intertribal: (meow)
[personal profile] intertribal
New Year's Resolution #1: Get serious about writing.  It's put up or shut up time.  Those novels are not going to write themselves.

You may have been wondering what the hell I've been doing for the past two years (aside from getting a Master's degree and working almost full-time). Well, I've been mulling.  I've been outlining.  I've been making playlists.  I've been reading (not enough).  And now, I am absolutely ready to make a serious go at a novel.  But I'm at a crossroads: where do I start?

Option #1: Novel 1 out of 3 of my "American fascism" trilogy.  Set in a contemporary city in a slightly-alternative, highly-corrupt and "materialistic" America, it's more in the vein of Lewis's It Can't Happen Here than Roth's The Plot Against America.  One of my main characters, in law enforcement, is a "winner" in the current social landscape; the other one, a journalist, is struggling.  A new religious movement, and a new political party, sweeps the nation with the promise of transformative, transcendental change.  Now I love this story.  I love the messy, desperate, self-deceiving characters.  I kind of live and breathe them, actually - I stay up late tinkering with the outline, writing random scenes.  I've spent so much time planning this story, and am so excited about this story, that I could probably write it fairly quickly.  This is, hands-down, the option with the most momentum and passion behind it.  But: it's pretty political, obviously.  No John Galt speeches, and hopefully it's not a polemic - it's way more focused on characters' inner lives than the grit of political issues - but it's political.  It might piss people off.  And I worry that a potentially "controversial" book isn't the right choice for a debut.

Option #2: A stand-alone story about young Americans studying and working abroad in a fictionalized Indonesia.  The overarching theme is self-discovery: discovering what truly matters to you, what you'd be willing to do to get it, and who you really are.  The other theme is the interaction between the (naturally) self-absorbed post-grads and the politics of the foreign country that's hosting them, which is experiencing Sukarno-style turbulence.  So we've got a few overlapping stories: an ambitious scholar falls in love with the girl of his dreams, but she's heading toward a psychotic break; a rich kid with poor grades finds his calling with the military general who knows his father; one dude turns into a prophet and starts his own (very small) religion.  Now I "know" far less about Option #2 than Option #1.  I know the contours of the plot and the way each character develops, but I haven't spent as much time processing it.  I just came up with the title today.  I don't know the characters as well, and except for the girl on the verge of a psychotic break who becomes convinced she's possessed by the mask she's studying... I'm not as enthusiastic about this story.  On the other hand, I feel like it would make more "sense" to start here - it's a stand-alone, I too just finished grad school, I don't think it would be at all controversial.

Both of these stories are concerned with the way the personal snake wraps around the political axis (or sometimes, vice versa) - it's by far my favorite thing to write about.  Both flirt with horror (psychic powers in Option #1, evil spirits in Option #2), though that's not the main focus of either.  But they otherwise feel very different.

If I had my way, I'd keep going full-speed ahead on Option #1.  But I worry that that's not the strategic choice, right now.


Date: 2014-01-09 02:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Both sound good to me, and I imagine asking us'll be like flipping a coin--whatever answer you get, it'll be like a touchstone against which your own desires show up more clearly.

Personally--personally!--I'm interested in your second one, because of the Indonesia angle. But I'd like the first too.

Date: 2014-01-09 02:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Haha, well, I already know what my desires are... the question is whether it's also rational to start with the one I want to start with. They will both get written, no matter what!

But yeah, it's kind of like reading tarot cards. You realize what you "should do" based on your visceral reaction to the cards.

Date: 2014-01-09 03:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've been wrestling with strategy vs. gut myself, re my next project. I actually wrote 25,000 words of a "strategic" first draft ... and have now shelved that in favor of what my gut wants to do. I figure a) trying to pick strategic winners in advance is a loser's game, b) if you're not writing the book that you really want to write, then somehow, on some level, some awareness of this will ultimately filter down to your readers.

Date: 2014-01-09 04:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks for your thoughts. (b) is my knee-jerk feeling too, but I don't know if that's just me being an idealist/romantic about the whole thing! I also sometimes worry that when I'm writing something I love so very much, I become overly indulgent and not critical enough? That's probably a different issue.

What made you decide to stop the strategic first draft?

Date: 2014-01-10 06:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Because I realized it would ultimately turn into a pretty good book. Which I know sounds odd. But I've already established to my own satisfaction that I'm capable of writing (heck, even churning out) good books; now, though, I want to aim higher yet.

Date: 2014-01-09 03:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have often read of authors trying to do the strategic thing and "failing", only to produce something far more successful by following their passion. I've never read about it working the other way 'round.

Write Option 1 first. It'll be faster to produce the first draft, then you can let it sit while you develop Option 2. You'll probably need to go back and forth between the two anyway, on the long road to publication.

Date: 2014-01-09 06:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Interesting to know! I guess if your heart's not in it, it's not in it (to win it).

That sounds like a good compromise game plan, actually. Thanks!

Date: 2014-01-11 03:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm cynical about anybody's ability to predict what the market will be like by the time a book is done, and to do so well that it overcomes the natural advantage you get from doing what you personally are excited to do. So I'd do what you want. (I'm pretty sure you should take that with a grain of salt, though. It's not like I'm making any money at this.)

Date: 2014-01-17 04:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Haha. Right, there's only so much "gaming the system" that's possible. Of course, I am in a field where gaming the system is necessary to not only prosper but survive.


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