'The intensity of my writing days varies along predictable
(The Irish Times, April 22, 2000)


My alarm is set for 5 a.m. I can't remember the last time it actually went
off. Usually, I wake between 4 a.m. and 4.30 a.m. and rise to shut the
alarm off before it wakes my wife. I like rising early, being awake and
functioning in those dark hours before sunrise when the rest of the world
sleeps. It feels as if I'm getting away with something, getting a jump on the
day. Bonus time.

First thing I do is head for the gym. I like to work out, and pursue it with
the same obsession with which I pursue writing. I'm at the gym by 5.45 a.m.
four days every week, then home, showered, and at my Macintosh by 7 a.m.
The gym might be four days a week, but the writing comes every day.

The intensity of my writing days varies along predictable patterns. The first
three months or so that I spend on a book are when I outline and make general
notes to figure out the story and the characters. My outlining days are low-key
and pleasant as the deadline is still usually far away.

The outlining period is when I do the bulk of my research. Because I write
crime novels, the research I do is more like fun than work: I spend time with
police officers, learn how they do their jobs, and visit crime scenes to gain
the necessary colour to create believable fiction. I've been on over 20
"ride-alongs" with the Los Angeles Police Department. A "ride-along"
is when you get to accompany the police as they do their jobs. Most times
this is great fun, and it's always interesting, but sometimes it is not fun at all.

I saw a young man who'd been shot in the head die in his own driveway, the
victim of a drive-by shooting. Sometimes, the research gets too real.

After the outline comes the actual writing of the book, which can be quite
beautiful, but, just as often, quite painful. When I'm outlining, I work from
about seven in the morning until three in the afternoon. Once I start writing,
however, my work hours expand. I'll write from 7 a.m. until about six in the
evening. When I finally start writing the book, the fun part of the process is
over. Now, I'm all business.

My obsession - my need - is to simply get a complete manuscript, nothing
more than that. I want the story down on paper, beginning to end. After that,
I rewrite. I rewrite endlessly. I fuss over every word, I obsess about character
and dialogue. I make my life hell to get my work just the way I want it.

Then, as the deadline approaches, I shift into overdrive. I hate deadlines more
than anything else, more than the ebola virus, more than cosmic injustice, even
more than taxes. No writing was ever made better by a deadline, but an awful lot
of good work has gotten finished because of them.

During those last two or three months as I finish a book, I'll work 14 to 16
hours every day, seven days every week. I lose all track of time and family
obligations. If my wife didn't pay our bills, the power company would probably
turn off our electricity. The only reason that I'd know the power was off is
that my Macintosh would stop working. I'd probably just pick up a pad and
keep scribbling.

When the book is finished, so am I. I've put everything I have into the pages,
leaving damned little else. I collapse, sleep for days, walk around in a stupor,
then start the next book.

Robert  Crais's  LA Requiem was recently published in paperback by Orion. His new thriller Demolition Angel will be published in July.

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