Monday, July 25, 2016

When It Rains, It Rains Frogs. Mutant Frogs.

So a few weeks ago, I confessed that I hadn’t been writing. Not for months. But now I’m back like a butterfly tramp stamp. And I’ve got a lot to write. Too much, actually.

It's not like the merciful end to a writer’s block, when the debris sort of sloughs away and the words and ideas start trickling, slowly at first, before picking up speed. Because this was unnatural. My brain had been active, but I had been willfully pushing all ideas back down into my psyche, waiting for certain external things to resolve, publisher-wise. But now that I’m writing again, I find myself somewhat paralyzed by the sheer number of things crying out to be written.

I might liken it to my favorite method of brewing coffee; the Toddy Cold Brew System. This method involves leaving nine cups of water and one pound of coarse-ground coffee in a carafe to brew at room temperature for twelve hours—or longer if you want it stronger. At the bottom is a special filter and a litter rubber stopper to keep the coffee in there, steeping for the designated period. (The result is a delicious, non-bitter coffee concentrate that can be used to make hot or cold coffee or specialty coffee drinks.)

So it’s like I put the stopper in when I stopped writing and this stuff has been percolating for months. And now that I’ve pulled out the stopper, it . . . You know what? Let me switch metaphors.

You know how they say, “When it rains, it pours?” Well, in my case, it's not normal pouring. It’s more like the frogs that rained down on Egypt. As soon as they land, they start jumping around, croaking and looking for attention. These ideas are alive and somewhat angry. Instead of ribbit, they say, “Write-Me.” And they’re not even regular frogs. They’re mutating before my eyes as they jump around!

What I mean by that is, I spent the last week as camp pastor at a Christian camp for 7th and 8th graders. As I was reflecting on some of the peculiarities of Christian camp culture, it occurred to me that it would make a great setting for a Young Adult suspense story. I’ve never written YA, but I actually still read it—both with my son and (certain books by J.D. Fitzgerald, Gordon Korman, and Frank Peretti) for my own amusement. On top of that, I do believe I have a gift for communicating with young people. Without my consent, one of my frogs (a book I’ve outlined and started) mutated before my eyes into a better idea for a YA novel. I sent my agent an e-mail about it and she agreed it’s a good idea. But they all seem like good ideas at the moment.

So the question remains, what to write? I’ve got the Playing Saint sequel, about which I’m jazzed, but which I’ve given up the idea of selling to a major publisher. There’s this semi out-there project, which is trying to morph into a YA novel. And, of course, the reboot of my gritty, urban retelling of the story of Elijah. Not to mention a sort of medical suspense thing I’ve been outlining in really broad terms, working title: Expiration. And two different nonfiction works.

Usually, one of those frogs is croaking far louder than the others; so you write the thing you can’t bear to not write for one more minute. But this time, they’re all hopped up (heh) on Red Bull, ribbiting at full-blast. I’ve been tending to each one in turn, a bit here and bit there. But I really want to attack one project full-force, and soon. Maybe the right answer will suddenly appear in a Writer’s Digest article about the current state of the market or in an e-mail from a reader. Or maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow with a singular desire to write one of these things and see it through to the end.

Either way, after months of writing nothing at all, it’s a good problem to have.

Update (9/12/16): It's the YA novel. I've used a push broom to corral all the other frogs into a large terrarium and I'm going full-speed on this one.

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