it every single day. (Life just gets in the way sometimes!) I keep to a schedule and respect deadlines. I have my books blocked out for the next eighteen months – a gothic romance, the first book of my new Rachel Petrie archaeological mysteries, a sweet older-heroine romance… It’s a nice, orderly system.
Except when it isn’t. Unfortunately, creativity has no respect for schedules and orderly systems.
I’ll explain. Last month The Husband and I took a trip to Las Vegas. We had won it some time ago and it had come down to use it or lose it, so of course we used it. We were put up in the Plaza, an older but nicely refurbished hotel/casino at the end of the Fremont Experience. That’s sort of an outdoor mall – it used to be one of the main downtown streets, but they closed it off, put an enormous canopy over it (way over it – 6 or 8 stories!) to keep the worst of that vicious Las Vegas sun off. I personally prefer the funky downtown Fremont Experience to the Strip.
When we left I had just finished the final edits on the new Flora Melkiot mystery – Murder in Death’s Waiting Room – and I had thought she was ready to be retired for a while. After all, I was already doing prep work on my new gothic and even had a couple of chapters written, then had started doing some early prep work on the first book about contract archaeologist Rachel Petrie. I also have two books ready to self-publish, and that takes a lot of work.
Except once in Vegas ideas began pelting me like summer hail in Texas – big and fast. Starchy, proper, elderly Flora and Las Vegas seemed made for each other. The entire story – motive, method, murderer, MacGuffins, clues (sorry – I couldn’t think of a word for clues beginning with ‘m’) – spooled through my head with terrifying cohesiveness. During our wandering around I wore a purse only big enough to hold my credit card, a hanky or two and my phone.
You know, that could be a writer’s vision of Hell – a great idea and no pencil or paper. However, I have adapted well to modern times, so while The Husband fiddled with the slots, I would sit and email ideas to myself on my phone.
It’s still a great idea, and I’ll probably write it just as soon as I finish this current, half-written gothic which has a hard deadline. And it works out well too, as my primary advisor for the Rachel Petrie series has to defend her PhD thesis this summer, so we’ve agreed to start over in the fall.
Schedules? How can they hope to stand up to inspiration?