Remembering What Kinds of Novels I Don’t Write

Golden Gate Bridge

I am full of anger today. But I don’t want to talk about it. I just want everyone in the world to know that I’m carrying a sword and it would be unwise to approach me without permission and plenty of warning.

I need to channel this energy into something useful. So far I’ve cleaned the bathroom, the kitchen, and scrubbed the fridge down to try to get rid of the rotting flesh smell some fish juice generated that now smashes me in the nose every time I open my fridge. Cleaning the fish juice up wasn’t enough. So I’ve scrubbed every single shelf (taken out and scrubbed in the sink). I can still smell the dead flesh but it’s weaker.

I want to write but if I try to write my feelings I’ll regret it right now. While I was cleaning I was thinking about how all my writing has continued to stall ever since publishing Cricket and Grey. Book two remains in a state of first draft purgatory. Lately I got a bit of a flow going with Suicide for Beginners but that’s stalled too. What the fuck is wrong? I went back to wondering if I only have one novel in me? I mean, I have 7 novels in the queue just waiting to be written but that won’t come to life the way Cricket and Grey did.

My writer friends are all holding their breath praying that this isn’t one of those big long “I give up on writing forever” jags where I’m impossible to talk to and kind of stress them out because they all go through this occasionally too and some of us definitely think the big-blue-ass-doubts are contagious.

I remembered this thing I keep on forgetting. I’m getting really fucking tired of forgetting this thing. The thing is that I don’t want to write dreadfully personal general fiction novels. I don’t want to write science fiction. I don’t want to write romance. I don’t want to write any novels that are vaguely autobiographical either.

I want to write suspense novels in the style of the 1940’s (through the 60’s) – specifically the suspense written by women authors. The only difference is that I want to write it darker and grittier.

I wrote Cricket and Grey after making this realization for the first time, after spending an intense 4 months writing Jane Doe and not being able to finish it or even figure out where to take it. I had my revelation and wrote Cricket and Grey with a great deal of energy and purpose. It still took me four years from start to finish but I knew where I was going with it the entire time.

Suicide for Beginners first came to me as a general fiction novel about a 35 year old failed suicide who befriends a teen who’s also struggled with suicidal ideation. But this is way too close to home the way I was writing it. Way too personal in a way that isn’t healthy for me. I don’t want to dig inside myself and smear my guts all over my novels. I want to use my experience and knowledge to inform my writing, to flesh out realistic characters, but I don’t want to expose myself.

That’s what my blog is for.

So I was remembering the first time I had this revelation and wondering if I’m going to forget about this between each novel and have to go through the painful process of getting off track and not realizing it? God help me, I’ve been flailing around for two years now not remembering this.

I write suspense novels.

Not who-dunnits, not crime novels, not spy thrillers, not science fiction*, not romances, not cozy books of any kind, not semi-autobiographical fiction, and not humor.

I really wish I wrote humor. I’m just not funny enough.

All this means is that I need to go back to the drawing board and rework my ideas. I’m not calling this a breakthrough because I’ll probably go right back to floundering. But I will call this a good realization that just might get my writing back on track.

I’m still angry and don’t want to talk about it. So perhaps I’ll go watch another classic suspense film for inspiration. I already watched Laura today (with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews). Maybe Netflix has Rebecca?

*Cricket and Grey is dystopian only because it’s set in a dystopian future, but the story is really one of classic suspense in the sense that it’s almost incidental that it’s dystopian. The story isn’t really about the collapse of government or societal structure – it’s about Cricket uncovering the truth about her mother’s murder and the killer, now in danger of being revealed, begins to stalk her. The dystopian world she lives in is the set, not the story.

2 comments

  1. Adam Dreece says:

    You write with such intensity and drive, that I feel pulled write along side you.

    I smiled as I read it, everything else aside, it had that “I F’ing see you doubt & I’m not taking your BS this time” tone to it.

    Your doubt and frustration and ARGH aren’t contagious. I’ll always be here to be a doubt sink of sorts, and absorb what I can. Otherwise, I’ll just refuse to go away because at the end of the day, you are awesome and driven and people like that are good for me.

  2. angelina says:

    I don’t know how I lucked out getting you as a writing friend, Adam, but I’m so lucky to have you in my corner! I’m constantly getting in my own way and Cricket and Grey is what happened when I got the hell out of it – and I’m proud of it. So I think it’s time I got out of my own damn way again. The story is roiling just under the surface of my consciousness every day, I just need to tap into it and remember where I want to take it.

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