Why Two Stories Can Be Better than One

It has been a while since I did a bit like this, but I’ve had some random thoughts these days about various things related to writing. I’ve been thinking about writing a lot lately, largely because I’m not doing as much as I’d like and because I’m in yet another one of those phases where I can’t see my writing clearly and it’s just awful.

So there are a few things I do when this happens, and I don’t know if they would work for anyone else, but I’ll talk about one of them now anyway.

This is something basic, at least to me, and something I do anyway, most of the time, at least. It’s partially because I’m a multitasker. I window flip like crazy when I’m writing or I play on my phone. I can’t do just one thing at once. It’s kind of annoying, to be honest. Still, this long ago led me to work on at least two stories at once.

Crazy, some say. Most people I mention this to tell me they can barely work on one, and I understand because I have those times myself. However, for the most part, I don’t do well unless I can flip between at least two stories. I can run three. I’ve also run four, but I don’t recommend it. That was hard for me, and I’m a fast, compulsive writer.

I like having at least two stories to switch between as it can help when I get stuck on one story to change to another. Another reason I do it is because I need what I call a “palate cleanse.” What I mean by that is that sometimes stories can take emotional tolls on me as a writer or at least on the characters, and I need a break to clear my head, maybe chase away some negativity, and come back to it later. So it’s easier to have something to work on in the meantime. It shifts the tone, keeps things from getting too dark, and it can help unravel the knots in another story.

That’s part of why I like prompts so much. They can jumpstart those bits that need to be unraveled. It can help the shift between stories or just find a way back into older ones. I haven’t had much success with that of late, but I am back where I have more than one story going, and it is somewhat of a relief.

(It’s also very much not because now I have two stories to angst about and wonder if they’re any good and worth continuing.)

I won’t tell anyone that they have to start a second story when they’re stuck or that they should write two at once unless they’re comfortable with it. Still, I find it can be helpful, so I’m putting it out there as a possibility.

One thing I will also say is that mixing genres is a gray area here. I write sci fi, mysteries, and historical fiction, sometimes in combination, and one thing I have noticed is that some don’t mix well. For instance, historical and non-historical are particularly difficult to pair up because you’ll forget that the technology didn’t exist or you’ll change speech patterns and even topics of conversation that weren’t popular at the time. Or there’s advanced technology or abilties in sci fi that aren’t there in a different story. On the other hand, it can also be a great palate cleanse to jump from a historical to a modern or vice versa. It can be quite liberating one way or another.

Oh… I may also need to add this disclaimer, and for the most part my fic readers aren’t available to ask, but I would caution against expecting someone to read both stories at the same time, if you are fortunate enough to have someone who reads your stuff in progress. (And if you do have such a person, thank them and value them.) Still, some will, and that’s also very nice (and rare) and quite possibly more valuable than any suggestion of two stories could ever be.

It occurs to me that if you wanted to see an example of me doing two stories at once, I already have one in place on the site. I wrote A Perfect Sunset and The Stolen Name at the same time. I had two ideas, couldn’t pick, didn’t feel like I could disappoint the few people who voted in my poll, so I wrote them both.

I guess it worked out, right?

Things in the Works

I suppose it’s too soon to tell, but along with coming home from vacation with a cold and a migraine, I did come back with a renewed dedication to getting some stuff in order for publishing more stories and fixing other files.

I mean, I’ve been saying for years there’s an updated look for the site we were going to do.

We’ve changed at least two covers that need to be fixed, and at least one other is in progress.

Today some progress was made, and if things go well, there will be another book in print officially, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself in saying stuff.

Also, I am hoping or maybe just debating starting up a new serial.

And if the migraine ever lets up, maybe I can get back to the Kabobbles Sing Along Album Challenge.

Vacation Saga Day Fourteen: The Cold that Nearly Thwarted the Drive Home

So I woke up feeling a bit icky again Saturday morning, with either a migraine forming or just the head cold being obnoxious. It was not a great feeling, but I was able to help load up the car, prompting Grandpa to state that there was no way we’d had all that stuff in the bedroom, but we had.

We shared my leftover shrimp pasta for breakfast, and it was super yummy. Then we headed out, stopping for some Caribou and to shop our favorite store, Vintage Point. There was a lot of neat stuff there, and we surprised them by telling them we were driving back. They even said they would have opened early for us to get on the road. That was nice of them, and we got some neat stuff, much more than we should have.

We were almost on the road when I remembered the lefse, so we stopped and got some. We even picked up lunch from the charity fundraiser for homeless kids outside the store.

We went on, making our usual stop at the Redlin center in Watertown. It’s always beautiful to see, even if I’ve looked at the paintings before. They usually have different stuff in the gift shop, and this time was no exception. We had a hard time choosing our one souvenir for the trip and heading out.

I drove for a bit after that, since Mom figured I should try before I got really bad, and my headache was not terrible at that point. So I drove until Sioux Falls, but that was as much as I could do as I was getting nauseous. The cinnamon roll might have helped a little, since I was able to resume driving after Sioux City, but I only lasted to a rest area outside Lincoln and that was it.

I was getting worse cold-wise and very not up to much because of my head hurting. The attempt to nap failed completely because I’d start sneezing or coughing and couldn’t rest. I doubt Mom got much rest, either, but she continued on anyway.

I kept trying to be better enough to drive again, but it didn’t happen. Mom had to drive all the way back home, and once there, I took some extra strength cold medicine and went to bed.

But we made it home safely despite the cold and my inability to drive, so there’s that. Now to resume life as usual and all the projects I left behind.

Vacation Saga Day Thirteen: Catch of the Day: Dirt

So the cold that I’d sort of felt coming on for a while really decided it wanted to come in full force on Friday. I did not want to get up at all I felt that icky.

I did, and after breakfast and a bit of repacking, I went out to join Grandpa in the sorting process again. I knew he wasn’t going to stop until he had it done, and as much as Mom’s suggestion of staying in bed so I could be rested up appealed to me, I went out to help.

It was not the funnest job ever, but I made enough progress so we could take my bucket and fill the holes in the yard where Grandpa wanted them filled in, and then I sorted more.

I ran out of space in my bucket a second time, so I went back and finished up the yard with what I had, filling in as much as I could, and then I helped finish up the last of the sorting. It took most of the day to do it, ending just in time to watch Let’s Make a Deal.

I showered off the dirt, and we went out for dinner, trying for an early bird’s special at Red Lobster, but it was the wrong day for that, apparently, as it was Friday. I ended up with the usual, since I am such a creature of habit.

Grandpa had avoided my choice as he felt his Walt’s favorite were soggy last time, but they were fine to me. I even made one of mine do a little dance on its way to the cocktail sauce (I was feeling a little silly as I was sick.) It was a bit too much food, as usual, but the best part of meals like that is that they’re two meals, and I can enjoy the next one later.

We were leaving in the morning, but I figured it would be a good breakfast, so I kept it.

After we got back, we played cards. Whist went badly again (I may never win a second time) but I won dimes, so I guess there is that.

Vacation Saga Day Twelve: I Still Don’t Understand Yardwork

So Grandpa had done part of the edging while we were gone, but there was more to finish with an extension cord. It was about as easy as it was the first time, at least when it came to the parts not along the driveway, which was newer.

We had finished most of the front when one of Grandpa’s neighbors came over and offered a power edger. Mom told him we were almost done, but he told us to tell Grandpa not to be shy about asking to borrow it.

I kind of wish we had because Grandpa gave us more to do when we finished the first part. We did that, too, and I carried back the extra dirt only to learn that Grandpa wanted to sort it out to use to fill in holes.

Sorting dirt.

Grandpa and I sat with buckets and separated it from the old grass, sifting it through grates. I got half a bucket the first day and then we ended up taking a break to run some errands.

So I escaped the pile of dirt temporarily, but it was not to last. There was more for the next day.

Vacation Saga Day Eleven: Reality Invades

So we really wanted to stay another day at the lake, but Mom forgot something important at Grandma and Grandpa’s, so we had to go back as things were due by the end of the day.

I had an errand of my own, something to mail, so after our semi-lazy breakfast, Kathy was going to let me use her printer to print out the label.

Well… that turned into a project because the computer downstairs was dead, and the new printer did not want to install properly. We had to go through it twice and it errored twice, but in the end, I got my label printed, my package packed, and we were set to go.

We had a brief stop to make to get our maple cookies, as that store in Detroit Lakes is one of few that has them all the time, and so we were there when we finally heard from my uncle and ended up stopping at his house to see him and my other aunt on our way out of town.

So we almost spent the whole day at the lake again in spite of things, but we made it back to town for the necessary things, got Grandpa a second battery for his spedometer, and ended the evening quietly again.

Vacation Saga Day Ten: Quiet Day at the Lake

One of these days, I’ll take a working vacation that just means writing.

I almost had that kind of day out at the lake.

There was a bit of a storm overnight. It didn’t last terribly long, but it was rather loud with thunder and lightning and heavy rain while it did last.

I was awake for it, though it wasn’t a long storm. We rose leisurely, had breakfast of puffy pancakes even more slowly.

I camped out in the chair, feet up, and worked on my story. I had some background stuff I wanted to get down for my latest bit of inspiration. Sadly, I haven’t finished anything I started before or done much work on the Kabobbles Sing Along Challenge, either. It’s been a bit hard to etch out writing time in amongst my other projects, and looking up lyrics and stuff… not as easily done as when I’m at home.

I did get some quality cat time with my aunt’s cat who looks a lot like mine (seriously, this cat could be a triplet with Maxwell and Stranger.) That was nice, as I’ve been missing my cat like crazy.

I even took a nap since I was falling asleep attempting to write.

We ended the night out on the deck in front of the fire, talking and drinking our Skips. It was a good, relaxing time that I think we really needed.

Vacation Saga Day Nine: The End of One Journey

It took a while to get started, seeing as it was a long day before in some ways and also because the main task of the day was to unload the Maxwell and it was not possible to back up into the driveway because there were cars in the way.

It was about lunch time and rather hot by the time we got started, but the car went into the driveway easily enough, with Grandpa’s neighbor advising him to “gun it.”

We unloaded the Maxwell, got it started and backed into the garage with only a few minor hiccups in it not wanting to go down the trailer ramp (need more muscles, perhaps?) and Grandpa called it the end of the journey.

Then Mom asked him if we were putting the trailer back, and he said, “Oh.”

So we had to back the trailer in a bit more. I misunderstood when I was told to watch the fender (I was watching the trailer, not the Acadia.) Grandpa was a bit frustrated, but we cleared that up, and I stood in my proper place, making sure that he didn’t hit the house. It was difficult to get the trailer just where it was wanted and usually stored as “the house was in the way.”

Grandpa even asked us to move it.

But we got the trailer in place and Grandpa said, “Now it’s the end of the journey.”

So we went inside to cool off and ended up confirming plans with my aunt to head out to the lake since Grandma and Grandpa had a day trip to go on. After some more confusion there and a promise to finish edging, we left to go out to the lake.

It was very hot, so we didn’t feel like cooking and went out to dinner at a place on the other lake. Mom and Kathy got experimental with jalapeno Bison burgers (one with peanut butter, one with cream cheese) that they split half and half and deluxe bloody Marys. I got popcorn shrimp that was very tasty and a Lake Breeze Cocktail that was rather good but I forget all that was in it.

I didn’t get carded for once, which made me strangely happy.

Afterward, we came back, made skips, and sat up talking for a while before eventually calling it a night. I guess that’s the end of another kind of journey as well.

Vacation Saga Day Eight: Pancake Machine for the Win

I didn’t really sleep after the car run. I wanted to, rather desperately I might even say, but it just didn’t happen. It was a combination of the snores and whimpering going on around me from my room companions (Mom and Grandpa were snoring, Grandma was apparently in pain and making other noises) and the room, which was excessively musty as well as the people making noise in the halls. The joys of staying a hotel, am I right?

Still, while I didn’t sleep, I wasn’t insta-migrained, which was nice, so I was in a decent enough mood in the morning. I wanted coffee so I followed Mom down to the continental breakfast and got some while she got hot tea for herself.

And then we saw it. A pancake maker, but not one like we’d seen before. This was no pour in batter and flip it when the light went off or a wafflemaker, either. This was an assembly line for pancakes. You pushed the button and it dispensed the batter, sending down a small conveyor and heating it until it was brown, dropping it out on your plate. This thing was fun to watch, even if I wasn’t in the mood for pancakes. Mom said they tasted good.

I told Grandpa about it back at the room, then Mom and I took some bags out to the car to load up. We rejoined them in the breakfast room, and I found Grandpa at the machine. I asked if he’d had any yet, and he said, “Only eight.”

I laughed. That thing was pretty neat.

We got underway again, did our usual stop in Rogers for antiques, found lots of neat things I would have bought, and a couple I did (I gave into my vinyl obsession again but I held my ground when they tried to be ridiculous about a record) and we made it home without any incident, though admittedly, by the time we left the second antique store, a migraine was forming. I definitely had one by the time we stopped for lunch, so I skipped eating.

We made it back to Fargo okay and made an easy night of it, with me attempting to nap away the migraine after unloading the car and not accomplishing it.

We played cards. I lost. Twice.

I still want a pancake machine.

Vacation Saga Day Seven: In Which We Really Nearly Die

So I said we almost died on Friday.

And part of that was a joke, at least about the hot air balloon. The other stuff could have been fatal.

Still, it was nothing in comparison to how the run turned out this year. Usually the run is fun but tiring. This year… it was a bit more on the scary and terrifying and I’m going to cry scale.

It didn’t start out that way. Granted, I almost forgot my purse in the Acadia, but I sold some books before the starting gun, so it was good and I got my purse just in time. Our trip to Grove City was without incident. We had our coffee and treats and moved on to Litchfield (being about the last car to leave Grove City, actually.)

We made it to Litchfield, took our break, had our cookies, did the annual peek at the GAR museum. Then I got to drive out of Litchfield.

Someone asked me (I don’t think they believed I knew how to drive the Maxwell, but that’s something different) how I drove a car that was older than me. I said, “Very carefully.”

There’s a part of me that wanted to say “the same way I drive any car,” but my car is automatic and not quite older than me (It’s only twenty years old, not a hundred ten.)

I made it out well without grinding any gears (near flawless performance, even got complimented) and drove without trouble into Kingston. Though I normally drive from Kingston into close to Buffalo, Grandpa decided to do that this year.

The route to the high school this time had a roundabout in it. It was fairly close to it and possibly unavoidable, but still… a roundabout. The Maxwell is not the easiest car to stop and restart, and we ended up almost getting hit by a truck that we should have yielded to. Scare number one.

We continue on, eat lunch without incident, and I get to drive again, but of course this time with everyone watching, I can’t find second and grind gears a little. I even had trouble trying to find third and had to start over once we were on the road some.

Despite this, we reached the Hanover stop safely.

Grandpa resumes the driving and we head to Crystal. We have an issue going through the lights on the way there, as Grandpa apparently didn’t want to stop for one of the red lights when the side traffic was clear but there was a jogger and a bicyclist coming and he could have hit them. They were not pleased.

We get closer to Crystal, and here is where we find trouble. A train stops on the tracks, and we were forced to find an alternate route into the stop. We were lead by the tow driver and at one point lost them for a bit which was a little scary. And then we got there and stopped only to find when we left again that the train was still stopped and we couldn’t get past it to get back on the route.

We had to figure out a plan, and it would have been several plans at once except no one knew what to do, but then Mom spoke to the hamm operatior and he led us out and back to the route.

Well, that should have been the end of it, but something went wrong and the car we were following missed the turn. The tow driver came up to help but they ended up leading us way down a path we never go on that was through some creepy places in the city and was really uncomfortable, like people might just come up to the car and reach in, some even came pretty close to it at a stop light.

We continued on, still pretty far from the route, and I knew we were not on it. I was really worried, and we lost a car along the way (I guess they decided to go another way and they did get there faster.) Joe kept checking his GPS and sending Pat updates, and maybe we should have let him lead us with the route he saw, but I think maybe Grandpa liked being behind the tow driver because they did block intersections for us. It still wasn’t great because the car in front of us was too lost without them and slowed down too often and on hills and stuff and almost caused accidents themselves when we couldn’t help getting close to them as they were driving rather erratically because they kept looking for the car behind us or the tow truck. Still, we stuck with the tow truck and eventually made it there, though just about everyone had given up on us and assumed we were out of the run.

Admittedly, so did I at parts because we were so lost and we were not going toward places I recognized and I was sure one of those stop signs or lights would be an accident. I had lots of fun panicking in the back of the Maxwell.

Grandpa made thirty-two out of thirty-two, though.