Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Next Project--Too Many Ideas

Is there such a thing as too many ideas? Yes! I'm far, far from the "I don't know what to write about" stage. I took nineteen, count them, nineteen different book ideas to my writers' critique group the other night and asked them to comment on them in the margins. One person's assessment? Write them all!

I don't think I have time. And these were just the ideas for children's books. I have another long list for grown-up books as well.

So how did I get in this mess?

One thing I do constantly is consider what I will write next. I know that editing is some people's favorite activity. But it's not mine. But it is so, so necessary. So to get through the slog I daydream about what my next book will be.

Here's some of the ideas so you can see how perversely diverse they were:

Yaz Novak is not ever going to live up to his family’s baseball prowess but he discovers that he has a special talent of his own which might just save the team.

Ship de Souza’s parents are anthropologists who send him off to a different relative each summer. But when Ship is packed off to his great uncle’s houseboat in South Louisiana, he discovers his uncle is a pirate.

Through a correspondence begun after the Civil War, two cousins, one from the North and one from the South, come to terms with their feelings about the cruelest war of all.

Eiglenn is a social outcast in her caste called Under which lives in underground caves. When the oppressive society of Up punishes her father unjustly, a surprising act of mercy by the Prince begins her quest to change her world and his.

It’s 2113 and a twin boy and girl are sent from their space station into the past to help their time-traveling parents. They’re sent to eighteenth century France to find an artist named Elisabeth VigĂ©e-Lebrun and to fix something in the past that will allow their parents to come back home.

Jack hates a school assignment to write to a pen pal in France. When he bends the truth about himself, he is distressed to hear that his pen pal and her parents are coming to America to meet the wonderful boy he described.

It’s 1906 in South Louisiana. Nine-year-old Simone says goodbye to her father on his way to his barbershop but he doesn’t come home. Even when others give up, Simone decides to find him if she has to search every bayou in South Louisiana.

It’s the annual “Boyfriend for the Day” auction for charity at Tickle Middle School. But somehow the chess club president, Freddy Limongelli, finds his name on the list. What if no one bids for him? Or what if someone does? Either way, it’s going to be social death.

So what do you do when you have too many ideas? I'm thinking of putting these up for bids on eBay for all those people who want to write and who say they don't have a plot. I've got nineteen, thank you, and I don't have time to write them all. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What I Can Never Write About

Our 42nd Anniversary
Write what you know. Have you ever heard that advice? And yet, folks write historical, science fiction and fantasy novels. And I'm almost sure that most mystery writers have never been involved in a real murder investigation.

So what does it mean? I think when we write what we know, we are looking deep within ourselves for experiences that strike a common chord in our fellow beings. There have been few writers in the history of the world who have been able to cover the entire range of human experience. Shakespeare comes to mind.

The chances of my writing a believable story about a dysfunctional relationship or an unhappy marriage are practically nil. After forty-two years of wedded bliss, I am an expert on how great marriage can be. Unhappy marriages are a closed book to me. That kind of book is just not going to be in my oeuvre.

Novels require you to spend many months thinking about problems and conflict. I wouldn't even want to spend six months to a year thinking about husbands and wives who can't get along.

But I have plenty of other topics to write about with confidence. The joys and heartbreaks of parenthood. The challenges of childhood. The struggle to find that one right person. The process of soul searching. The role of gender in a woman's life.

I write romantic, humorous novels with happy endings because that's what I know. And I thank my husband Michael for that. Ours has a been a very happy journey. But without laughter, we would never have made it this far.

So happy anniversary to us. Forty-two years later, we've still got the fairy tale ending.