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Laura Lippman: Churns, Grinds and Cranks

by Maureen Pao
Dec 1, 2006

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Laura Lippman began writing novels in 1997, while working as a reporter at The Baltimore Sun. She has written 11, including nine about former journalist Tess Monaghan, an "accidental private eye" with a knack for solving Baltimore street crime. Like her character, Lippman lives and writes in Baltimore.

How She Writes: "I write a book a year, which tends to inspire verbs such as "churn," "grind," or, my personal favorite, "crank," which seems to imply I have the writer's version of the Play-Doh Fun Factory: I press the raw material into a little tube, push down on the handle and voila.

"But I'm a former reporter, so trying to hit a minimum quota of 1,000 words a day, five days a week, seems pretty reasonable to me. And if you can do that, you can complete a first draft in less than five months. So my schedule allows me to do three to four drafts of every novel."

Writer's Block Remedy: "First of all, I don't concede that it exists. Again, a life in newspapers prepares one to write when tired or uninspired. There are days when I can't move the story forward, but I have lots of little tricks. (Notice I didn't say I had to write 1,000 stellar words every day.)"

A Favorite Sentence: "Is it possible to answer that sentence without sounding like a jerk? I'll select the opening of By a Spider's Thread, which was nominated for the Ross Thomas Prize for best opening line, so I'm technically not the one who's making any claim for it. 'They were in one of the 'I' states when Zeke told Isaac he had to ride in the trunk for a little while.'"

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