Wednesday, October 23, 2019

My WIP is a fluke

Dear QOTKU,

Hope you are well! The combination of my well-trodden rodent wheel and the recent blog post on  "how do you know what you are meant to write?” has brought on another round of spinning that’s resulted in lost sleep rather than lost weight.

See, the upside of not having anybody expect anything from me as a writer is that I can write whatever my brain decides is convenient. I regularly write across genre and category—I know, I know, bad me—but I’ve stuck within the realm of kid lit and have found that I tend to stick to contemporary fantasy, so it’s really not that much of a stretch. It helps that read widely in both categories and writing whatever pops into my head brings me joy.

Then along came this idea…

Suddenly, I began researching things. I, the perpetual plantser (to use a Jeff Somer’s term) developed a massive outline. I even wrote a fake query in advance! I was caught up in the whirlwind of planning like I’ve never planned before. Yes, this diabolical mystery concept sunk its hooks in deep.  But it’s not kid-lit. Not one bit.

Thus, after a hastily scribbling out a first chapter, I put off writing it. And I kept putting it off. I threw myself into daily life and other projects and swore I’d forget about the idea. But then someone from Writing Group A as well as a CP asked me about it (creepily in sync).  I dithered, prevaricated, and hid…before turning to Writing Group B and asking if the POV I used for *terrible* first chapter worked because, well Writing Group B won’t lie but they won’t hit me with a sledgehammer either. The answer was a resounding yes. So I sent off chapter to Writing Group A and CP, and didn’t give much thought to it, until my e-mail started exploding with messages from members of both Writing Groups and my regular CP clamoring at me to send along chapters as I write them. In short, they’ve turned into Audrey II (and I’ve been diligently writing to satisfy their demands).

I’ve never had this kind of reaction before. Not once in ten-odd years. At least, not to this degree.

And I’m petrified.

Because I’m 99.9% certain that this WIP is a fluke. I’m probably not going to write anything else like it because, well, frankly I don’t want to write anything else like it.

The problem is that I still want to query it when it’s finished( especially if I don't secure rep from other WIP in my usual wheelhouse that is much farther along in the process). Which brings me to the question of the hour:

How should a writer handle querying a novel that doesn’t mesh with what they typically write and isn’t what they plan to write in the future?

Here is a story answers your question:

It rained for 40 days and 40 nights.
In other words: Portland.

But in Buttonweezerville, the amount of rain was unusual and the river rose dramatically in protest. Flooded hill and vale for miles around.

Augustus Krump, Buttonweezerville's self-anointed grand high poobah of God's Yardstick Squad (happy to comment when you are Not Measuring Up), lived in a small white cottage on the bank of the disgruntled river. His front yard was underwater by Day Seven.

His neighbors, who didn't much like him, but knew their duty, called to say they'd come get him in their spiffy baby blue Amphicar 770.

yup, this is a real car

No no! Gus didn't want to get in something so weird and new. Anyway, God was going to send angels to carry him to safety.

The water rose, and by Day 14 had covered the first floor of Gus' cottage.
Gus retreated to the attic, taking only his autographed Bible (purchased from the True Man of God Radio Show, broadcast live from Pikyapoket, Texas), his long suffering poodle Holy Roller, and a gallon of hooch (for medicinal purposes only.)

The water did not abate.
On Day 21 Gus, Holy, and the bible clambered onto the roof.
(The hooch had mysteriously disappeared.)

A fishing trawler chugged by.
The captain waved "we have room, come on board!"

No No, Gus was afraid of boats, particularly ones with a lot of wet bedraggled hungry people in them. Besides, angels from God would soon lift him to safety.

Another day passed. Gus was getting hungry. Holy too, and eyeing Gus in a way that was starting to feel like the wrong kind of devotion.

On Day 28, another boat came by.
The captain waved "we have room, come on board!"

No No, angels are nigh!

Holy wondered if a dyslexic god was included in the rescue plan.

Another day passed, then another.
The waters kept coming.

By Day 35 Gus was hallucinating from hunger and thirst. He saw huge metal birds in the air, and a man carrying a pitchfork swim by. He found a huge lifesaver but it tasted of plastic so he threw it away.

The waters stalked on.
Over the roof. Over the chimney, over the weather vane on the barn. Almost to the top of the dale  where Gus had lived.

Had, of course, because Gus drowned.
Holy, no fool, had jumped from the roof and barked down a boat back around Day 30.

And just as he expected, Gus went straight to heaven.
He wasn't as happy about this as you'd have thought.

Lord, he huffed and puffed, I've followed you all my life! Where was my salvation?

"Gus," said the Lord a touch acerbically because God is all things and that can include frustrated.  "I sent three boats, a life preserver, two helicopters, and Aquaman. You refused them all."

Oh said Gus, woebegone. I didn't know that was my salvation.

"Gus my son," said the Lord. "What did you think they were?"



The moral of this story is: recognize opportunity when it swims by.

PS Holy Roller is now happily ensconced on Aquaman's couch.

PPS Your WIP is not a fluke. It's a breakthrough. You don't know what the future holds. Proceed. Deal with any bridges ahead only when you're standing on them.




19 comments:

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Though you may never have tasted chocolate do not turn your back on a Hershey's when it is presented as food. Even if it is enamored with the joy of almonds...go nuts.

nightsmusic said...

OP, obviously this WIP is inside you, screaming to get out. You need to free it. And how do you know it doesn't have friends in there as well? You don't. Not until you finish this one. Go with it! In the meantime, if you're dead set on writing in a different genre, even though you haven't felt the driving force you're feeling with this one, keep writing in that as well. But to abandon this one would be such a bad idea. Because you just never know...

Janet, I loved your take on the salvation story! And the fact that Holy survived ;)

Amy Johnson said...

Now, how the heck am I supposed to return to editing the sad part of my WIP after reading this?

Kitty said...

Deal with any bridges ahead only when you're standing on them.

That's a great piece of advice for life in general. Retire David Stanley's quote and post that.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I love that story. I have heard several versions of the like but that was by far the best. I feel ever so much more cheerful than I did five minutes ago.

And, OP, what do you have to lose? According to the writer's chart of morality, a standalone novel makes you Lawful Good. Way on the opposite end of the spectrum from me. I foresee Chaotic Evil in my future when I drop dead in the middle of my 4-40 book series. So go with it.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Ride the lightning, OP. You can't really say "this isn't what I write" if you're still going strong! Plus, just because this is the first idea you've had like this doesn't mean it's the last. I've been seeing authors on Twitter talking about how just because they have a shelf full of books doesn't mean they know how those books happened (Victoria Schwab).

Lennon Faris said...

Regardless of anyone else's reactions, I can hear how this gripped you. Why on earth would you not write it?!

Here, let me bonk you on the head with a mug of coffee.

*crash*

Oops, it shattered! That's a hard head, OP. BTW have fun.

Also, funny story by Janet. I was holding my breath about Holy the whole time, and I am a tad disappointed he didn't eat the m.c., but the Aquaman home was a good consolation prize.

Colin Smith said...

I can understand OP's dilemma. This may not be exactly where OP is coming from, but here's where I would have the same concern: Your first novel tends to be what defines you, at least initially. Certainly, if that first novel sells well, your publisher is going to want more of the same. And the assumption is the audience who bought book 1 are looking for more of the same in book 2. Not everyone who bought Harry Potter likes CASUAL VACANCY. Two different audiences. But JKR has established name credibility thanks to Potter that the publisher was, no doubt, hoping to trade off of, either negatively ("JKR like you've never read her before--with sex and drugs!") or positively ("Potter author stretches her wings"). At this point OP doesn't have name credibility. And chances are this first novel will define OP to a publisher and audience. If OP doesn't intend to write in this genre ever again, that could be a problem.

Now, I don't know how much of the above corresponds to reality. This much I do know: if you're passionate about this story, you have to write it. At the very least get it off your chest and onto the page. Enjoy the moment. If it's publishable, then make sure you get yourself an agent who can handle a multi-genre client (e.g., Janet Reid). But don't worry about that right now. Just enjoy writing the story and see what happens with it.

That's my take. :)

Fearless Reider said...

OP, that sounds thrilling! I hope you'll follow that wild hare wherever it leads. Some of the best things in my life have started out as flukes -- a couple have walloped me hard into the deep blue sea, but the tale was worth the chase.

Janet, thanks for your funny and instructive parable. Holy Roller's musings on a dyslexic god reminded me of a delightful and deep book by my critique partner & mentor -- for anyone who's into playful theology with a canine slant, please check out _Dogspell: The Gospel According to Dog_ by theologian Mary Ellen Ashcroft (Seabury: 2008). One of my favorite things of all time is that among the keywords on the copyright page are "Dogs--religious aspects".

J. F. Constantine said...

Dear God, I love your reply Ms. Reid. Effing brilliant!

To this writer I say, you will learn much as you continue to write more and more. As you write that book and get in that groove you will find yourself on an incredible journey of revelations (and frustrations, too). Bon voyage! :)

Beth Carpenter said...

It's not as much of a leap, but I read mystery and wrote mystery. And then I had this idea about a sweet romance, just a short story, but it led to another story and eventually to five traditionally published books (3 more under contract). I still like to read mystery, too, and maybe I'll write more of it someday, but for now I'm quite happy in my new genre.

Write the story!

Emily McCosh said...

Okay, this post wins the internet today.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Oh man, OP, I know exactly how you feel. There's a story I've been writing that's just... the easiest thing I've ever written. It flows through, it's fun, and it's totally unlike anything I've ever written before. I also doubt I'll want to write something like it again. Everyone who's looked at it really likes it and encourages me to continue. But... it's not what I want to write. Paradoxically, I'm having a blast writing it.

I'm not gonna worry about the rest of it until I have to. For now, it's all just fun.

Wouldn't it be nice if the rodent wheel actually did help us all lose weight? There's a thought! Maybe we should all run a lap whenever we submit a rodent-wheel-worthy question.

Brenda said...

Pikyapoket, I love it. No fair, though. You should have had to do it in 100 words!

Craig F said...

Bravo, applause, applause. To both of you, and the dyslectic Dog.

One question though, what is a plantster?

To commemorate this, I will send you a query by the end of the week, with aliens and everything.

LynnRodz said...

Another great tale by our Queen!

Megan V said...

Hi everybody,

Hardheaded OP here. Thanks to the Queen for some much-needed wisdom. I will do what I can to NOT be Gus. It may take some time for me to learn—I do have a head hard enough to smash Lennon's coffee mug, after all— but I will keep working at it.

Colin—you hit the nail on the head with my inner-dilemma. While I am greatly enjoying this latest WIP idea, as a general rule I have difficulty finding happiness in writing murdery things. I like reading gritty mysteries and crime fiction where the good guys win, but have to do so in doses. Writing them is harder because I've seen/heard enough of real-life murder and even when the good guys win...well sometimes that's no consolation. So if my murdery WIP is the book that sells, if it's the book that defines me to publishers and audiences, then my assumption is that people will expect more murdery things from me. And I don't know that I'll be able to give it to them.

But for now, I will take the advice and just write until I'm standing on that bridge.

Thanks to you all for the encouragement to keep going. Glad to see I'm not alone.


Craig-plantster is combination plotter/pantser.

Kaphri said...

Awesome parable!

Stacy said...

Megan V, I feel your reluctance. I too write both crime fiction and kid-lit, and (most of the time) I enjoy kid-lit much more since it gives me a real sense of freedom and optimism I don't get from any other kind of writing. I use crime fiction to work out all the negative stuff I've seen in my life--far short of murder, for sure, but plenty of violence, nonetheless--and kid-lit to get myself over any depressive stuff.

There's a book I like called Rewrite Your Life that has the writer attack their trauma indirectly. Maybe that's what you're doing with your new work? You may find that the more you write, the more you're able to write. At any rate, much luck with your new WIP!!