What can I say? This is perfect without any interruptions from me.
From The New York Times
What to Write Next
I recently published a novel, and now it’s time to get back to work. If you’re anything like me, figuring out what to write next can be a real hassle. A flashy and experimental brain-bender, or a pointillist examination of the dissolution of a typical American family? Generation-spanning door-stopper or claustrophobic psychological sketch? Buncha novellas with a minor character in common? To make things easier, I modified my dartboard a few years ago. Now, when I’m overwhelmed by the untold stories out there, I head down to the basement, throw a dart and see where it lands. Try it for yourself!
Encyclopedic Have you ever thought, There is a system that rules our culture, and this system also determines interaction on the individual level, and I have come up with a metaphor that describes both manifestations, and can provide many examples? If so, you may be postmodern, or postmodern-curious. E. M. Foster said, “Only connect,” and Lauryn Hill seconded him, maintaining that “everything is everything.” They aren’t postmodernists, but that’s the beauty of the postmodern — it’s not what it is, it’s what you say it is.
Realism Take this test. When you read “These dishes have been sitting in the sink for days,” do you think (a) This is an indicator of my inner weather, or (b) Why don’t they do the dishes? Does the phrase “I’m going as far away from here as my broken transmission will get me, and then I’ll take it from there” make you think (a) Somebody understands me, or (b) Why don’t they stay and talk it out? What is more visually appealing, (a) a Pall Mall butt floating in a coffee mug, or (b) those new Pop Art place mats in the Crate & Barrel catalog? If you answered (a), do we have a genre for you.
Recommended for: The rumpled, drinky.
Ist Simply add -ist to any oddball or unlikely root word, and run with it. You’d be surprised.
Ethnic Bildungsroman Your parents packed their bags and took a chance on a dream called America. From Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, Bangladesh and Beijing. Then you came along, with all your surly second-generation-ness, and you wondered, Why do they eat that food, their accent is so heavy, why can’t they leave me alone and let me play baseball? For you are not like them, you Old World-eschewing, Otherness-contemplating, bubble-gum-popping, shiksa-smooching, WASP bastion-charging, bootstrapping young thing. You got moxie, kid, and just like Mary Tyler Moore, you’re gonna make it after all.
Sample titles: “From Here, but Also Not”; “Annette Lipshitz for President.”
About A Little Known Historical Fact Possession is nine-tenths of the law. Find a little-known atrocity and claim squatter’s rights. Get in there so no one can take your lynching, massacre or overlooked genocide away from you. People like to be educated about tragedies that they’ve never shaken their heads sadly over before. Getting them to say “I didn’t know about that” is a surprisingly effective marketing tool. Practice speaking mellifluously — you’re going to be doing a lot of NPR.
Sample titles: “The Gridleysville Account”; “Shout! The Forgotten People.”
Fabulism Ladies with wings and men without mouths. Dancing trees and talkative cows. If it’s for kids, it’s a fairy tale. If it’s for grown-ups, it’s magic realism! Whether you’re 8 or 80, everybody loves magic. This is the perfect genre for writers who may be tempted to throw out manuscript pages when they get stuck — with magic realism, you can just conjure up a flaming tornado and whisk troublesome characters away. “Where’s Jasper?” “Remember that legend I mentioned 25 pages ago, about the Flaming Tornado of Red Creek?”
Historical Novel Sweeping. . . . Meticulously researched. . . . Something about verandas. Welcome to the world of the historical novel. This is different from a book About a Little Known Historical Fact in that you’re taking a recognizable event or milieu, familiar from PBS documentaries and Oscar-winning movies, and putting your own spin on it. If you get sick of those tedious period details (gas-lamp, chamber-pot, chandler — oy!), consider cutting between the past and the present, where the narrator discovers information about some ancestor’s role in things. Throw in a real-life famous person — Jimmy Hoffa, Emma Goldman, the Lindbergh baby — and watch the sparks fly.
Allegory This book is about the Black Death . . . or is it?
Sample titles: “The Forest”; “The Mound”; “The Illness”; “The Cubby”; “The Lump.”
Domestic Why is Timmy spending so much time with his door closed? Did I hear Janet sneaking out last night? Bert’s always working late these days, it’s like I hardly see him. Jamie has started another affair — she’s one of my best friends but I don’t know what she’s thinking sometimes. I guess it all began that fateful night when my car broke down.
Recommended for: People who stumble upon their muse in Aisle 8 of Whole Foods.
Thriller Nothing wrong with putting a little food on the table, especially in these times of economic uncertainty.
Recommended for: Those who know only five adjectives, but know them really well.
Southern Novel of Black Misery Africans in America, cut your teeth on this literary staple. Slip on your sepia-tinted goggles and investigate the legacy of slavery that still reverberates to this day, the legacy of Reconstruction that still reverberates to this day, and crackers. Invent nutty transliterations of what you think slaves talked like. But hurry up — the hounds are a-gittin’ closer!
Sample titles: “I’ll Love You Till the Gravy Runs Out and Then I’m Gonna Lick Out the Skillet”; “Sore Bunions on a Dusty Road.”
Southern Novel of White Misery, OR Southern Novel What race problem?
Sample titles: “The Birthing Stone”; “The Gettin’ Place.”
Social Realism You: A canny observer in a white suit and a fine cravat. The Culture: Just waiting for someone to explain it to itself. When these two krazy kidz get together, it’s zeitgeist! Dig in and tell people how they really live today. Convince the reader that your ear is attuned to the modern vernacular, that your nose sniffs the tang of changing mores, and that your fingers are on the pulse of our time, somewhere around the neck, to better choke the life out of it. Hold up a mirror to our society, or at least to the lives of book critics who will write that your book “holds up a mirror to our society.” You’re not done until you come up with at least one spot-on description that enters the national vocabulary. Here are some freebies to start you off: “cyber galoots,” “walking kabobs,” “electric ninnies.” But please, please, please — know when you’re too old to pull it off.
Sample titles: “Yonder Lies the Glittery City”; “Sotto Voce.”
Remember, this is only a partial list — there are literally dozens of kinds of books out there waiting for the right writer to come along. Step right up, and see what happens. It works for me.