I have been using the month of January to catch up on various half-finished projects. So far I’ve polished and sent off to the final beta reader the seventh Mellingam/Joe Silva book (which I had expected to send to Five Star/Gale, Cengage before they ended their mystery line). I’ve prepared the third Anita Ray mystery for a trade paperback edition, and I’ve begun the final work on a collection of mostly previously published Anita Ray short stories, which included writing three additional stories to balance the collection. All of this feels important but it’s mostly scut work for the real task at hand.
Well over a year ago I started a novel that I hope will be the beginning of a new series. The protagonist and setting sort of arrived, and I followed them into the story. Now I’m thinking about the second book, but not very hard. I have an idea and I’ve been letting it grow, like an onion, a layer now and then. When an idea pops into my head (Oh, she could do this!) I make a note and forget it. I’ve been pushing away the story because I’m not ready to write it, but I know it’s there.
An article in The New Yorker covers the importance of daydreaming in solving problems, and every writer I know accepts the virtues of letting the mind wander. To distract myself from diving into a story too soon, when it will feel constructed and lifeless, I’ve been sorting through books for my local library’s annual book sale. My mass of photographs, which isn’t well organized enough to be called a collection, is an equally good distraction, and so far I haven’t been able to get rid of any of them. But I will.
When I arrive at an appointment early and have to wait, I engage in one of my favorite practices, mallalorking. I love that word. The Urban Dictionary offers this definition: “Acting out restlessness before a journey. It’s a Newfoundland term so most of the people you hear saying it live in the really cold parts of the US.” I never thought the term required a cold setting; it works equally well in July.
Mallalorking is that physical restlessness while the body has nothing to concentrate on except the lack of a focus. There is no train to get on, to landscape to watch through the window, no passengers to study. It is an imposed physical boredom that we know is finite. Mallalorking is also the recess between books, the time before a long period of concentration and tight focus when my unconscious has been solving a problem and gathering the many details of the solution.
Despite my productivity in January, I have really been mallalorking. During this period I’ve recalled a few incidents from the 1970s that stay in my mind and call for further research. I can feel the story growing, the characters taking shape and the surprises that are awaiting. I believe that each novel is a journey that the writer undertakes, a process of discovery and learning. The impetus is almost physical, to get out the door and onto the road, and cannot be denied. I’m delaying the point of departure to make sure I have all the materials at the ready, because once I start, there is no stopping. There will be no more mallalorking.
For the article on daydreaming, go to
For the definition of “mallalorking,” go to