On Friday I dashed off this brief post on Tumblr:
This book I'm writing is hard so sometimes I fantasize about writing an "easier" book.
You know, one with witches in a gothic mansion — NO WAIT a gothic BOARDING SCHOOL — investigating mysterious murders that might have to do with an ancient curse that involves rituals requiring black robes, candles, midnight escapes from the dorm, and a hawk-nosed headmistress who resembles Angelina Jolie. PLUS! An underground warren of tunnels that leads from one dorm to another, accessed by hidden doors in bookcases, and there are queer girls and somebody rides a motorcycle, and there’s a winter blizzard that traps everyone on campus which causes SHENANIGANS and ADVENTURE.
Then I realize how complicated that would be and go back to my boring difficult WIP.
Then several authors I know reblogged or responded with their own amazing fantasy book ideas (check 'em out in the notes here), and E. Lockhart said she really wanted to read that (!!), and I realized that this fantasy book idea I dashed off is something I've been thinking about forever, off and on, because it's a mash-up of a bunch of my favorite reader kinks.
By "reader kinks" I mean storytelling elements that I just love, for no reason whatsoever except they trip off a "yummy" reaction in me. Gothic stuff, boarding school, creepy rituals, hidden passageways, blizzards that trap you inside (I can totally trace that back to Madeleine L'Engle's Meet the Austins, when the Austin family is forced to cook food in their fireplace due to a power outage during a blizzard, and it seemed like the coziest thing I'd ever heard of. My parents, who grew up in places where sometimes there was no power, thought it was the stupidest thing ever.) — all of these things make my imagination light up with thoughts of "Yay! Escapism! Fun!"
It makes sense I'm fantasizing about this stuff while I'm writing a book that has none of those things and is pretty much about the opposite of escapism. I want to escape from my WIP!
I'm not going to do that, but I think there is definitely a place for escapism in writing. And you know what? Adaptation and Inheritance were basically Escapism! Fun! novels. They include, among other things that had to be redacted for spoilers: post-apocalyptic fleeing, mysterious government conspiracies, investigating something that is not what it seems, sexy blondes, San Francisco, underground bunkers, and UFOs.
The massive amount of Escapism! Fun! material in those books is probably why I still think very fondly about writing Adaptation and its companions. Sure, I stressed about it too (and I'm probably blacking out on a lot of the stress), but there were days when I wrote 4,000 words at a time, flying through the plot and having a pretty great time.
There are no 4,000-word days for this WIP. Which is as it should be. This is a different book. And besides, even though Escapism! Fun! books are fun to write, they are also hard, in different ways. Managing all that plot in a way that makes some kind of sense is very tricky. And not throwing in every kind of reader kink I had was sometimes difficult. An Escapism! Fun! book can easily suffer from excess.
So the takeaway is: Writing is hard, no matter what kind of book it is. And someday who knows, maybe I'll write that gothic boarding school mystery with a blizzard.