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What Else Can I do to Avoid Writing
Tuesday, 23 September 2003
so many voices in my head, so little time
Okay, so apparently weekly was being too optimistic too. What can I say—I’ve been working on a new story and between that and the soul sucking job and having people who expect me to show my face outside the bedroom door once in a while, there hasn’t been time to write any of my Deep Thoughts. Plus, I haven’t really had all that many lately.

Between the last entry and now another rejection came in—this one from Tor/Forge. I haven’t gotten a copy from my agent yet, but apparently this one was short and sweet, along the lines of “Not for us, thanks.” I can’t decide which is worse, this kind of insulting dismissal or the weeks and weeks of agony I went through with two other editors trying to fit my square story into their round holes. More conflict, more focus, less episodic, more, less, more, less…Sometimes I can’t even tell which parts of it I still like and which parts I just put in trying to make those women happy enough with it to buy it. They all love it (okay, with the apparent exception of Tor/Forge) but don’t know what to do with it because it’s not A) a standard romance B) Chick Lit C) an Oprah tear-jerker or D) Literary Fiction. I guess the problem is—I didn’t want to write any of those things. I want to be Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby for women, they want me to be Maeve Binchy. Of course, now guys are allowed to write the most manipulative sappy ‘women’s fiction’ (that Sparks person comes to mind) but to write a funny little story about some weird people living in a little town in Ireland where nobody dies, nobody has a secret baby, and nobody works in publishing and is having an affair with their rich-but-ratlike-boss, you still have to have a penis. Hey Roddy—can I borrow yours for a while? I promise I’ll give it right back.

But I digress. Like I said, I’ve started a new story. Actually, I’ve started several new stories and that’s the problem—I don’t get past chapter three with any of them. I had forgotten how to just write to make myself happy, and the whole time I was typing away all those nasty little voices kept whispering at me—more conflict, too episodic, heroine not plucky enough, no one will buy this in a million years….But finally this week two things came together in my head and got the wheels turning again, and the voices changed to the good voices—the voices of characters wanting me to write down what they were saying. These two people just popped into life the way Danny and Sam did almost five years ago, and we were off. I’m more excited about this one than I have been about anything since I started Mad Dogs 3 and I don’t give a shit right now if it has enough conflict or if the hero is wrong or the heroine needs a college degree or any of that crap. That can all come later, now I just have to write down what they’re telling me to before they stop talking. I’m scribbling down bits of dialogue in the bathroom and at the bus stop and anywhere else I can get to a pen and paper, and it feels like I imagine a nice shot of China White probably feels to someone who’s been on Methadone for a while. Thank God that writing is still free and legal and won’t make your teeth rot out, unless you forget to brush them because you’ve been staring at a computer screen for days on end. And oh, how I wish that I could stare at the screen for days on end and didn’t have that soul-sucking job getting in the way and those people who, God love them, expect me to act like a normal human being and not some wild-eyed, pasty-faced hermit they found living in a cave in Brazil. If only I had some sick time left…

Book recommendations for the week—
I just sent the first three Alexander McCall Smith books off to a friend in NY and I hope to get the latest one for myself soon. I loved these sweet stories of Botswana’s first woman private detective, a ‘traditionally built lady’ (like myself) named Precious Ramotswe (I could be spelling that wrong). She is a lady, but no wimp. The mysteries are very, very tame but the picture of life in her African town is just wonderful.

I was talking about Neil Gaiman before so I had to drag out Good Omens and have another look—probably my five-hundredth since I first read it. The best of Neil and Terry Pratchett, and I mean laugh-out-loud, if you’re into British humor. The Buggyre Alle Thys bible is a scream. Don’t miss it. I would give anything to be able to write like those guys, but I’ll have to settle for reading them.

Added: Alexander has won a Booker for the fifth Ladies' book

Posted by wi2/JoBelle at 10:59 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 September 2003 7:08 AM CDT
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Thursday, 11 September 2003
September 11th
It's hard to believe it happened two years ago already because that morning is so clear in my mind. I wish the determination I had back then to live every moment because it was all so fleeting and fragile had stuck, but unfortunately middle-aged human nature took over again and I started worrying about bullshit almost immediately. Anyway, everyone has their own memories of that morning two years ago so I'm going to move on.

Neil Gaiman--he's cute, smart, funny, seemingly down to earth, and hasn't yet said anything to crush this wonderful image for me. Although people think they don't like horror or fantasy, I wish everyone would try at least one of his books, even if it's one of the kids's books, and see if he changes your mind. Good Omens that he wrote with Terry Pratchett is one of the funniest things I've ever read, and American Gods was definitely not a let-down. Neverwhere is very cool. His site is and it's fun to look around even if you're not a fan. I'm going to copy what he said about the Bookcrossing thing in response to that other woman's nastier comments. I really, really love him.

"It's like the woman who mounted the campaign against second-hand bookstores some eyars ago, claiming they were depriving authors of income. (I googled to find out who she was, but couldn't find it, although I remember reading articles in USA Today and People and several other places at the time.) The Enemy (as it were) is not, or second-hand bookshops. The enemy is the fact that most people don't buy books. Most people don't read for pleasure. It's like the teachers who proudly stop kids reading R.L. Stine or Enid Blyton or comics or whatever, proud that they've stopped them reading the Wrong Things, without noticing that they've also stopped them reading for pleasure... People lend each other books. That's a good thing. They recommend books to each other. That's how most people find authors they like, after all. Looking over at bookcrossing I can see at least 500 of my books floating around out there, some of them being posted all over the world, some of them being set free in interesting places. At some point, someone bought each and every one of those books. From here on out, the books are wandering around letting people know whether or not they like what I write..."

Posted by wi2/JoBelle at 8:06 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 11 September 2003 8:18 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 9 September 2003
Oh God am I tired
I really did try to post an entry last night but Angefire would not cooperate. So this one will be quick as my soul-sucking job has left me with barely any will to live tonight. I only want to bring up one thing--Bookcrossing. I'm going to put up a page about it soon ('soon' being a relative term) but everyone should go to the site and have a look. It's a very cool idea where you distribute your old books either by giving them to someone you know or just leaving them in the 'wild', after first registering them at the site and putting a note in with the book's number. Presumably then the next person to read it will go on the site and post and then pass it on again, etc etc. Well, if you're interested go to the site and see for yourself-- Neil Gaiman, who I am developing a very strong crush on these days, is behind it wholeheartedly-- unlike other more narrow minded (and flaky) writers who shall remain nameless. Unless you want to e-mail me and I'll tell you who it is. This can only be a good thing for book sales and reading in general as it's bound to get people to try writers they normally wouldn't buy and if they like what they read then they will go out and buy more. We need to get people READING, no matter what it takes! Go have a look. More on Neil Gaiman later.

Posted by wi2/JoBelle at 9:58 PM CDT
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a little snazzier

All right, I gave in and used one of the "blog" shells from Angelfire to make it look a bit more hip. I didn't even know a word like blog existed, because I am hopelessly geeky. Anyway, here's the last entry again in the new cool format.

Well, not to be outdone by all the other established and aspiring writers who feel the need to let anyone and everyone who cares in on the constant drama and excitement of being a writer, I've decided to keep a daily journal. Although I think the term 'daily' is a bit on the optimistic side, I'll do my best. I'm sure I'll be mostly talking to myself here, but at least I'll have the discipline of having to write at least something every day, even if it's complete BS. So here we go...

Sunday September 7-

I spent about three hours writing a scene in my new book that takes roughly 55 seconds to read. This feels very much like trying to drain Lake Michigan with a Waterford pitcher. Not only that, but I'm terrified to read it back in case it's a complete pile of steaming crap. Who am I kidding? I almost always think everything is crap the first time I read it back. And the really depressing thing is, sometimes I'm right. Okay, a lot of times I'm right. Because when you get in the 'zone', when you've finally managed to tune out the goddam barking dog next door, the Sox game blasting from the other room, the layer of dust covering everything on the desk, it's sort of like being on your fourth Cosmopolitan of the night--everything looks good. In the same way that the guy with the missing front tooth and skull earring looks 'edgy' instead of scary as hell, you think that naming someone Clark Sneedwell is sort of cutely Dickensian rather than just goofy. Then you sober up and realize that your character would never say the things you've got coming out of her mouth or do some idiot thing you have her doing, and it's back to the drawing board, or to continue the metaphor, it's back to the bar for another round. So, after managing to avoid writing for most of the weekend, tomorrow it's back to my soul-sucking job where I can spend the day feeling pained and angry because I can't be writing. Maybe we really are all crazy.

Posted by wi2/JoBelle at 9:46 PM CDT
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