Page One . . . Again

By John Gilstrap
Threat Warning is in the can now (look for it next July), and now it’s time to get on with the next book in the Jonathan Grave series. I’m calling it Untitled Grave 4 for the time being, but I’m reasonably certain that I’ll come up with something more compelling before the pub date rolls around in 2012.

I know the basic bones of the story, and I’ve already mapped out the kick-ass final sequence in my head. Having spent all of July and August in a panicked writing frenzy (the price of procrastination), I harbor a dream of digging right into the story and hammering it out right away, delivering a finished manuscript a few months early, thus buying time to take a more leisurely pace on the book to follow that one. Recognizing that I wrote the last 300 pages of Threat Warning in about seven weeks, I should be able to have this next book finished by April and not even be out of breath.

I should be able to do that. So, why can’t I do that?

I think it’s because I don’t like me very much during the frenzied times. Every waking hour that I’m not dedicating to my Big Boy job is dedicated to the book. I’m not much of a husband or a friend during those times, and when the pressure is finally lifted, the pleasure of not writing—the pleasure of dinner table conversations and occasional nights out—is so overwhelming that I find it difficult to sit down and write again.

Thus far, I figure I’ve written about 200 words of the next opus. Soon enough, I’ll be pulled away to respond to the inevitable editorial letter for Threat Warning, and when that’s done it’ll be the Holidays, and shortly after that, two nights per week will be consumed by American Idol (yes, I’m a rabid fan), and then, come May, if this year mimics previous years, I’ll be about 200 pages behind the power curve, and the race to catch up will begin.

Come July and ThrillerFest and the release of Threat Warning, I’ll become impossibly distracted, and then the panic will begin again. I’m beginning to think that maybe I need the crippling pressure to be motivated. Is it really procrastination if you know it’s going to happen?

As I write this, I really hope that I’ll find a way to pace myself and write consistently and regularly, so that when summer rolls around next year, I’ll be able to enjoy it. In fact, that’s the plan.

I wonder if I’ll be able to make it happen . . .

9 thoughts on “Page One . . . Again

  1. John, I think we’re all creatures of habit. It sounds like you already know the answer to your question since you’ve mapped out your writing schedule for the coming year in detail. The good news is that despite the frustration, at least you know it works. The end result will be another great thriller.

  2. I’m there, John. For my first book under contract, it was incredibly difficult to write, even though it was my fourth novel (in talking with other writers, I’ve discovered that the dreaded “Second Book Syndrome” is actually “First Book Under Deadline Syndrome”). For the last three months, I’ve been in full-on crisis mode. I’m making the same promise to myself for the next book you did, that I start early to set a more leisurely pace. With edits and publicity on Rogue Wave and conferences and football and Castle, we’ll see if that happens.

  3. I’m much more of a pacer–I try to get a certain amount of work done every day. However, my “day job” which is freelance writing, has been pretty time consuming the last couple months, and my WIP, tentatively titled THE SINS OF THE FATHER (or Derek Stillwater Book #5), is fighting back in ways most of my books don’t, so although I don’t feel under the gun yet, if I don’t get my act together, I will…

    BTW, I enjoyed watching you do that “chair dance” on Parnell Hall’s video. 🙂

  4. It sounds like you’re in good shape and you don’t need advice, John, but I give myself a very small, doable goal: push it to the next page. It doesn’t matter whether I wind up with one line on the next page, or an entire page plus more. As long as I’ve met my goal of getting from page ‘n’ to page ‘n + 1’, I’m on track, at least in my own mind!

  5. Jim, if I tried to write 120,000 words in a month, I’d spend the rest of the year sitting in the corner, blowing spit bubbles.

    Boyd, I’d forgotten about the Castle addiction. As for football, the Redskins usually piss me off by mid-October, so that’s rarely an issue.

    Mark, you put your finger on the ultimate nightmare of the frenzied writing model. If the story starts to fight me back I’m toast.

  6. Oh, John. I can totally identify with the procrastination thing. I lived my whole life like that. And I had convinced myself that I worked best that way, but not sure that’s true as I get older. Promo on the new book is definitely a distraction, but keep plugging away at the daily word count or what other goals you set for yourself, even if it’s only reading and editing what you’ve already written to keep your head in the book. The brain works even if you think it’s loafing.

  7. Once I develop my characters and write the synopsis, I’m ready to roll. I put myself on a writing schedule of five pages a day or one chapter per week. If some days life interferes, I have to make up for it another day. I also allow time when planning deadlines for vacations, getting a cold, edits, etc. Then I do those five pages a day diligently. Some days it’s more, some days less, as long as I reach the secondary goal of one chapter per week. My concern is that I need a couple of months up front for the plotting/research and at least one month at the end for revisions/polishing. And I don’t have a day job. This works for me barring any true disasters when I probably wouldn’t be able to write at all.

  8. I usually try to get an early start on things because I know I have a hard time saying no. After recently signing on to do my first big time audiobook (OK, its actually more like medium time, but there are a couple big names on the same list as mine now), my stress level rocketed.

    My wife recently informed me in no uncertain terms that she really is not into my stressed out personality when I am under pressure, and asked that I please not wait until the last minute, or even the last week, to get something done.

    Spreading the stress in smaller doses evenly across a longer time span seems to be the goal I will be striving for now.

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