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June 26th, 2006

I just had a visit from the in-laws and spent a large part of it locked in the office pounding out pages on the next book. I was trying to explain the deadline crunch (as long as I write 10 pages a day for a month and edit in my sleep everything will be just fine…)

And she asked me if I’d finished my outline.
When I regained consciousness…

There are some people who are ‘outline’ kind of people. And then there are people like me. People who get a little light-headed if we think about capital and small ABCs and sensible bullet points as they might relate to a story in progress.

I just sort of type for a long time, dump everything in one great big file, and then swap things around and swear a lot. And in the end, there’s a book.

Sort of.

The last time, I actually managed to do a scene break-down using multi-colored post-it notes on white board. After the main writing was done, of course. For me, this was a new high in organization.

So, no, I do not have my outline done. I have a beginning and middle and end, though. I’m currently in the ‘filling in subplots that I forgot to write and hoping that they equal 80-90,000 words’ part of the story.

But what I haven’t found is the correct computer game.

I believe I’ve explained before that anything you want to do to avoid writing falls under the heading ‘part of the process’. So when the writing breaks down, as it inevitably does, you can claim that it’s because of:

a lack of shrimp
(I finished the last book on peel-and-eat with cocktail sauce. I need to duplicate the mood).

the wrong music
(I dumped the Mob Hits, Italian restaurant music, double CD on Jenny Crusie at my conference. She’s got a mob book. I’ve got English Regency, where no one was listening to Dean Martin. But I’m keeping the Gypsy Kings, because my hero fought in Spain. If I grit my teeth, I can almost believe).

or the wrong computer game.

I like something nice and mind numbing to start out with. Twenty minutes of Mahjongg, and my head is totally empty of anything but the story. But I’ve been playing a version I found on addictingames.com (crack for writers) and I cannot beat the level.

The galling thing about it is that the level in question is labeled NORMAL. I’ve been playing it for almost a month and haven’t won yet. So if NORMAL means continual frustration and inevitable failure?

Well, it explains a lot about my life and at least now I know why I’m feeling so depressed. And I’ve begun magical thinking, trying to convince myself that the day I win this level, the sun will come out, the birds will sing and everything will go my way.

I swear, I played this game once before and it took all summer. I thought I was going to beat the last level, only to realize that some sadistic bastard of a programmer had deleted one tile, so the best I could manage was losing by one point.

Seeking truth in Mahjongg is working as well as looking for wisdom under SoBe bottle caps.

“The time is right to try again”
(Can I trade up for “Third time lucky”?)

Or the future in fortune cookies. A month ago, I got two
“You will be successful at whatever you turn your hand to”‘s in a row. Damn you, cookies, I thought that meant something. Is the Mahjongg canceling something out?

Of course, I once got a fortune cookie asking me to

“Name the four basic food groups”.

I felt pretty confident about the future, until I realized they’d switched to a food pyramid.

Success is fleeting.