Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

List of Books I Have Not Completed

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a new book out. It’s called The Earworm Inception, and it’s only 99 cents on the Kindle.  So please go check that out.

This book is the latest in a series — can I call it a series if there’s only two and I vaguely plan to do it again?  The idea is that I write a lot of short stuff, flash fiction and one-off blog posts and whatnot, and within a calendar year, that grows to be about book-sized, so I put it in a book and release it.  It’s sort of the same concept as a comedian developing a set, and then when they get a strong hour, they shoot a special.  And, if you’re Louie C.K., you shoot the special, declare the hour officially dead, and move on to the next one, tabula rasa-style.  I love that concept. The tough part is that I can’t go to a shitty comedy club and try out my material bit-by-bit in front of a Tuesday crowd.  I have to develop it with no input, then put it out there and hope you guys read it and give me back comments.

And here’s the real problem: I have all of these half-dead projects.  I started writing in 1993, and I now have seven books: two “real” novels, two of these roll-up collections, and three that are more or less non-fiction.  I feel like if I’ve been writing more or less every year (with the whole day job thing) I should have more than that.  And I do, but it’s all in incomplete projects.

I did a survey of all of this yesterday.  It’s depressing that I have 320,000 words invested in projects that will most likely never see the light of day.  But it’s a learning experience, and when I crack open old stuff, it makes me see I’m learning something.  And it’s good to know my time went somewhere.

Anyway, for your amusement, here’s the list.  Maybe if I officially say all of these are dead, I can get the monkey off my back and work on the next thing.

The Device

  • Started in 1998
  • Tried restarting in 2001, 2002
  • 30,000 words

This was an offshoot of Rumored to Exist, an attempt to add a plot to the nonlinear book that got too overbearing, and got split off into its own book. The basic “plot” had to do with someone coming back from the future and interacting with themselves in the past.  This was one of my first attempts to write a strictly plotted book, and it failed miserably, but I came back and revisited it at least a couple of times. There might be a few paragraphs of this that are usable elsewhere, but there really isn’t even a structure to build on to revive the book in any way.

The Device, mk2 (aka Zombie Fever)

  • Started around 2004
  • Last worked on in 2008
  • 72,930 words

A guy who is retired from the army is called back by the president to take out a drug cartel leader who only eats at Carl’s Jr, and ends up uncovering a conspiracy involving Nazi UFOs from the South Pole.  It has nothing to do with zombies, but that name got stuck on the project as a working title. The first third of the draft was pretty complete; the second part wavered, and the last third was barely plotted.  Big elements of this story ended up being reused in the short story “My Friend, The Jihadist”, which is included in Fistful of Pizza. There are other pieces that beg to be reused elsewhere, like a whole bit on Anthony Bourdain’s khmer rouge-themed restaurant on the Vegas strip, and a president who spends all of his time playing freecell while his secretary of defense wants to nuke Canada.

Six Year Plan

  • Started, sort of, in 1994
  • Still keep puttering with it
  • 88,934 words

This is a short story collection of things that took place during my college years in Bloomington.  One of the stories was the original short story “Summer Rain”, which was later developed into my first book.  Maybe half of these stories appeared in Air in the Paragraph Line over the years.  I’ve never been happy with the quality of the stories, and this type of writing isn’t really “me” anymore, so it’s hard to justify the six months it would take to beat this into a great book.

Voodoo Sex Fire

  • Nano 10 book
  • 51,636 words

This book is about a group of hackers that are trying to destroy this Glenn Beck-like character because the main character’s friend has a sex machine business that got shut down by the guy’s insane fans.  There are bits of genius that get incredibly bogged down in the attempt to follow the Joseph Campbell hero’s journey plot structure too much.  My favorite part is when the characters play a video game called Fuck Shit Up, which is loosely based on the first RoboCop movie, except you’re one of the bad guys looting and destroying Detroit.

Arylcyclohexylamine Is Not a Flower

  • Nanowrimo 11 book
  • Worked on for a few days of November, 2011
  • 20,000 words

This is an absurdist zombie book.  It’s a very stereotypical zombie story where a group of teens take a roadtrip across a post-apocalyptic America to go to a secret government lab outside of Vegas to help a scientist develop the cure.  There are a lot of bizarre elements, like that their shop teacher is Charles Manson and all of his dialogue is quotes from Geraldo interviews, and the zombie virus was spread by a hamburger chain’s genetically-modified meat.  Part of me wants to eventually finish this.

Heavy Metal Hell

  • Started in about 2006
  • A completely new draft and new outline was my Nano 09 book
  • 64,692 words

This is a book similar to Summer Rain, but it takes place immediately before college.  Book 1 is a semester of my junior year; book 2 is senior year; book 3 is the summer between HS and college.  I wanted to capture what it was like to be a heavy metal fan in a nowhere town in Indiana in the 80s, and that desire to get the hell out.  This book is very plotless and difficult for me to even look at.

“Book 3”

Just a brief mention that I have about 30,000 words in a book that’s mostly a collection of surreal scenes that don’t entirely flow together. I have vague hopes that at some point, I will find a structure to stitch all of this together into a Rumored-type book. Time will tell.


2 responses to “List of Books I Have Not Completed”

  1. L Swastikkko Avatar
    L Swastikkko

    I know you don't write for readers or for financial success. I'm sure I would enjoy some of the heavy metal stuff, because, like, I was there man. But if you ever think about readers and that topic, well, I think you'll realize it was a small market for the music back then, and half of that market wasn't into reading. In the past 20 years, a good bit of the potential market has died. Another bit refuses to acknowledge they were into it. So, you have like me, Ray, and about 4 other dudes. I guess like death metal itself, nearly everyone who might buy it will have some claim to a discounted copy. It didn't work for Richard C. I don't know if I have a point.

    1. The hopes on a book like that is that it's not about heavy metal, it's a coming-of-age thing that happens to have heavy metal in it, so even if you don't like the music, you can relate to the emotion of it. John did that with Small Town Punk, and I didn't listen to all of that music back in the 80s, but I related to the book. But people have such a revulsion to metal, and the ones that maybe like it in some revisionist sense like the things like Poison or Motley Crue. It's cool to write about punk though, and it has a much more supportive ecosystem, although he did get unending shit from the Hot Topic crowd that "this isn't punk!"

      I started writing that book partly out of a "write what you know" thing (which is retarded – it's not like Tolstoy personally experienced the war of 1812 and War and Peace turned out fine) but part of it was this theory that if I wrote the damn book, even if I never published it, I would stop revisiting the idea of trying to write that book. What I have of that book is horrible, extremely unplotted and impossible to read, so there's no danger of me ever finishing it. But I've realized that this is the kind of writing I don't want to do anymore, so no plans to revisit it.