Why this is a writing diary

I read a startlingly grumpy post about the total tedious awfulness of my weblog, in which the post’s author pointed to the fact that I wrote about word counts and didn’t make a point of being interesting, or censoring what I wrote in order to entertain.

I thought I ought to address that, because I’m well aware that word counts and scheduling books in order to hit deadlines and the other processes I follow in order to finish projects are frequently as interesting as watching mud dry. I continue to do those posts here for the following reason:

This is not a weblog.

This is an online writing diary. Writers have been journaling the processes that got them through the writing of their books for about as long as there have been writers. Previously everyone did it in little journals kept at the writing table or the bedside. Most writers who do page counts and word counts and grumble about recalcitrant characters and stuck ideas still do. I chose to drag the process online because I thought other writers, especially those getting started, might find it interesting. Or helpful. I considered the possibility that some readers might like to see the inside of how books get written and then published, though I figured they would be a secondary audience, because a lot of the process is simply “apply ass to chair, and slog,” and while I find it interesting to do, I don’t for a moment imagine that it’s particularly interesting to read about day in and day out.

In the final assessment, though, the writing diary stays here because I have found that it is a useful tool for me; I have found that posting my writing progress and meandering my way through the creative process is more fun if I do it online. Even when I wasn’t permitting replies, it was a little less lonely to know that there were people out there checking in from time to time to see how the book in progress was coming along. With replies back in place, I get to hear from people, both readers and writers, and even though I don’t respond to every comment, I love reading them all.

I don’t feel the need to be entertaining here. I write my books to be entertaining, and if readers like them, that’s as much as I can ask.

The writing diary has nothing to do with entertainment. This is where I open a window to my work to those interested in process, and where I demonstrate by living the process that none of my job is hobnobbing with the rich and famous or going on lavish author tours. I get to sit at a computer for a handful of hours every day. I get to think up cool things. I get to type them out. Sometimes I go in a wrong direction; sometimes I get stuck; sometimes, letting my fingers wander over the keyboard while I question where I have gone wrong, I come up with the solution to my writing problem in the writing diary. Occasionally I finish a book. Sometimes I sell one. That’s about as exciting as it’s going to get here. But it works for me.

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42 responses to “Why this is a writing diary”

  1. Holly Avatar

    I didn’t link to the post because I didn’t think it deserved attention; I just wrote a post about writing diaries vs. blogs, and what what a writing diary was supposed to accomplish. For some reason, when reading that post, I failed to notice that it was written by a kid who was looking for attention. Mea culpa, and my apologies for even bothering to bring it up. My friends, whom he also insulted, also have very good writing journals, and I figured it was by someone who failed to understand what a writing journal was, rather than someone who was just trying to be a dick.

    Which was why I wasn’t as hostile as I apparently should have been.

  2. S William Shaw Avatar

    I dislike blogs that try to hard to be entertaining. I write, and I like writers who write about writing. Nuff said.

  3. prayleen Avatar

    It’s real.

    That no matter who they are or where they’ve been or what they’ve written, published authors are people, just like us.

    They have to sit on their butts, shove the realities away, and WRITE, just like us. With pets and kids and worries, just like us. With hopes and dreams, just like us.

    If it’s possible for them, it’s possible for us.

    Yes, exactly. Very well-said, Shawna.

    I am writing every day now, learning and working and chipping away at a novel. A big part of the reason I’m able to do that today, where I couldn’t fifteen years ago, is the “boring” posts by writers, and the sudden realization a few years ago that it IS real.

    Thanks, Holly, for being one of the writers who made it real for me.

  4. shawna Avatar

    Oh! I have a reason I read author sites that I haven’t seen anyone mention yet.

    For those of us out here who read these journals, and dream of being published, it’s a window to a world we fear is impossibly magical, open only to those with the right password and a lucky star.

    Whether it’s your knitting and politics, Tambo’s quilts and computers, Ann Rule’s pets and sliding hill, Neil Gaiman’s cell phone and pumpkins, Wil Wheaton’s kids and geeky things, Piers Anthony’s gripes about prices and computer, or even Robert Jordan’s war with cancer, the overall theme is this:

    It’s real.

    That no matter who they are or where they’ve been or what they’ve written, published authors are people, just like us.

    They have to sit on their butts, shove the realities away, and WRITE, just like us. With pets and kids and worries, just like us. With hopes and dreams, just like us.

    If it’s possible for them, it’s possible for us.

    There are days that tiny flicker of hope is all that keeps us going… and for me, those mundane slices of life make hope burn a bit brighter… it helps a hell of a lot to know

    It’s possible.

  5. arrvee Avatar

    Too many people; too many opinions. You can’t please them all; don’t even try. PFofW is a daily read for me because I find it informative, often amusing, and always entertaining.

    You don’t have to justify what you do here or why. You pay for the Web space and bandwidth; use it as you please.

  6. tambo Avatar

    I was on the ‘list’ as well, and so what? I blog what I want, when I want, and if I whine from time to time… eh, who cares. It just shows I’m human. My life is mundane and dull, truly it is, unless there’s some sort of family-related medical emergency, and, frankly, I think most writers, who interract with the people in their heads more than anyone else, have similar lives. When it’s just you and a computer screen, how much excitement can there be?

    I struggle with my words, my place in the publishing world, and my place within myself. I try to show that on my blog, and I try to be myself, imperfect and questioning. Unlike the blogger who singled the four of us out – all friends I’m proud to stand beside, btw – I always try to be nice, positive, and helpful. There’s enough anger, resentment, venom and backstabbing in this business as it is. I refuse to add to it. Does that make my blog bland? Maybe. I’ve never been one to court controversy, my books do that enough on their own, thanks.

    Holly, you know we don’t always agree, but you’re my friend and I admire all the hard work and dedication that you’ve freely given aspiring writers, and to us working writers who still struggle. Keep Pocket Full of Words exactly the way it is. It’s how you are, and it’s wonderful.

  7. Mari Avatar

    Can’t please everyone. I like your writing diary the way it is.


  8. eitje Avatar

    hooray 🙂

  9. BookLover Avatar

    So much to learn, so little time… Since I started writing a year ago, your writing diary (and all the other goodies you have here) is on my top three must reads. I’m home-bound and can’t go to writer conventions, but this even better than a one time event. I get to know the way one of my favorite writers works — the ups and downs, the ins and outs. Now that I’ve read nearly everything on your backlist, I cheer when a book goes through final edit, groan when a large section gets cut, and enjoy anticipating another Holly novel. Thanks again for your generosity of spirit, the way you share from your heart.

  10. Jim Avatar

    I agree with Zette

    It’s basically as simple as don’t like don’t read.

  11. zette Avatar

    I have to laugh that someone complained about what you blog. Not interesting enough for him, huh? Poor guy. Maybe he can just move on to something more in his interest. For the rest of us, reading about how you are working is both entertaining and enlightening. I admit, being a flaming liberal (as you once pointed out — grin), I do skip anything political that you post and generally stay away for a few days just in hopes that it moves on and we get back to the intersting stuff — writing.

    You and I both know you can’t please everyone and someone is bound to find something to bitch about just to be bitchy. And that’s this case. If someone doesn’t like what he reads here, he’s perfectly free to move on, after all. It’s not like this is a class room and he’s stuck. Complaining about it is just silly.

  12. writewize Avatar

    It is your blog. Write what you want. We will read it. Trust me on this. Oh, you must be feeling better—-You gave your illness to ME. (pout)
    Now I feel like death warmed over.

  13. NoelFigart Avatar


    Well, okay, your blog isn’t as entertaining as your fiction. Then again, I don’t pay for the blog! That’s not to say it’s dull, but I doubt like hell you’re gonna polish an entry here the way you would your commercial fiction. It’s entertaining enough for me to want to read it, for heaven’s sake.

    Neil Gaiman spends half his time talking about his children and bitching about cell phone service, so I think pros are allowed to choose subject matter.

    When we get into usefulness, your blog and site have been a boon to me. It helped me learn pacing, plot and structure that would be commercially viable. I haven’t sold yet. But I feel fairly confident that’s not too far in the future, as soon as I develop my craft and learn to sell better than I can now. I really loved your articles on the writing craft, and feel that they were both entertaining and instructive.

  14. cavillor Avatar

    My final comment for now; if only I could edit my original, so that I wouldn’t have to clog up this page.

    “Sounds like that poster you ran across is a bit too far in the “immediate gratification” zone… (I keep trying to add something more to this and my impression, but it’s coming out TOO snarky, and I’m in one of those moods where I think I ought to keep my fingers quiet if I can’t type something nice.)”

    Go ahead and snark me out; I’ll enjoy it. 🙂 My ego needs some deflation every now and then.

  15. cavillor Avatar

    My “drooling” comment may have been unfair. I made it because, you have to admit, many of the comments you get here are to the vein of “great job!!!!” and add nothing useful to the conversation.

  16. cavillor Avatar

    I guess I ought to weigh in, and I’m not one to slink into the shadows in the face of commentary …

    Holly, I read your blog, and fairly regularly. I have for quite some time. I put your blog on my list of eye-gougers for the reference of my reader(s) (heh … not sure whether singular or plural is appropriate for my little livejournal), to compare it to the less-successful and quite numerous copycats that have managed to attract reader cabals of their own. Mine was one of them, and I denigrate my failed little blogs most of all, because they were awful. Just as most writing diary style blogs are awful. Yours is one of very few that isn’t, and that’s because you don’t limit yourself to writing diary, and because your writing style is naturally engaging.

    The reason I posted that is because of how frustrating it is for me to see all these writers, many of them unpublished, wasting their time on humdrum day-to-day accounts, tweeking their templates for hours, refreshing their hit counters every five minutes, constantly Technorati-ing and Google-ing their own blogs, etc. when there are so many better ways they could be spending their time! I speak, again, from experience, because I was one of the worst of the lot. I deeply regret all the time I wasted, and all the energy I devoted from my writing, and the deleterious effect that blogs had on my novel-writing for so long.

  17. shawna Avatar

    blog = short for web log
    web log = a log posted on the internet
    log = tracking (whatever) in chronological order

  18. Rick Avatar

    Wow. Somebody needs a Cranial-Rectal Removal Procedure stat, and it isn’t Holly.

    Everyone else has already said it better than I could have. I wouldn’t have been reading for going on five years now if I didn’t think you were interesting.

  19. valerie Avatar

    Not much to add, but when did that ever stop a writer? 😛

    I found Mugging the Muse and your other workshops and articles very very early in my writing process (and then Forward Motion). For several years I checked your blog–er, online diary–every morning to see if Holly and I were having a good writing day today. I’ve appreciated the glimpses into the long road of the publishing industry and thank you for your frankness.

    Of course, we don’t agree on everything. As my sister would say, “If two people agree on every point, one of them is unnecessary.”

  20. Gabriele Avatar

    I agree with everyone here: your blog is interesting and educating, and I’ve learned some things during the years I read it.

    (Like when you kicked Riknir out of Hawkspar because he was boring, and replaced him with Aaron. It gave me the courage to change a book I was a third into but which had the wrong MC.)

    And it’s your blog, you can post whatever you want. I admit, I usually skim the political posts, but I’d never tell a blogger not to post about politics.

    Keep on the good work.

  21. Jason Penney Avatar


    I think you know this, but you have no need to defend yourself. It’s your place, your rules, etc. I’m glad you post. As long as I keep finding it interesting I’ll keep reading, and so far I keep coming back.

    As for the site with the negative post…

    According to Technorati: “no blogs link here”

    Here on the other hand: “109 blogs link here”

    Obviously people do find it interesting.


  22. Jaye Patrick Avatar

    I’ve found that people who don’t write, find it exciting and exotic without realising that it’s a tough job; the words they read in a couple of hours took months, even years to craft, to write, edit, re-write and wrestle with.

    For me, I’ve always known I could write; but it took you and Sheila to teach me discipline. For which you have my thanks.

    Personally, I’m selfish; I don’t give a rat’s bladder about people who don’t find this diary interesting, they can go… away. As long as it’s there for me, continuing my education in this… difficult business, I’ll be coming back.

    And when I’m published (PBW’s e-book challenge notwithstanding), I’ll follow your wishes. And pay it forward.

  23. WanderingAuthor Avatar

    I’ve been visiting here and reading your posts for a while. I find them interesting. If someone else doesn’t, I haven’t noticed any coercion to read your posts. So why anyone should take the trouble to write about something they claim to find boring mystifies me.

    In sum, you’re doing this for yourself. You like how it works out. You have people who come here who like reading what you post, just at it is. So ignore the idiots. 8=)

    (I registered so I could post this comment; I’m not sure the registration process worked as it should. I didn’t test this, not feeling I had any right, even as a test, but it appears it gave me the ability to access posts as well as comments – I’m not sure why. Sorry for any bother.)

  24. eitje Avatar

    i don’t like the word “blog”, actually. and, in my opinion, this isn’t a “blog” (like you said). you should change the title of the tab to “diary”. 🙂

  25. Jenne Avatar

    I don’t get to read blogs/online journals as much as I would like, but when I do get a chance, yours is the first I visit.

    A few years back, someone criticized my fitness journal because there were other pages on the site that did not obsess about weight loss, diet, and exercise. Some people are never going to be happy, especially as long as they believe everything in this world should be designed to please them. I love reading your site and getting the insight into the life of a published novelist.

  26. PolarBear Avatar

    Off to drool…

  27. PolarBear Avatar

    Oh, I see I already did bore them into oblivion. It must be the regular association, since everyone listed by the person I suspect you were referring to is on my daily read list.

  28. Carlie Avatar

    I love the format of your blog and I wish my other favourite authors would do the same thing!

  29. pugh7755 Avatar

    I agree with Jim. However, I still have to give my opinion. I look forward to reading your diary as a source of inspiration. I have your webpage set as my homepage and I eagerly anticipate seeing a new post whenever I open my browser. Some may say that I need to get a life, but I disagree. I’m a writer, albeit a new writer, but I find it exciting to see into the world of another writer, one who has achieved what so many of use can only dream about. To get to see how they accomplish what I hope to accomplish as well.

    I haven’t found another website that gives me more motivation to write than hollylisle.com. I have it set as my homepage for that very reason. If I haven’t written that day, I open my browser and ‘wham’ there’s Holly telling me that I need to be working on my own book.

    Thank you, Holly. You are a true inspiration. A breath of fresh air in this polluted world in which we live.

  30. SLHouse Avatar

    I like your blog the way it is. I’m here to learn and its nice that you share your opinions uncensored.

  31. The English Rose Avatar
    The English Rose

    Just, ditto everyone else. 🙂

  32. eitje Avatar

    it is getting dark
    on this chilly winter day.
    or light, somewhere else…

  33. Jim Avatar

    I don’t think I can add anything to what has been said. Except my endorsement. You rock, girlfriend. Always have, always will. 🙂

  34. Zoe Avatar

    I like your blog as a writing diary. I like seeing how another writer works – how your process is the same as mine, and how it differs. I like getting a glimpse into what it’s like to be a professional writer, which is where I’d like to be someday. And I like seeing how your books, which I love to read, are created – how they get from the first words on paper to the finished product that I get from the bookstore. I don’t expect, or want, anything else from your blog.

  35. shawna Avatar

    Oh, yes. And for the totally off-topic comment of the day: a town in Eastern Oregon actually has an 18-yr-old mayor. He wasn’t even on the ballot, because he was 17 at the time, and won as a write-in candidate. To me, that really shows the power of voting.

  36. shawna Avatar

    ^^^ They’ve said it all already, I think. We like you (and your blog) just the way you are. You teach us directly and and by example, you give us a backstage pass to a working writer’s life… and often end up amusing us, too. And for readers who wonder with impatience when the next book will be out… those little bits of word count are immensely satisfying.

    Sounds like that poster you ran across is a bit too far in the “immediate gratification” zone… (I keep trying to add something more to this and my impression, but it’s coming out TOO snarky, and I’m in one of those moods where I think I ought to keep my fingers quiet if I can’t type something nice.)

    I found (and enjoyed) your writing articles and your “writing diary” long before I have ever happened on your books by chance. (Which would have been when my library put Talyn on the new books shelf.) I’d have missed an awful lot. I’m glad I didn’t.

  37. TinaK Avatar

    I’ve been hooked on your blog for several years now and continue to find everything that you write interesting. Many times I am entertained. I am always educated. I don’t come here for a laugh, though many times I find one or two. 🙂

    Holly, you are exactly who you are and I admire you greatly. In many ways you are an online mentor to me and I look to you (your posts, your e-books, your online lessons on the site) for knowledge and guidance.

    You are a teacher as well as a writer and the best teachers are not always entertaining but they always help their students learn.

    Bravo for maintaining this successful and educational writing diary. The asides about your personal life and beliefs are simply bonuses for those of us who are enrolled in this particular school.

  38. PolarBear Avatar

    Oh, my! They better stay away from me. Especially this month. Nearly every post is a word count (except for this morning’s rant about kids, which I’m sure offended half the world — assuming they bother to read it, which I’m sure they wouldn’t).

    As for the search for entertainment? There are literally millions if not billions of weblogs in the world. If this doesn’t have what they want, why don’t they go somewhere else. Nobody but you determines the content of this particular one — whether you call it a weblog or a writing diary. Someone doesn’t like it? Just go somewhere else.

  39. Chassit Avatar

    Holly don’t let that cranky post get you down. You have loyal fans who come in here daily to check up on the progress of you novels, and you have people who love to read about the process of writing.

    This writing diary is entertaining. Many people love to read about all that you do–including me.

    Even the greatest people in the world have nay-sayers(sp?) and downers there, but those are the people that you have to let roll off, and you need to focus on those who love you.

    Thank you, Holly. This writing diary inspired me to write, to actually get down to it and write, and I will continue to pop in and see how you’re doing. Thank you again.


  40. Chassit Avatar

    Holly, don’t let that one cranky post get you down. You have loyal fans who check in daily to see how you’ve progressed in your books–I know, I’m one of them–and you have people who pop in because they think that the actual process of the novel, the word count, the butt-in-chair time, all that stuff, is interesting.

    This writing diary is entertaining. There’s no sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but if they want explosions or heart-pumping action they can either watch a good action movie or pick up one of your books.

    Even the greatest people in the world have nay-sayers(sp?) and people who try to burst their bubble. Those are the people you let roll off and embrace the people who really love you.

    Thank you for doing this writing diary, Holly. It was this that inspired me to write, that inspired me to finally get down to it and write. Thank you.


  41. Eliza Avatar

    Wanna know why I read this blog?

    Because it is interesting. When you blog about progress on books, I’m hooked. When you blog about having to pause in your progess, I’m hooked, too. And when you blog about having to juggle and dance for editors, I’m even more hooked, because you don’t ever complain about it.

    To me, one of the best things in the world is watching someone do something really well, when they love to do it. And here I get to do just that.

    Also, I’ve learned what it takes to be a self-supporting writer. I’ve read Muse, and I see how much you work every day. It’s made me think about writing more seriously, too–do I love it that much to make such a huge commitment? How will it affect my family? Do I have the Holly Lisle energy level to be able to manage all at once? Do I have the fortitude and discipline?

    And the answer is no…but I want it, and I’m willing to work for it. And I’ve been blessed with a husband who’s 100% behind me. I have no excuses whatsoever.

    Anyway, all that to say thanks, and please keep on letting us in. The great thing about the internet is that if you don’t want to read something, you don’t have to. It’s way simple to turn off an RSS feed or just to not visit the site again.

  42. onesikmonkee Avatar

    I come here to gain a bit more creative insight to the process…not to be entertained, per se. (however, I am typically entertained anyway, vicariously) If I wanted EXCITEMENT in the form of CAR CHASES or MURDER, I’d watch the double-you-bee. (heaven forbid)

    Writing is not an externally exciting endeavor, or EEE. It’s primarily internal, which is hard to nail in an online diary such as this.

    And besides, that “other person” who whined about your diary can just go somewhere else, can’t they? There’s plenty of drama elsewhere if they so choose…and for the exciting stuff, a trip to your online bookstore will buy them plenty to keep them entertained or distracted or whatever nebulous goal they’re seeking to fulfill.

    Glad you’re keeping your diary the way it is. That’s why I read it.