Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Joshilyn Jackson: Second Verse, Same As...crap I forgot.

I JUST finished writing a book. Less than a week ago, I mailed the file and landed it squarely in my editor’s e-mail box. It is a whole, done, finished, and irrefutably COMPLETE. You can tell because it has a page on the top that says, “BACKSEAT SAINTS, a novel by Joshilyn Jackson.” Under the title page are 500 MS pages with WRITING on them. The writing is chock full of characters who do things to each other and cause things to happen and by the end of the chain of events, the characters have all have been set free or ruined or killed or redeemed. The plot has both shooting and kissing in it, often within a few pages of each other, just the way I like it. At the bottom of page 503 is a space and then under the space in the center sits a single line that says, “THE END” --- possibly the two most GLORIOUSLY SEXY words in the English language.

SO you can see it is a whole book.


BACKSEAT SAINTS is, in fact, the FOURTH book I have written and finished and turned in. FOURTH. There were three before it. You can SEE in a PROVEN and TRUE WAY that there were three before it. Here they are on Amazon and B and N and at one of my favorite Indies, unequivocally EXISTING:

gods in Alabama

Between, Georgia

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.

I have spankin-fresh papery copies of all of them RIGHT HERE, by my desk, in several different editions and in many languages. They are solid factual objects. If you threw one at someone, you could cause a bruise. Especially if you threw one in its hardback edition.


It is NOT.

And yet.

I have NO idea how to write a book.

Today I woke up, and by all reckonings I am ready to begin to write this next book. It is a book I have been thinking about on and off for several years now. I have characters. I have a setting. I have a terrible mysterious event that will set many wheels rolling off in unexpected directions. I have a vague idea of where I want most of my characters to end up. So. It seems LIKELY that it is time to get these people to stop free-wheeling around in my head and begin doing things inside my word processor.

And yet…I got up this morning and sat at my computer and opened up MS WORD, and there I sat. For two hours. Every ten or fifteen minutes I would accidentally hit my browser button and find myself playing PATHWORDS, and if the stupid new Facebook interface would have let me into Scrabble I have NO doubt I would still be there. After all, Scrabble is a lot LIKE writing a novel. You think really hard and then put words up on a screen. Same same all same.

The only difference I can see is, I REMEMBER how to start a game of Scrabble.

But I couldn’t get into Scrabble and I played all my matches on Pathwords and went back and stared at MS word for another hour. Then I found my browser had snuck open again and I tracked down multiple recipes for Crock Pot Chicken and/or Lamb Vindeloo.

I decided to change venues, and I went and sat in a coffee shop and stared at the blank screen of a laptop. My laptop is an invaluable writerly tool because it takes 300 years to load websites and it is incapable of running Pathwords. There is not much I can do on it EXCEPT write. SO I blogged. Then I waited 10 years for ICANHASCHEEZBURGER to load and chuckled at lolcats. Then I tried to get PATHWORDS to run.

Defeated by old tech, I opened MS word and stared and stared at nothing and before I knew it I started digging around in files with weird titles and I found a WHOLE FILE of saved things from a GATEWAY DESKTOP I had, like, fifteen years ago. My husband must have moved the files computer to computer, over and over.

I discovered a list of phone numbers from theatre friends from back in Chicago. Most of the numbers led to strangers, by now, but I had a couple of VERY weird conversations with people who were STILL THERE.

One went kinda like, “Hey! Yeah it’s Joshilyn. Joss. YEAH, that Joss. So… I am at a coffee house and I hate people who talk loud on cell phones at coffee houses so I have to be VERY QUIET but I had to ask…whatever happened to that GUY you went on that date with to the place with the really good Pad Thai and when you went outside under the streetlight he came in to kiss you and you saw a speck come crawling down his forehead and you realized he had LICE but by then he was kissing you, remember, and you didn’t want to be rude and shriek and say YICK LICE because you liked him? And you came home and called me screaming about how much bleach you could put in your bathwater without hurting your reproductive organs? Remember that? That guy? You do? Well…Did he die? I heard he DIED. Oh. Good. That’s a relief. Did you ever see him again? Like, SEE see him. You DID? Was it after he did all that shampoo stuff and the nit combing or did you not wait til he de-liced. De-Loused? Un-Liced? Oh. He shaved? Well….was he one of those guys who looks really sexy bald? Oh. It’s weird you saw him again because I remember you as being so anal. Like, I’ve always been a, ‘what’s a few lice between friends?’ person, but you were one of those GO AFTER THE CROWN MOLDINGSS WITH A TOOTHBRUSH kinda girls. So, did he always look a little bit LICEY to you, even bald? … I don’t know how a bald guy COULD still look LICEY, that’s why I am asking you… Oh really? When? That’s neat. Heh. SO, do you guys have kids? Wow. Two. Wow. Sorry about the licey thing I---- What do you mean you have to go? Hello? HELLO?”

I did all this because I have no idea how to start a book, even though, according to everything from GLORIOUS LOGIC to TINGLING INTUTION to the SCATTERED BONES of a virginal chicken that I slaughtered at dawn on the stump of a thousand year old cypress it seems perfectly plain and obvious that I AM CAPABLE OF WRITING THEM.

I just don’t remember how to start.

Pathwords anyone?

Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson lives in Powder Springs, Georgia with her husband, their two kids, a hound dog, a scurrilous Boggart-kitten, a lone and lonely geriatric gerbil, and a twenty-two pound, one-eyed Main Coon cat named Franz Schubert. She wishes their neighborhood was zoned for goats. Both her SIBA award winning first novel, gods in Alabama, and her Georgia Author of the Year Award winning second novel, Between, Georgia, were chosen as the #1 BookSense picks for the month of their release, making Jackson the first author in BookSense history to have Number 1 picks in consecutive years. Her latest, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, is a national bestseller that Entertainment Weekly called “a wild, smartly calibrated achievement.”


Sandra Leigh said...

Scrabble is a lot LIKE writing a novel. You think really hard and then put words up on a screen. Same same all same.

LOL - I love that. Not only is it funny, it makes me feel ever so much better.

aimee said...

Heh. You *always* think you've forgotten how to write novels, and then you settle down and write one that's even better than the last one (which was pretty fabulous). Lather, rinse, repeat. All I can say is, writing a screenplay feels the same. It's unknown territory. I know how to write screenplays in a generic sense, but oh lordy I've never written THIS one before!

I'll play Pathwords with ya, though. ;)

Anonymous said...

Why write novels when you can write essays that make people fall off their chairs laughing? You put the fun in funny.

Shirley Westenskow said...

I am so glad you are writing a 4th book AND that you are starting a 5th, because as we writers all know (and Foresster reasserts) when you start putting words on paper, it doesn't matter what they are, just THAT they are, and the universe provides the rest.

Oh, and Scrabble? I KNOW it organizes all the words in my brain so that they come out in a stoy in the correct order!!! ;)

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