What should I write next?

Remember way back when I asked you to help me to decide what to write next? You all told me the fairy book, which I dutifully wrote, but now I’m feeling all indecisive again. Can you help me out?

Here are the options:

  • The great Australian feminist monkey knife-fighting cricket Elvis mangosteen fairy novel . This one is written.
  • The compulsive liar book narrated by a—you guessed it—compulsive liar. Downside: will involve lots of outlining. I hates outlining. Plus it’s going to be so hard! Upside: whenever I mention this one folks get very excited.
  • The beginnings of cricket historical romance. Downside: lots of research and all my cricket history books are in storage in Sydney. Upside: yumminess. I am besotted with my protag and her love interest.
  • The baby killing ghost novel set in Sydney in the late 19th century in which the ghost does not kill babies nor do babies kill ghosts. Downside: research materials all in storage in Sydney. Upside: ghost story!
  • The plastic surgery running away from Hollywood novel. Downside: protag is a USian. I am not USian thus writing it will be really hard. All the sentences in my head are Australian. Upside: Very cool structure that makes me grin just thinking about it.
  • Werewolf snowboarding epic. Downside: I’ve never snowboarded making it tricky describing it plus I’d need to do a lot of research on wolves. Upside: Werewolves snowboarding!
  • Northern Territory multi-family multi-racial lots of killing epic. Downside: yeah, yeah, research materials elsewhere. Plus I’d need to spend at least a few weeks up there again, doing lots of non-book research. Fun but not possible for quite awhile. Upside: I love love love writing epics.
  • Kid who grows up in a Vintage Clothes Shop which her mum runs who can pick the best buys at fifty paces (much more interesting than this description makes it sound—honest!) Downside: I know nothing about the vintage clothes industry works. More bloody research! Upside: clothes, yummy delicous magic clothes.
  • Protag’s father goes missing presumed dead on account of he and protag’s mum very into each other. Mum is forced to take in a lodger to help pay the mortgage. She advertises for a female uni student but takes in a strange youngish man who has no visible means of support and yet pays the rent on time. He’s gorge and speaks a zillion languages but the seventeen-year old girl protag doesn’t trust him. Her twin brothers (eight) almost immediately fall under his sway. I could go on, but it’s just not very pitchable. Alas. Downside: Not very ptichable. Tis one of those books that’s clear in my head but takes months to explain. Sigh. Upside: tis very clear in my head.
  • Try to write a short story. I’ve had a brain wave for completely transforming a story of mine that’s never worked into one that will. It involves making the ending not suck (why did I not think of that before?!) and setting it a couple hundred years ahead of where it’s set now. It involves no research. Downside: I suck at short stories. Upside: Not starting from scratch and may lead to an actual good story. That would be cool!

My agent is most excited about the Liar book on account of its ease of pitchability but she also agrees with the famous children’s book editor, Ursula Nordstrom, who wrote

I never want to forget that if Lewis Carroll had asked me whether or not he should bother writing about a little girl named Alice who fell asleep and dreamed that she had a lot of adventures down a rabbit hole, it would not have sounded awfully tempting to any editor.

The book described before writing it rarely exactly matches the finished book and sometimes doesn’t even come close. And if it did what would be the fun in writing? There’d be no surprises!

I could sit down and start writing any one of these. Yes, heaps need research, but writing first and researching sketchily as you go is fun. I do have the intramanets afterall. And it’s not that long till we’re back in Sydney where I can fill in some of my [did they have spin bowling back then? When did they first call them “googlies”] notes.

But I do not have a burning desire to write any of them at the moment. I do not have a burning desire to write at all. My one burning desire is to continue reading lots of lovely manga . . . But I did say I’d write two novels this year. Sigh.

What’s it to be?

36 comments

  1. Faith on #

    That very clear in your head but would take months to explain sounds very intriguing to me. You could do it justice, and I’d really like to read it. As in I’d probably go buy it the day it came out and voraciously devour it in one sitting. Of course, I’d do that with any of your books, because you’re that sort of a writer. And that’s not flattery. It’s just the way it is. So shoo! Go write! :) (Okay, read more manga in between times, but write!)

  2. klages on #

    Ditto. The one with the odd lodger and the twin boys.

    Because, like the Great Elvis Magnosteen…. it’s the one you sound most excited about, as you try to describe it.

    Or, for the rest of this month, more Manga. You’ve earned it.

  3. E. Lockhart on #

    I got excited when I thought it was eight sets of twin boys, or at least four sets of twin boys adding up to eight boys.
    But then I realized I misread it.
    Just a thought.
    But the lodger one is interesting.
    Here is pitch:
    “Hot, mysterious guy comes to live with girl’s family. Everyone loves him. But is he evil?”

    I also like magic clothes and snowboarding werewolves and babykilling ghosts (but I like the last one maybe because I always like me the victorian gothic!)

    You have so many ideas. My brain is like a desert compared to yours.

  4. jenny davidson on #

    well, it seems very clear to me that the one i would be most excited to read would be a hybrid of vintage magic clothes with werewolf snowboarding. if you crash them together it won’t be so much of a problem that you don’t know about snowboarding, eh?!?

  5. marrije on #

    Ow. I want them all, I’m afraid.

    But mostly the liar book, the vintage clothes shop one (you could cheat on the research and read Meg Cabot’s vintage clothes shop book, whatsitcalled, um, queen of babble. and then take her out to several long lunches and pick her brain?), and the lodger book.

    And I’m afraid that like e. lockhart i read that bit about the twin boys completely wrongly and in the same way.

    so is the elvis book really complete now??? yay!

  6. Tole on #

    How could it be anything other than snowboarding werewolves???

  7. Sherwood Smith on #

    i’m sure you would breathe magic into them all, but from the loglines the liar and the ghost sound most intriguing to my eye.

  8. marrije on #

    mmm. meg cabot lives in key west (i tend to think all us-ian authors live in new york). also she sounds a bit busy. this may not be the most viable research option for the clothes shop book.

  9. Relby on #

    When in doubt, always go ghostly!

  10. Ellen on #

    I vote for either the cricket or the ghost story!

  11. Ted Lemon on #

    I really hate the liar book, no offense. Maybe I’d like it if I saw it, but I really hate lies in general, so it sounds like it would be kind of painful to read. The book with the missing husband and the boarder sounds best of the ones you described. Dunno why that’s hard to pitch, but after all, I am not an acquisitions editor, so what do I know?

  12. Celia on #

    I also vote for the mysterious lodger book, because your pitch, what there is of it, reminds me of a YA book called “Out of the Ordinary” which I love love love. Second choice would be the vintage clothing story–sure, you’d have to research it, but you’re in New York, and there’s bound to be someone there who’ll talk to you about old clothes. :)

  13. Chris McLaren on #

    Well, they all sound like books I’d like to read, but I want the liar one next.

    I’ve always liked the unreliable narrator, and I’m fascinated with the positive side of lying as well–the notion of mythologies as lies that a society tells itself to understand the world, and of “personal myths”, the lies you tell yourself to help figure out who you are and how you interact with the world.

  14. Rebecca on #

    you’re finished with the fairy story already? i am in awe. i am also doing the happy dance, yay!!!!

    my vote goes to snowboarding werewolves!! i also like the compulsive liar, magic vintage clothes, and the mysterious lodger. (my friend had a very mysterious lodger last year. mysterious smell too, but that’s beside the point. :P) would these all be YA stories? the short story also sounds intriguing. i’m probably not being much help, as i’d read them all.

  15. letitia on #

    Odd lodger all the way. While all the others had a nice “pitch,” I literally felt my ears perk up and my mind go into reader mode when you described the unpitchable one. Maybe because there aren’t enough odd lodger/evil linguists in stories these days. If you need to research that bit, I think I might qualify as a character study…except for that whole gender difference thing.

    Good luck! So many nice choices, although not wanting to write is a bear. I spent about three weeks on avoiding writing while on a great quest to acquire & read all of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels. Technically not manga, but have you crossed her path yet?

  16. Jill on #

    Hot evil(?) mysterious lodger sounds intriguing. I also like werewolves snowboarding, because that’s just a fun concept. But they all sound pretty fantastic – I’d read any of the them in a heartbeat.

  17. Justine on #

    Thanks everyone for the input. Is dead interesting what peoples respond to. And thanks for all the votes of confidence on reading anything I’d write. Gives me a warm feeling it does. (Which I need given all the snow outside. Gah!)

    The lodger idea only looks like the one I’m most into because it’s the most recent. It’s still shiny shiny new! But once the next idea comes along . . . Yeah, yeah, I’m fickle.

    E. Lockhart: You have so many ideas. My brain is like a desert compared to yours.

    It’s cause I’m so lazy. I’d much rather sit around day dreaming novels than, you know, actually writing ‘em.

    Jenny: would be most excited to read would be a hybrid of vintage magic clothes with werewolf snowboarding.

    I may well wind up writing something that’s a mash up of all these ideas.

    Marrije: so is the elvis book really complete now??? yay!

    Pretty much.

    Ellen: The cricket one is the book of my heart. Bless you for picking it! Only the research thing and the fact that it’s prolly not YA stops me from writing it next.

    Celia: the mysterious lodger book, because your pitch, what there is of it, reminds me of a YA book called “Out of the Ordinary”

    Well that’s the end of that then. Can’t write a book that’s like some other book, can I?

    Chris: I’ve always liked the unreliable narrator, and I’m fascinated with the positive side of lying as well—the notion of mythologies as lies that a society tells itself to understand the world, and of personal mythsĀ¯, the lies you tell yourself to help figure out who you are and how you interact with the world.

    Me too! That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with that book. You’re the ideal reader for it. Bless!

    Rebecca: you’re finished with the fairy story already?

    Given that I started it almost two years ago it doesn’t feel very “already”. Stupid Daughters of Earth and Magic’s Child got in the way.

    would these all be YA stories?

    No, some of them are decidely not YA feeling which will be part of how I make my decision. There’s a market for YA books by me, but not for adult ones.

    Letitia: but have you crossed her [Satrapi’s] path yet?

    I have indeed. Have read ‘em all. Fabulous!

    Lili: once again i shall buck the trend and say cricket, cricket, cricket.

    That’s two of you picking the book of me heart.

    I have read no Fry though I do mean to.

  18. lili on #

    once again i shall buck the trend and say cricket, cricket, cricket. i’m seeing georgette heyer. i’m seeing hot, hot men in hessian boots and sideburns. mmm.

    but i like the liar one too. i love unreliable narrators.

    have you read ‘the liar’ by stephen fry? it’s not an unreliable narrator, but it is about someone who lies a lot. it’s almost autobiographical, which you realise if you have read ‘moab is my washpot’, possibly my favourite autobiography in the world.

  19. Anna on #

    A third vote for the cricket historical romance and perhaps a new reading audience who would then naturally be inspired to go back and read all your YA (if they hadn’t already) — in case you need a business reason to support your heart reason. But I’m sure whatever you write will rock!

  20. Ben Payne on #

    The liar one doesn’t grab me… I’m kinda over unreliable narrators… then again, since that’s the only detail we have… there could be lots of other cool things about it…

    But my picks would be the Mysterious lodger, the cricket one, and the NT epic…

    I think all three of those sound like books I’d be really interested in…

    The NT epic sounds cool because it’s possibly the last thing in the world I expected to be on your list… so I’m kind of intrigued to see where it would go…

    Maybe you should write a short story while you decide?:)

  21. Ez on #

    I vote baby killing ghost novel.

    Have a lovely day! :-)

  22. Dawn on #

    I’d say the compulsive liar book or the ghost story. No werewolves. As mentioned before, I’m definitely more a fan of Vampires than werewolves, and I don’t think I would be hooked into buying or reading a book about werewolves. They just don’t do it for me. Maybe its because I’ve never been satisfied with what I’ve seen of werewolves so far. Maybe you could change that! I’m not sure. Anyway, the compulsive liar one sounds really interesting. Mainly because it would be a really trippy experience trying to write it. hehe.

  23. Little Willow on #

    Yes to the liar story. Is it dark humor? Bring it on.

    Charles Dodgson rocks the world.

  24. Penni on #

    I like the sound of cool structure (plastic surgeon). I love structure.

  25. Doselle Young on #

    The mysterious lodger book, I’d have to say. But then, you can’t possibly be surprised. I think playing with a family dynamic, language, the pain of a missing love, etc. has the makings of a wonderful, lyrical, literary take, Ms. Justine. Wonderful. Lyrical. Literary. Larbalestier.

    It just sounds right.

    D

  26. Chris S. on #

    Ooh, count me in for the mysterious lodger story. Followed closely by the cricket novel. Your passion for the sport could convince an entire generation of unenlightened North Americans to learn all about cricket. That’s a serious responsibility; you can’t leave us in the dark!

  27. Justine on #

    Anna: perhaps a new reading audience who would then naturally be inspired to go back and read all your YA

    Sadly, publishers mostly don’t think that way. If you have an audience and you write a novel they don’t think that audience will read then you are essentially starting over. Usually you’ll get paid less and you may not even get published.

    Dawn: You’ll get no vampires from me. They’ve been done to death. That’s part of why werewolves appeal so much. Fresher terrain.

    Penni: Mmmm, structure . . .

    Doselle: Ms. Justine. Wonderful. Lyrical. Literary. Larbalestier.

    Don’t make me blush!

    Chris S.: Your passion for the sport could convince an entire generation of unenlightened North Americans to learn all about cricket. That’s a serious responsibility; you can’t leave us in the dark!

    But I haven’t! See?

    Jenny: but if you do the cricket one, please put magic in it also! sort of alt-19th century on the Caroline Stevermer-Libba Bray sort of model, you know?

    Sorry no can do. Cricket is magic enough.

    As far as hi-tech sports clothing goes you’re going to have to sort our your answer. I know nothing on this subject!

  28. jenny davidson on #

    but if you do the cricket one, please put magic in it also! sort of alt-19th century on the Caroline Stevermer-Libba Bray sort of model, you know?

  29. jenny davidson on #

    and one foolish question i’ve had recently for myself (because i hate shopping, but am now obsessed with fitness-related endeavours & keep finding myself buying running clothes in funny little stores) & is posed again by the potential werewolf snowboarding-vintage clothes mashup: are hi-tech sports-gear type clothes not findable in used clothes stores because (a) they only really took off recently so they just don’t make it there in large quantities (b) people throw away clothes that they have really sweated into to the point that they are no longer wearable, i.e. nike dri-fit t-shirt is more like underwear than like regular t-shirt or (c) i just don’t go into used clothes stores & they are full of appealing running clothes & i am just oblivious to it. it would be useful if someone could sort out a good answer to this, i’m rather curious…

  30. Stephanie on #

    Nothing’s cooler then a snowboarding werewolf. :)

  31. Mike on #

    I may or may not be completely honest with you when I say that one of my favourite novels is The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester. Narrated by one of literature’s most eloquent and self-absorbed autodidacts. Who also knows an awful lot about French food…

  32. Celia on #

    I only meant it was like your book in that it sounds COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!

  33. Carbonelle on #

    I want the cricket-historical romance because (to be all celtically-bardical) for the first reason I want to be romanced by cricket, which you can do, if anyone can; and for the second reasonthere needs to be more yumminess in my booklife and… and… I’m stumped for the third reason, which really plays merry-whatsit on the bardicallity.

    But only if you put something magic in.

    Maybe zombies?

  34. Ez on #

    Any chance of a cricket-based murder/mystery? (Just in case you’re inspired by the murder of Pakistan’s coach, Bob What’s-his-name.)

    Have a lovely day! :)

  35. Sally O on #

    My vote is for the snowboarding werewolf option, as it means you could come and do your snowbording research with me, here in Switzerland… Selfish, yes, but the world needs a snowboarding werewolf novel and you’re the only one who can do it.

  36. calliope on #

    i say comlpulsive liar and mysterious lodger. 4 compulsive liar, have u read “notes from a liar and her dog”? forget who its by, sorry. its not exactly ya, but its good

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