Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Pithy Descriptions of My Unpublished Novels

Pornography
Status: Complete bucket of shit.

Described as "tens of thousands of words in which nothing at all happens," this bundle of immediately post-collegiate angst chronicles the trials of a promising young writer who is forced to write scripts for porn movies to support himself. The resulting load of existential despair leaves him with no choice but to try to steal his best friend's girlfriend, who turns out to be using him. Sigh. The book is remarkable in lacking any knowledge of how book publishing, the pornography industry, and basic human relationships work despite the importance of all three fields in this novel.

Further complicating things, it turns out that this book is essentially Martin Amis' The Information, but without plot or witty wordplay.

Sympathy
Status: Moderately good idea gone wrong.
The story of a devil who works on the lower rungs of the hierarchy of Corporate Hell, and his demotion to duty on the surface of Earth. He hangs out in Minneapolis, tries ineffectually to tempt people, and generally gets screwed by his ambitious assistant, who is much better at being evil and much more interested in rising through the ranks. While on the surface, our hero falls in love with a hippie chick and discovers a plot by really nasty devils to bring on Armageddon.

While much better than Pornography, this book suffers from a complete meltdown of plot about two-thirds of the way in. With a massive reworking that removed the sixty pages wherein major characters sit around smoking pot and engaging in preachy expository dialogue, this one could go somewhere. The Y2K jokes should also be excised.

Team Sunshine
Status: Too depressing to finish.
A big, hot stream of urine trickling all over the notion of idealism, this one centers on a team of college kids who, lacking anything better to do, decide to put together an expedition wherein they ride around the upper Midwest on bicycles and "commit random acts of kindness." The kicker: all of the people they help are jerks who just want to be left alone.

Team Sunshine was inspired by a guy I knew who actually attempted this; I don't think he failed as completely as the characters in the book do, but I believe he was less than a roaring success.

Team Sunshine actually has moments of being a decent project. But after many revisions which attempted to address another total plot collapse, I decided to walk away from it because I got sick of spending all of my time immersed in such a completely negative worldview. I mean, for the book to work, everything has to suck. And that's just depressing.

American Guitar Stallions
Status: Complete fucking train wreck.
In the fall of 2002, I heard about National Novel Writing Month and stupidly decided to participate, even though I was in the middle of planning a wedding and getting graduate school applications together. This sorry piece of garbage is the result.

The idea behind National Novel Writing Month is that you pump out a 50,000-word novel within one month. To do that, you pretty much have to throw any thought of quality out the window and just let the crap flow. I figured that by writing about an American Idol-style guitar contest, I could just riff endlessly on all of my music and band experiences… it's pretty much write itself, I figured.

And I guess it did, if by "write itself," you mean "turn into an embarrassing string of unrelated episodes punctuated by random sex scenes included only to keep the writer interested in forcing out that day's quota." Worse off, working on this one corroded my work ethic and really, really messed up my ability to slow down and write something decent instead of just machine-gunning the shit.

To this day, I haven't been able to go back and read even a page of American Guitar Stallions. Although I do still love the title.

The Guardians
Status: Hope springs eternal.
Not to say too much, this one's a moderately silly book about superheroes and how the lifestyle isn't all it's cracked up to be.

So, then, the current project is sort of an immediate reaction to everything that went wrong with Team Sunshine… since I've had so many plot collapses, this one is almost all plot. Since Sunshine was almost completely centered on the idea of a loser antihero, this one works around supposedly heroic figures, although they do still tend to get depressed. Actually, underneath the adventure plot it winds up being about people in their late 20s who have painted themselves into a career corner that they don't particularly like. Which, um, seems to be a recurring theme.

It's not finished, but it's closer to being something sellable than pretty much anything else has been. Actually, at this point, I think it's pretty good. God help me.

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