Friday, January 16, 2009

Q & A 164

I have a project that's been on the back burner because I'm leery of its subject matter. Not that it's offensive, but that it's cliche. It seems that every writing site I look at has at least one person (many times, an editor) joking about another novel that's about a boy and his dog. The trouble is, my project is about a boy and his dog. How do I get around this? Am I worrying about this needlessly?

Great. Yet another question about a novel about a boy and his dog.

You can't get around the fact that your book is about a boy and his dog unless you change it to a girl and her dog. Or a boy and his shark. There've been books and movies in which lions and tigers and bears and wolves and gorillas and spiders and cockroaches turn out to be not so bad. But sharks are always portrayed as killers. They have bad PR. You can be the first author to write a boy and his shark book. Sharks are better than dogs anyway. They don't have fleas, they don't shed all over the house, they swim instead of doing the dog paddle, and they can hold their breath underwater for a long time. You can have a scene where the boy gets bullied by a big kid, and has his shark eat the bully.

Now if you're dead set on a dog, take heart in knowing that the same editors who complain about boy/dog books would have given their first born child to have been connected with recent bestselling dog novels The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and Marley and Me.

8 comments:

150 said...

Toni Morrison said, "If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." So my question is, why do you want to read your book rather than all those other dog books already out there? If you have a solid answer for that, you can justify writing it to yourself, and that'll be your hook. If not, your instincts about its marketability are probably right.

BuffySquirrel said...

Well, I feel that way about vampire books, but they're proliferating happily and apparently selling in huge numbers, and I even read "Sunshine" the other day AND enjoyed it, so....

I don't think some people being tired of a concept means everyone is. And even the jaded can be enticed by a nice fresh package.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Well, there IS Shark Boy and Lava Girl. Can't forget that one.

Dave F. said...

In the middle of Neil Gaiman's post for today, January 16th, 2009,
http://journal.neilgaiman.com/
He makes a reference and link to Charlaine Harris' blog. TO quote: Someone sent me a link to Charlaine Harris's blog entry for Jan 11th, and all I could do was think, yup, I know how that one goes. Go over to Gaiman's site for the link. It seems she has an idea for a book titled "Graveyard Girl" which is about a girl raised in a graveyard.

Then Gaiman launches into two paragraphs about ideas float through the atmosphere like huge squishy pumpkins ... and how sometimes, the same ideas for books seem to reach all sections of the populace at once.

Both posts are worth the read and have insight into Q&A 164.

Perhaps ideas for books float around like ghosts in the ether, haunting the world until someone gives it a home.

freddie said...

Perhaps ideas for books float around like ghosts in the ether, haunting the world until someone gives it a home.

I don't know if that's true, but that's a really well-written line.

BuffySquirrel said...

Except that "it" should be a "them" :).

Wes said...

Saturday night I went to a reading by David Wroblewski, author of THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE. His day job was (is?) as a software developer here in Colorado, and he donated his time speaking to a sold-out fundraiser at the library my wife runs. He did this in appreciation for the help the library had given him thru the years. He was thoroughly charming and hearing about his work at learning his craft for over a decade was a great inspiration to me and other wannabe writers in the auditorium. He poured out little gems like the work to get a novel 90% of the way to publication is equal to the work of getting it the remaining 10% of the way, plus several others.

I told him about your response to the minion who asked if agents and editors would consider another MS about a boy and his dog. He was quite amused.

Oddly enough, as he was reading his first pages of chapter one, I realized he was violating many of the rules of thumb we read in blogs and hear from agents, editors, and authors. The POV was authorial. The long passage was nearly all back story, and not about the main character, but about people forty years prior to the period who I'm guessing do not figure prominently in the book. Only a few lines of dialogue appeared, and nothing really happened other than the MC's grandfather bought a small farm. My conclusion was his execution must be excellent, rules were meant to be broken, or he paid off a lot of people. I just ordered the book because I want to understand why he won such acclaim.

freddie said...

Okay, I gotta admit this question was mine. Honestly, I expected a bit of ridicule on this, which is why I was too chicken to own up to it. But you all gave some honest answers that happened to be very kind and encouraging, too. (The Neil Gaiman link was perfect . . . great timing, Dave.)

So on to finishing the book.