Thursday, July 21, 2011

So Now You Know

I have a somewhat obsessive personality, at least where writing is concerned. I’d like to say I’m that way about housework too, but for the last week or so, I’ve been kvetching about how my kitchen floor—all of them really—needing mopping in the worst way. But have I mopped? Um, nope. Do I plan to? Maybe today. We’ll see.

One of the obsessive writerly things I’m been doing is reading interviews from agents and writers. And there’s a lot of contrasting advice there, especially when it concerns the possible conflict between the “art” part of writing and the business part.

People say to write what you love, regardless of “market forces”, that if for example, you write a teenaged vampire story, you might find the trend has moved on to say, historical thrillers or something.

But then they also say that serious writers must know the markets and how their work fits into it, that they must consider this brand from the very first sentence.

Some lucky writers find their tastes dovetail nicely with the trends market. They love YA paranormal, write YA paranormal and look here, the market for YA paranormal is ginormous!

But my own reading tastes are all over the map. I like some fantasy (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell is one of my all-time favorites) and literary (Ditto with The Corrections, White Teeth, Lolita and Middlesex). I like some sci fi (The Sparrow rocked!) and some women’s fic, and historical too.

As a writer, I am all over the map too. When something—a character, a scene, an idea—grabs me, I go with it… whether it takes me to lit fic or sci fi or Toledo. I follow that aimless little muse (My actual muse is Julius Caesar, but that is a story best saved for some other time) and I don’t ever regret it.

But as a consequence, I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire (Wow! In this heat wave, this analogy feels more literal than planned!)

I’ve been struggling to settle down and focus on one of the projects on my back and front burners, my oven, toaster oven and campstove. So I thought, I’d list the projects for you and perhaps get a few nods in one direction or another. (Also, if you are a newer reader and wonder why the heck I have a gibbon on my header, a picture of a live oak draped in Spanish moss and keep posting all these durn One-Hit Wonders , now you know.)

So, kind readers, what do you think? Which of these projects seems a good place to put all this summer energy? Comments of any kind are soooo appreciated.

ORANGE LAKE (Literary Fiction) As children, Claudette and Leanne Taskett built houses of palmetto fronds and played at being “swamp girls” in the sulfur-smelling muck of North Florida’s Orange Lake, but as young adults they can’t hold a civil conversation. Twenty-one year old Claudette careens from one redneck boy to another. Leanne, determined to be her misfit family’s one success story is headed for college. After their father drowns and Claudette—despite all evidence to the contrary— claims responsibility and then disappears down the highway, Leanne must track down her sister, untangle the facts behind her father’s death and salvage what’s left of her tattered family. A southern sister story with a mystery at its heart.

STATUS: Complete with constant, slight tweaks

FAMILY, GENIUS, SPECIES (Quirky Literary Fiction) After a near-death experience in a motel bathtub, Rocker Roger "Zorro" Weitz, author of 1976's most forgettable One-Hit Wonder, stopped aging. Eternally 22, he’s slummed through almost three decades before a second brush with death prompts him to dedicate himself (and his prodigious, though now decades-old cool) to helping his girlfriend’s lonely, zoology-obsessed eleven year old find her own way in the world. Cool is beyond her, but the kid, a certified genius, has no trouble mastering the art of blackmail. Her quest to find and rescue a long-lost gibbon drags Zorro into theft, kidnapping, an actual car chase, and another, possibly permanent, brush with death. A rock-n-roll Peter Pan story with a touch of Pygmalion

STATUS: Complete. 3rd draft, undergoing substantial revision

FACE MOUNTAIN (Dystopian) Less than three generations into the collapse of civilization, people live in terror of The Bloom, a deadly fungus, and other new diseases. Mercenary "doctors" travel the remaining roads dispensing vaccines to those who can pay for them. Thompson Winter, a doctor, is on a mission to restore the last good place, the Face Mountain compound lost in a coup 10 years before. But Edward Whitingham, a mysteriously old man who remembers the long sunken cities of the east coast and doubts the power of The Bloom, is stranded with his family at the most tactical location. While trying to ascertain Whitingham’s questionable allegiances, Winter falls in love with the old man’s desperate young wife, Mary. With his life’s work in jeopardy, Winter must choose between love and honor in a world without much of either. FM is a bit of a sci-fi western, though based on an obscure Joseph Conrad novel.

STATUS: Working on first draft with—rare thing for this pantser-- a detailed outline!

ROADSIDE MEMORIALS (Literary Fiction/Magical Realism) Hillary Cohn, middle aged, between jobs and in the midst of an unwelcome divorce, witnesses the kidnapping of a strange baby with almost translucent skin and a touch that causes objects to briefly glow. What’s stranger, the woman Hillary assumes to be the child’s mother, denies it is hers. When Hill tracks the child, he is drawn into a strange world of religious zealots, shady detectives… and actual shades.

STATUS: Begun first draft, but still in planning stage.

FEINLAND (Literary Fiction/maybe Literary YA) Teenaged Ruth and her two brothers have grown up in isolation within the bounds of “Feinland”, their father Harry Fein’s “Jewish Amish” attempt at utopia in remote Northern New Hampshire. But when a troubled boy moves into a trailer in the field next door, stirring unexpected feelings in all three Fein children, Harry’s dictum to “protect and defend the family territory” turns deadly as Adam, the favorite and virtually non-verbal autistic eldest, takes this to the most literal end. FEINLAND is loosely based on the Yiddish story of “The Golem”

STATUS: Begun first draft, but still in planning stage.

ORCAS: (Literary/Women’s Fiction) Left alone with two young children during her biologist husband’s 4 month fieldwork, Joan grows desperate and heads across the east coast to surprise him. But along with his two specially trained moose turd-sniffing dogs, David has a hip young (female) research partner and no time for her. Stranded at his motel research base in the northwest tip of Newfoundland, Joan develops a dangerous obsession with the pod of Orcas sighted during a family whale watch and….?

Um, no clear plot yet, I’m still working out the details. This is a short story (at present), in early draft stage.

Whew! Now I'll get down to that mopping.

What do you think? Where should I invest my few writing hours?


Shelly said...

OMG. They all sound good. Finish the ones you're almost there with. Take a break and work on the others.

Jenny Woolf said...

They all sound good but I would want to read Orange Lake the most.

Laura said...

So many projects, and all of them sound so intriquing! The two that caught my fancy was Orange Lake and Face Mountain. I love the family tension combined with sociological issues you've build into the plot in Orange Lake, and I love the setting and the way you're negotiating the conflict between Winter and Whitingham in Face Mountain!

Can't wait to hear more about some of these... :)

FranceRants said...

Orange Lake.

Do yourself a favor and finish it.

Don't worry about the trends. Readers create new trends all the time if a writer writes what they want to read.

Annie Boreson said...

Got to say...drop the bloody mop and get to the writing. You have some great projects lined up! I would have to raise my thumb for Orcas because who could possibly resist a story about "two specially trained moose turd-sniffing dogs?"

Perri said...

Thanks so much you guys! I truly thought Orange Lake, the WIP I've spent the most time on by far, was the least interesting.

Oh, and Annie, the idea for those dogs came from an actual "specially trained moose turd sniffing dog" I met last summer. (I guess this goes in the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction category)

Kelly Garriott Waite said...

You put me to shame with all these projects - I'm futzing around with the same two manuscripts I've been working on for years.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Wow, so many cool stories! I'd pick Face Mountain. Very interesting! :)

maryw said...

1st and foremost, mopping is forbidden during heat waves. I believe it's illegal.

I'm sorry Zorro didn't get any votes. I love Zorro. Perhaps it's the demographic of your blog readers.

Great writeup on Orange Lake. Great title too. :-)

I couldn't read the rest, because you are just too terrifyingly fertile. Makes me feel terrifyingly...dull.

megs said...

All your projects sounds so interesting and exciting to have passions heading in so many different directions. My project list is much shorter, but this blog post was a great reminder to focus and prioritize them! Thanks for checking out my blog, I'm adding yours to my google reader:)

Redleg said...

A dystopian science fiction tale based on an obscure Joseph Conrad novel? I like it! Let's make that the next trend.

Perri said...

Definitely :)

(No zombies in mine, though... so far)

Perri said...

Mary, I too, love Zorro. the big guy's one of my all time favorite characters. Maybe he just doesn't translate as well in blurb format.

A.M. Swan said...

Wow Perri - you've been busy! I like Orange Lake and Face Mountain sounds interesting. I too was thinking of starting some dystopian - that is a recurring trend right now - I think.

LisaAnn said...

I vote Orange Lake and Roadside Memorials, but all of these sound so interesting. I'm definitely jealous of your plethora of ideas... You are soooo lucky!

Perri said...

Thanks you guys!

Ariel, I wish I could say my dystopian idea was trendy, but, as usual, I'm a little off the beaten path :)

LisaAnn, I think the ideas are a perk of my ridiculously long commute. Even with books on tape, music and NPR, I have a lot of think time.