Sara Paretsky’s Blog

May 30, 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Books, Chicago writers, reading

Today I received bound galleys for Hardball, which is always an exciting time in the life of a book.  It’s a strange time, too, because it represents a kind of final separation between you and the work you’ve lived with for a long time–it’s in print, it’s thrilling, but the book no longer belongs to you.  It belongs now to readers, who not only bring their own experience and expectations to the novel, but understand it –complete it– in ways that differ from your own ideas  while you were writing it.

My novels run about 135,000 words.  That’s a lot of text and it takes a long time to write.  I don’t make them that long on purpose, but as a story and characters develop, and they become more complex, it takes that long to work all the threads of the story out.  

It also takes time to work out such dense story lines.  I’ve been urged to write two or even three books a year, but I’d have to think in a different way than I do now, a staccato, ad-copy kind of way that focused only on brief bursts of action, with less time spent on thinking through my characters.  Even if I could reprogram my brain to write like James Patterson’s stable of writers, I’m not sure stories like his would appeal to V I’s readers.writers block

I often write three or more drafts before a novel comes into its correct shape.  I wish it didn’t happen like that–I wish the first draft were the final draft–but that’s happened to me only once in the course of the eighteen books I’ve published–and that was with the fourth novel in the V I series, Bitter Medicine.  More than once, I’ve discarded over two hundred pages, and found I could use only two or three paragraphs of the work I tossed.

Thank you all for staying with me on my writing journey.


10 Comments so far
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I more than happy to wait until you feel the book is ready–however long that takes. I think authors that spit out books like it’s an assembly line process do a disservice to their readers. That’s when I think it’s just about the money and not about the writing.

Comment by genny

Your loyal readers (and I count myself among them) are willing to wait for a new Sara Paretsky novel! When one arrives, I am ready to put everything else aside and savor it.

Comment by Sue T.

Absolutely, Genny! Laurie’s books are always worth waiting for. You can tell the care and thought that has gone into the writing.

Comment by corkhead

Thanks for the insight into how you write!

From a selfish point of view, I wish you wrote faster, because I can devour one of your books so quickly! I’m always wishing for another one soon, but I can re-read your books many times because they are so well-crafted.

On the other hand, they are definitely worth the wait and I am looking forward to the next one.

Does the excitement of seeing the galleys ever wane?

Comment by the Bag Lady

Thank you, my friends. Bookwitch asked if I would write about the process of writing a book, and I’ll try to do that soon–working on a new novel, where I’m sort of floundering in the middle, I wish I knew something more about process!

Comment by saraparetsky

I would like you to write faster, but I’m glad you don’t! I stopped reading James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels (which I loved), because the stories became a bit ridiculous (my opinion), and the character of Alex Cross less believable than the first 2-3 novels.

I look forward to Hardball.

Comment by Beth

I too think a good VI story is always worth the wait! I like the length too – enough to get really sucked into the story. By the way, I finally had a chance to read BLEEDING KANSAS on my vacation in Hawaii – all of the characters were great. At the beach I’d want to get back to the B&B to find out what was happening with Lara & Robbie, Susan & Jim.

Comment by Rachel Benoit

Thanks to everyone for your generous feedback. I do feel I write for the people who come to this blog.

Comment by saraparetsky

I really like your writing. I saw the picture of you in 1989 in front of the house where V.I. grew up. It looks almost identical to the one I grew up in , in New Jersey. Wood construction, 2 bedrooms and a den. My parents added onto the kitchen. We also didn’t have much money. Even now, while my sister and I have good jobs, were in roughly the same financial shape as V.I.
The only difference is that we turned out to be conservatives. Not necessarily Republican, but conservative. In fact, every conservative I personally know came from the same or a poorer background. I’ve met people who may have come from a New Solway type of background and couldn’t relate to them. I call them country club Republicans- nothing like the people I know personally. Thank goodness for those country club types, though. I paid my way through college caddying for them. Well, the ROTC scholarship helped a lot.

Comment by Keith

Keith, thanks for your comments, here, and about D-Day.

Comment by saraparetsky

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