Bad Ideas, Book Patterns, and More Bad Ideas

7 July 2001

Never, ever again.

I keep my rejections (and acceptances, but....) in folders in our file box. However, my e-mail program doesn't have a print command that's particularly easy to use. So when I get an e-rejection, I save it to a folder, and then I copy and paste a bunch of them at a time into a Word file and print that. I had let this go, and go, and go. So yesterday, I copied, pasted, and incidentally read every rejection I've gotten over e-mail since September. Take a guess at how much fun that was. Go ahead. So now I'm going to print them as I get them, no putting it off.

Sometimes people (especially the ones who are Tim) act like I'm all virtuous for getting my stories out immediately when I get them back. Virtue. Huh. It's just that that's the way I deal with rejection. It's not final. It's just the step that comes before sending the story to another market. If I didn't send stuff out again right away, it'd depress me a lot more when rejections come back.

As we discovered yesterday afternoon.

So I worked some more on Reprogramming and "The Handmade's Tale." Progress! Progress so slow.... That's not fair, really, it's just that I'm at that stage where I want the draft done and out of my hair. It's strange: I've written each of my three books so far differently in some respects. I did Fortress of Thorns longhand with a scene outline that didn't change from the time when I had about 10,000 words, and the scenes I wrote ranged all over the place within the book. When I was through, I had to go through and figure out time ranges for all of the scenes, so that the reader could have some sense of whether things happened a day apart or a week or a month. The Grey Road had a calendar rather than an outline. Reprogramming has an outline again, but it's on the computer, so it's changed a lot. And while it's not written sequentially, it's come a lot closer than either of the other two have.

But a lot of the emotional patterns of writing the book have been the same. Which is good. Even if the books are totally different and done totally differently, it gives me the feeling that maybe I know how to do this, maybe enough to do more of them. Enough to keep doing them, to keep going, to call it a career.

People who have not yet written a novel and talk about how they just need to get over their fear and do it, well, I smile at them a little sadly. They're half right: they do need to just get over their fear and do it, if they're going to do it. But then for their second novel, they need to get over their fear and do it. And for their third novel. And so on. I'm really excited about all of the novels ahead of me. I really want to write the Not The Moose Book. I also want to write The Tides Between the Worlds and my alien diplomacy book, even though I'm not talking about them so much lately. They're exciting to me. They're interesting. But they're all really scary. They're worth writing, and because they're worth writing, they will be hard. And because they're worth writing, they're not copies of each other, not even Tides, which is book three in my other place series. The first two were different from each other, and I know Tides will be different from them. It won't take me long to get to know the characters again, to slip into Charlotte's voice and Nate's, to see the difference between what Miri notices and what Sam notices. But the book has to go somewhere entirely different, and that's the fun and the fear.

And I've been writing Reprogramming for months now, but it's just this moment, as I type, sitting here, that I know how the climax needs to go, how it can not just be an action climax but also an emotional climax, how it can drag me over an emotional cliff and let me climb back up again. I finally know how to do that. It may require major edits -- I've known all along that it would, though, and the advantage to my second and third books over my first one is that I may have finally learned how to trust the book.

Ask me if this is true in another six months, when I'll be struggling to hang on while the Not The Moose Book drags me all over what my family would call Hell's half acre. Go on ahead and ask. I really don't know what the answer will be.

Other than working, I read A Child Across the Sky, which once again I like and disagree with. And we watched The Long Kiss Goodnight, which has some fantastic lines. I wish more action movies were funny, not just Jackie Chan funny, but slick-and-witty-line, sarcastic-character funny.

Thanks to those of you who've expressed concern for my grandpa. He's doing better now. That is, he is if Grandma and Onie haven't killed him yet. He had a bad reaction to the painkillers they gave him on his first night home from the hospital, so now he's just taking Tylenol Extra-Strength. Only he's not being very good about taking it. (My grandfather is notorious for being like a little kid about medicine. "Tastes awful," he says of any cough syrup or liquid medication. Grandpa! They didn't prescribe it because they thought it would be nummy!) And then he doesn't get up and walk like he should, because he hurts. So Grandma is a wee bit frustrated, and the doctor is lecturing him. And we're about to do the "Stop that shit" gesture at him.

See, in my family -- I don't think this is universal, but I know some other families do it -- the punchlines for my Grandpa's bad jokes serve as shorthand for various sentiments. "Can't eat a good pig like that all at once," "Hit the ball and drag Charlie,"and "Harelip, harelip, harelip!" are popular ones. But the most commonly used is a curled up pair of fingers atop the head , one on either side (gosh, I wish I had a digital camera), which indicates, "Stop that shit!" It's from a terrible, horrible joke about a pair of dung beetles, and most of us have forgotten the actual contents of the joke. We just do the antennae at each other when it's appropriate. We all gathered around last time Grandpa had surgery and was misbehaving and did the antennae at him. The nurse walked in and gave us a very, very strange look.

Timprov knows the dung beetle joke now. Grandpa told him over Easter. But he hasn't told me yet. This may be a good thing. Some memes you just don't want back.

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