Lost the Plot

7 August 2002

When I was in junior high, I had approximately one bazillion pen pals. It was an early flirtation with fandom, and it helped keep me from going mad at good old RMS and later at RHS, too. My friendship with the inimitable Liz (who has been in the throes of Pennsic War since Friday, so no updates) dates from that period. Until recently, Liz was the only old pen pal I'd kept in touch with. Then Lucy popped up again, from England, and now she's teaching me new phrases.

Yesterday I got two: "pants" and "losing the plot." Another old pen pal, she informed me, was "just pants about ever writing back any more." I assured her that I believed her, but I had no idea what it would be like to be pants. She said it meant useless, but that as I well knew, pants in Britain mean underwear, and "If you say it there, where pants just mean trousers, people may think you're losing the plot." I really, really love "losing the plot." It's such a nice way of saying nuts. You can't follow the plot! Hee.

I suspect, however, that I may be losing the plot. I'm going to tell you what I'm contemplating, and then you can tell me whether I'm losing the plot, whether I'm fine, or whether the plot is so far lost that we just need to start a new character arc and hope for the best.

See, I was looking at Ralan's list yesterday, and it has a contest section I almost never visit. This is because I don't pay for people to read my stuff. They pay to publish me. See how this works? Nicely. Well, sometimes. Anyway, a lot of the contests that pop up have entry fees or reading fees or what have you, and a lot of the rest of them specify SFWA-ineligible or unpublished writers, neither of which applies to me. However. There's a contest from one of the Penguin Putnam imprints, for people who have never published a children's or YA novel before. It's for a 100-200 page (12-point double-spaced) children's or YA novel. I don't have one -- Fortress of Thorns is 300 pages, and The Grey Road is even longer.

But I have the idea for one.

Hmmmm.

You see where this is going, of course, and an additional useful piece of information is that the deadline is August 31. Eep. But. 100 pages, 12-point, double-spaced? That's nothing. That's, like, 20,000 words. Barely even a novella, right? And if I said I was going to see if I could get a short novella done this month, the three and a half weeks we have left of it, while working (somewhat less) on the Not The Moose Book, taking care of my loved ones, and maintaining my sanity, well, that would be different, wouldn't it? Not like a whole other novel. Much saner than a whole other novel.

Except for the being a whole other novel part.

I've been a bit frustrated with the Not The Moose Book lately -- I've been running up against some research questions, and so I've been pausing and backing up and doing more research. Which is good. It's fine. It will serve me (and the book) well in the long run. But for the moment, it does feel a little whirly and scary and overwhelming.

And this YA thing started picking at my brain, enough so that I had to get up after going to bed last night and write another five pages of it.

I don't know if my urge to do this is purely from recent frustration with the Not The Moose Book. If it is, I don't know if that's a valid reason to write a novel. Well, I don't know if it's a valid reason to write a novel now -- I'm going to write this thing eventually. The question is when.

So here's what I'm thinking -- and I haven't talked this out with anybody important yet, so after I do that, I may be thinking something entirely different. Feel free to tell me what you think I should do and why, and I'll feel free to tell you if I think you're wrong and why, all right? I'm thinking I'm going to bring the outline and whatever I have finished along with me to Grand Rapids this weekend. If I want to work on it on the plane and manage to get good work done on it on the plane, well and good, and I will evaluate the feasibility of the project when I get back. If I have a substantial fraction of this thing -- well, I already have 10 pages, and yesterday morning I had 1, so if that's any indicator, this could be very cool.

But. I absolutely refuse to ignore my loved ones or temporarily ruin my health over this thing. So even if I decide to give it a go, if it gets to be Onie's birthday (the 26th) and I don't have it almost finished, I'm not going to be staying up all night (or, more likely, getting up at 4:00 a.m.), eating nothing but fruit leather, trying to finish this thing. That's a bad idea. Not doing that.

So right now I'm thinking I'll kind of sleep on it over the long weekend, evaluate it on Monday, and promise myself that I won't go nuts with it even if I decide to try.

But NoŽ and Jonah and Max are really cool, and there ought to be more good YA SF, not just YA fantasy. I mean, I'm all for YA fantasy, and I wish they published more of it, too. But proportionally, it just seems like there's a lot less children's and YA SF, and some of the stuff that is out there in those categories is horrible. Compared to the fabulous fantasy there is, especially. And the contest is in honor of Ann Durrell, who published William Sleator and Eleanor Cameron when they were but pups, so maybe the contest people agree with me.

We shall see.

Last night I finished Alistair Reynolds' Revelation Space, and enjoyed it, and now I've started Six Years in the Malay Jungle, which was originally published in 1923. Eventually I'm going to put all of these archaic Malaysia tidbits together into a Lost World story with a sort of T. H. Huxley main character, but in the meantime I'm just enjoying the old books we found. And this one is a hardback, which means it's not going on the plane to Grand Rapids with me.

The guys were watching "Star Trek IV" last night, and I sat here and giggled at my father. Who was not here. I was just laughing at him anyway. Because we live in Alameda County, and the whole time we were out, he kept saying, in his best approximation of a Walter Koenig voice, "Alameda! Where are the nukhlear wessels? Nukhlear wessels!" Please note that my father's best approximation of a Walter Koenig voice is still not that good. Daddy Funny. (Every once in awhile, in my head, my mom's voice throws in, "All right, Daniel!" Which is funny, too.)

I've been laughing at people who aren't here lately. I was giggling at C.J.'s face when he was messing with his house's plumbing, yesterday. I wasn't even there when Ceej was messing with his house's plumbing, and it wasn't yesterday. I was just laughing yesterday. Let me assure you, though, I know the face, and the face was hysterical.

And sometimes I laugh at Michelle when we were at Valley Fair for Senior Week. We rode roller coasters and so on, and she has this tiny little "wheeeeee," hardly above a whisper. See? Now I'm laughing at Michelle's wheee. And she's not here, either.

At least the voices in my head are entertaining. And at least they're real. They're just not present. I do know the difference. Really.

Even if I have totally lost the plot.

Back to Morphism.

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Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.