Monday, August 15, 2011

Beach Tale: A Day in the Life of an Aspiring Mystery Writer

          4:00 a.m. – My husband kisses me goodbye before heading off to work.  I stretch like a calico coming out of a catnip-induced coma and plot--literally--the day.  Bailey, the quirky amateur sleuth in my current work-in-progress, keeps trying to jump into bed with Dante, my hunky, reluctant-sidekick cop.  He’s yummier than Godiva white chocolate domes with raspberry truffle filling.  Were I single--and fictional--I’d probably be romancing the pants off him myself.  But, we’re only in chapter two, and steamy sex without emotional commitment makes a girl look sleazy.  How can I convince Bailey to wait until chapter five at least?      
          6:00 a.m. – The alarm yanks me awake.  I must have dozed off while lecturing my characters.  I reach for my ipad, kept handy to record wispy snippets of dreams that will become the stepping stones of the next Great American Mystery Novel.  With a few keystrokes, I rearrange my day to make up for the lost hours.  Jobbing out the day’s errands is not in the budget, but I rationalize it as an investment in my career.  Someday I’ll be a rich and famous author and will hire a butler to take care of all life’s details...  I’m jerked out of my fantasy by the sound of children fighting over the use of the bathroom.  I’ll use the  royalties to hire a nanny, too.                  
          7:15 a.m. – The school bus driver stops and waits for my daughters to race down the driveway.  A trip across town would have wasted precious writing time.  Back on schedule, I pop Ritz Bits like they’re M&M’s as I commute to work, two flights up to the attic of our Victorian home.  Legend has it that in the late 19th century an insane Aunt Lizzie had been locked up here.  I can’t explain it, but I think there’s a little Aunt Lizzie in my heroine.  It certainly isn’t me driving all those lascivious thoughts. 
7:25 a.m. – First item on today’s agenda is Social Networking.  The bane of my existence.  Not because I don’t enjoy interacting with potential readers (I do, really!), but because it is a Time Hoover, sucking up precious hours that could better be spent writing my mystery novel.  But it’s a blog-eat-blog world out there.  There are thousands—if not millions of—of writer wannabes that share the details of their lives in order to build a readership for a book they haven’t written yet.  And I am one of them, so I dutifully invest a little (sometimes a lot) of my time to build my platform.  First up, Blog reading (32 of ’em) which require thoughtful or witty comments, then click over to Facebook to share with my “friends” what’s on my mind: Diet Coke IV hooked up and I’m ready to write! Then I spend a few minutes (or today it’s hours) reading a bit about what’s on other’s minds (OMG—my friend Sandra Brown Rarey posted “Scene by my driveway.  They’re putting up crime scene tape.  No idea what happened.”  What a great opening scene for my book!  I’m inspired!) Finally I sign on to Twitter.  Like a shotgun blast to the face, thousands of Tweets and Re-Tweets blast me, all clamoring for my attention.  I log off before my brain literally explodes.  Phew.  That was close.    
          Three hours later--Fingers warmed up and all synapses firing, I open my novel and check the progress calendar at the top of my document.  The plan is to write five pages a day, putting me on a pace of four-point-six novels per calendar year.  I should be on page 95.  I scroll to the end of my document--page 30.  Sixty-five pages behind schedule.  I up my daily writing goals to ten pages a day for the next three weeks.  Doable, if I forsake laundry and housework.  One must make sacrifices for one’s craft, I remind myself.     
          10:45 a.m. - Thalia, the muse of humor, has chosen to sleep in this morning.  Without her influence, my writing is flat.  Experience has shown the best way to wake her up is with a bowl of Heavenly Hash ice cream.  Quick trip to the kitchen is in order, then right back to work.    
          10:55 a.m. - The phone rings. My sister’s voice squeals through the answering machine, “Dalton left his science project on the front seat of my car and I’ve got a meeting with the boss in ten minutes--I think I might be getting that promotion to senior VP and then we can afford that new house on South Cleveland Street--and since you’re not doing anything right now I need you to pick it up from my house and run it over to the school or he’s going to fail science, and you know that failure is not acceptable in our family.  Thanks, you’re a sweetie, and I owe you.  Bye.”  Beep.  I delete the message.  She’s right--failure is not an option.  For me.  I sigh heavily and go back to work.         
          11:00 a.m. - I remember a brilliant scene I’d written in a short story workshop a year ago.  With a little tweaking, it will fit in this book, enabling me to exceed my daily writing goals before lunch!  I scroll through work-in-process folder.  Not there.  I conduct hard drive search using every keyword that might have been in the filename.  The little dog icon on the screen wags his tale expectantly, but turns up nothing.  I wade through the thousands of files in my recycle bin.  Still no luck.  Hard copy?  Not to be found.  Those brilliant passages are lost forever.      
          12:35 p.m. – My stomach rumbles, reminding me I haven’t sent anything even remotely nutritional its way since last night’s dinner.  I needed sustenance.  And my brain needed a break.  I grab a mystery novel to “study” during while I eat a PBandJ, because reading is a critical component to becoming a better writer. 
          2:00 p.m. – YIKES!  Janet Evanovich sure knows how to pull a reader into the story!  I could learn a few things from her!  But no more time to study, I need to get back to work.  Back in my office, I pop a Relaxing Escape CD into the boom box, light a gardenia-scented candle, twist the blinds to cut the afternoon sun’s glare on the computer screen, settle back in my leather chair and start playing Spider Solitaire.  Thalia is still on her lunch break but should be back momentarily.    
          3:15 p.m. – The sound of school bus rumbling through the neighborhood yanks me back to reality.  Not only haven’t I typed a single page, I haven’t even dressed for the day.  But, I’ve logged in my eight hours of BITCh (Butt In The Chair) time, so that validates my day of work as a professional writer.  Time to escape from my imaginary world and reenter the real one.     
          4:45 p.m. – While daughters chase soccer balls and butterflies around the field, I sneak off to the grocery store in search of something to cook for dinner.  While surveying the canned soup display for potential quick meal ideas, I try to tune out the voices in my head.  Why now?  Why not two hours ago when I was sitting in front of the computer?  I let Bailey speak, so-to-speak.  She’s trying, as tactfully as possible, to find out what Dante knows about the dead body found in her living room.  So, Dante, have you heard the results of the autopsy report yet?”  What could he respond?  Hmmmm.  A line from an old movie pops into my head. “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”  I glance around to see a mother grabbing her daughter’s hand and tugging the girl away from me.  The frightened look in the woman’s eyes tells me I’d said that out loud.  I start to explain that I’m a writer and writers are allowed to talk to themselves, but they are racing towards the frozen food section.  I grab a family-sized box of macaroni and cheese and a package of hot dogs and head to the checkout stand before I have to explain myself to the police.
          9:00 p.m. – With my dearly beloved snoring in the recliner, I tune in the voices in my head.  Bailey is being witty and Dante is being oh, so charming and an idea for a red herring pops into my head.  I race upstairs to my computer.  The muses work faster than my fingers can type.  Bailey goes chasing after the killer with Dante in hot pursuit.  Pure literary gold. 
          1:59 a.m. – My muses retire for the night.  So do I, slipping quietly between the sheets, I snuggle against wonderful husband who is supportive of my dream to be a mystery writer.  Had somebody told me the work would be hard and the hours crazy, or that the occupation lonely, sometimes frustrating and often fattening (especially when my muses require constant feeding of ice cream and peanut butter), or that the chances of landing a lucrative publishing contract were equal to that of being eaten by a bear, I probably would have continued my career as a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy-thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.)   But then no CIA (agent or auditor) I know has a book with their name on it shelved in the National Library of Congress. 


2 comments: said...

Why does this sound so familiar? Oh! Maybe it's because my days end up like this so much more often than not. Thanks for the Monday morning laugh. I needed it.

Jolyse Barnett said...

Terrific post! Reminds me of someone, oh yeah, that's me (minus the book housed in the the Library of Congress--so far).

Thanks for sharing. Now I'm off to write...