The Need for Outside Impetus

I think we all know the feeling. We have something we need or want to do, but we just don’t have it in ourselves to do it on our own.

I say a lot that writing is my coping mechanism. It’s a lot of things for me. Relaxation, productivity, sanity. I write not just because I want to, but because I need to. It can be close to a compulsion.

There are times, however, when that need to write is not enough on its own.

There are times when as much as I try, I can’t get myself unstuck or focused enough to write something, even if that something is a short scene. I try, but it’s not in me. Sometimes the stress of everything is too much, sometimes I’m feeling guilty about all the stories I want to work on and can’t, and sometimes it’s complete lack of inspiration. It’s other things, too. I could list other reason, but it doesn’t change the main point, which is, of course, that sometimes it is almost impossible to get stuff done without help.

Sometimes all we need is a bit of encouragement.

Sadly, that is usually not enough for me, though I do appreciate the moral support.

I have been forced to admit that I don’t make much of any progress on my own. I tend to hate everything I write and think it’s nowhere near good enough. I need help to get past that and finish things, which is why I’m always looking for someone who will read the story as I go along and tell me it’s not as bad as I think.

I also am almost always looking for prompts. I love prompts. I can’t always use them, but I so often need something outside of me to get me writing, and prompts are wonderful for that. Sometimes they help me find the bit I’m stuck on. Sometimes they get a bit more backstory out of me. Or sometimes I just get to revisit characters whose story is already done.

(Or I get tempted into new stories, which is not as good, but writing is writing.)

Of late, I had been so stuck it was painful. I couldn’t write. I had been making some progress on one of my old starts that had stalled, but that died out between horrible work schedules and stress and the usual suspect: depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, a friend had mercy on me and arranged a promptathon, and while I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to give any useful prompts, I found some lyrics to share and passed them on. And I’ve made an effort at filling a few prompts myself. I haven’t really felt like what I did was much good, but I tried.

I’m writing again, that’s the main thing. I needed help to do it, and I got it. For that, I am very grateful.

Even if I am currently afraid I won’t be able to do anything for the other prompts or keep going after I’ve run out of prompts.

Writing Is Grieving

Writing has long been my preferred coping mechanism. People who wonder at my output shouldn’t necessarily do so. I have a long standing habit of using writing to cope with life or escape it, and while I’m told it’s not really normal to write when one is grieving, that it should be impossible, I’m not that way.

I’ve been writing. I need to try and write again. I won’t speak to the quality of it, and I’m not sure I’d share it, yet I find myself needing to do something to that effect. That is… I’ve lost my way again, and I don’t know how to keep the writing going.

Arthur is gone. That hurts so much I swear I would just shut down and cease to function myself (he was my symbiote, my other half, I am NOT okay with him gone) and the only way I know of coping with this sort of emotional duress is writing.

I may need help with that, though. My ideal thing would be to send fic bits to someone and have them tell me what they thought, but even just having some direction would be okay. Prompts, suggestions, stories someone wants to see more of, anything. Make me finish a challenge or do a bingo card. Something. Maybe I can do it for someone else because doing it just for myself isn’t working.

Arthur would be here, now, snuggling next to me and trying to block my keyboard, trying to make me feel better. He’s not here. I need something else, something that helps fill the gaping hole where he was… or just something to make me forget it’s there for a few minutes.

Now If I Only Had a Novel…

I have a migraine-threatening headache, but no story to turn into a novel, at least not at present.

I would say, with some minor pride, that if I had a project for Nano this year, I’d be on track for it, as I have managed about nine thousand words since the beginning of the month. Sadly, though, it’s been on more than one story, and the bulk of which comes from something that could not be counted for Nano anyway.

*sigh*

I do wish I had a project I could write on like a real novel, but I just keep bouncing from project to project without managing to do more than some reading in some cases or a few words or lines in others. I can’t focus, can’t pick, can’t make progress. It’s frustrating, and I feel like my insomnia is tied to it as well, because if I could follow a plot for more than a few minutes, I could fall asleep unraveling it in my head.

As it is, I can’t, and I can’t sleep.

Though it is pretty tempting to try again with this headache.

I miss having an audience and people to bounce ideas off of. I did seem to make better progress when I did have people to ask, but as I’ve managed to alienate most of them, I’d say that’s not going to happen any time soon.

Still… I wouldn’t mind having some kind of direction to try. I seem unable to pick, so maybe I need someone to pick for me. 😛

I miss doing Nano. 🙁

Once More with Coauthor

So, recently, Liana Mir made me insanely happy by asking if I was interested in collaborating with her on a story.

We’d been trading bits and pieces back for a while, mostly me inserting one of my characters into her storyworld and all the chaos that wrought, and before that we’d done a few… sillier pieces involving the Pets of the Unusually Gifted, but we decided to do something together, a whole story and not just a fanfic like one, an original one.

This made me… ecstatic.

You see, for many years, I had a coauthor. A best friend. We started writing together our freshman year in high school, and we built books over the next twelve years, several of them, some better than others, mostly with the same characters.

Then said best friend and I had a huge falling out, and I for my part decided that I could not trust her. For me, then, it was impossible to continue working with her. I didn’t talk to her, either.

Whether that was right or not, it still left me without a coauthor. Those years were… difficult. I won’t lie. It was something I think I needed to have happen because I might never have published Just a Whim if I hadn’t been forced to write on my own for something besides fanfiction. I learned a lot about myself after the collaboration was over, and a great deal of it, I didn’t like.

I made changes. I want to say I grew, but I’m still debating that.

Still, I missed having a coauthor. I’d tried to encourage a few others to work with me in the intervening times, but it never quite worked. I did do a fanfiction with a friend, but we both ended up hating the show by the time it was over, and she has not been able to write for years as well. Others were just not interested or even had bad motives for wanting to work with me.

So it has been a bit of a journey trying to find someone who even wanted to do a piece, and I haven’t even started on how complicated it can be to coauthor something or how difficult I am to work with.

I just am… very grateful, and in my excitement for the project, I think I wrote too much, speedy writer that I am. Still, it means more than I quite know how to say to have a coauthor again. It’s different from what I had before, but I like it. It means a lot to me.

Sequel Psychosis

So I have been caught up lately in something I’ve decided to call “sequel psychosis.”

Basically, what this means is that every time I read something of mine, I want to write more of it. That wouldn’t seem like a bad thing, not necessarily, and if someone was reading it and enjoying it and wanting more, that would be something to be happy about it, right?

The trouble with it, the reason that it is a psychosis, is that there is too much going on already. There’s life, which always has plenty of chaos no matter what point one might be at in it. Then on top of life with its complications of work and family and friends and hobbies, there’s writing.

That is to say, when I got all of these sequel ideas lately, I was already knee-deep in three novels. I have Even Better than Dreams, the current serial. I have the third part of Fire and Water, the one I’m calling The Flood, and the sequel to the recently published The Consultant and the Cat.

However, as I was rereading and doing some editing, I wanted to jump right back into the sequel to Inheritance. I wanted to start in on a sequel to Merits and Means after reading it and attempting a summary for it. I had the start of a summary for its sequel.

Then I wanted to do a third for The Lady in Black and Back in Black because I missed Alec and Stasia and reread their story.

I managed to resist all that. Then I gave Liana Mir a prompt that lead to two stories, and when I considered that with a story I wrote and didn’t think I’d ever publish…

I lost.

I caved.

I wrote a sequel to that.

I am psychotic.

Possible Summary for Merits and Means

So a while back I was fighting insomnia and created this possible summary for a historical fiction I wrote based on a house I’ve given tours of and research the local museum helped me do. (The house tour is here.)

This is for Merits and Means. It’s a historical fiction set in 1902.

Young newlywed Mena Attwater had believed that she had only minor problems, the greatest of these being her neighbor’s inexplicable hatred of her. Cut off from society due to the other woman’s influence, her mind was preoccupied with how she might overcome Mrs. Shaw’s influence and regain her place in society.

Mena and her husband had taken residence in the house that had belonged to Shaw’s sister, but she knew that was not enough reason for the other woman to hate her.

However, their new residence hides more than a few indiscretions behind its fancy facade. Between its surprises and her husband’s secrets, Mena has uncovered more trouble than she ever expected and both their lives might be in danger.

The Recurring Subplot

So I was trying to decide just why I write so many romantic subplots into my stories.

There is the concept of writing what you want to read, of course, but why do I want to read that kind of subplot?

Is it because I am single? Because I’m pushing one of those arbitrary sell-by dates and I’m alone? Because I don’t know what love is?

I have dated. It’s been a while, admittedly, and I think it’s fair to say that what I thought was love wasn’t love. I still don’t know what that’s really like, not personally, and maybe I’m still curious about it, wanting to know what that’s like so I write to define it or even to have the experience through the characters.

I want to deny that. It feels like something to be ashamed of.

I think there is a bit more to it. At least, I hope there is.

I have to do a separate piece on why I choose broken characters, ones that have been through some very hard times in their lives, but I do write them almost too frequently. A part of most of my stories is how they overcome the bad in their lives and get to the end where they have a bit of “happy,” where they are recovering and have hope.

(It occurs to me that I need an article on why I write stories with optimistic endings, too.)

At any rate, I think that people who have been through the kinds of things that my characters have and overcome them deserve to have happy, full lives. That includes love. Not just any love, the kind of love that holds the promise of forever or at least the rest of their lives.

So there’s that. I’m still not sure that’s a good enough reason to include the subplot, but it’s part of why I do, at least.

A friend suggested that I should write stories without it so that people could be fulfilled without that love. I’m not necessarily against the idea, I keep saying I’ll leave the subplot out, but it finds its way back in more often than not.

In cases like that, I blame it on the banter between the characters. They’re not supposed to go there and find that connection, but they do. I say the characters write the story, not me, and they do. Sometimes they see things that I don’t or want things that I wasn’t planning on giving them. Or they’re hurt worse than I knew and need more to heal.

Maybe they’d all revolt if I tried to leave that subplot out? Or maybe they’d be glad? Not that the subplot ever felt forced, not to me, but maybe they’d rather not share that part of their lives. I don’t know.

Then again, by that argument, if the characters didn’t want it, it wouldn’t be there. I could say that it’s not my fault. I almost want to. Then it’s not about me or my issues.

We’ll see what happens next time I start a new story. Maybe the subplot won’t be there. Maybe the characters will keep it out. Maybe I will.

That doesn’t help with the stories that I’ve already written, of course. It doesn’t solve my dilemma with one of the stories I’m currently working on, either. Such a pesky subplot that one.

Old Friends Want New Sequels

Recently, I had to correct the mistake I made in leaving the notes I’d complied while rereading my stories ignored for up to five months. These are my editing notes: typos, poor word choice, missing words or explanations, those sorts of things. All of that I try and pay attention to when I’m reading so that I can help the editing process along. Rereading and editing is my process.

The danger in that, of course, is getting caught up in the stories again. I reintroduce myself to old friends, and the longer it’s been since the last time I read the story, the more I miss the characters.

Now I would love to tell more stories with all those old friends. It’s been too long, though, and I don’t mean just in the sense of how long it’s been since I’ve read the story.

I have this distressing feeling that I would not be able to capture the true essence of the characters after this long away.

Last time I tried to do something with Frankie and Rico from In the Family, Frankie was nothing like herself. Attempts at sequels for The Geek and the Fed and Tearing Down the Pedestals left me with two stories at the same time that were out of character.

On the other hand, I was able to pick up The Lady in Black, The Consultant and the Cat, and Criss-Crossed Paths after years of abandonment and finish them. I think the difference there may be that I had started them by hand, and I had to type them before continuing them, so the flow was still there, the mindset and understanding of the characters.

Starting the sequel to Tearing Down the Pedestals almost immediately after finishing it did not keep Chel and Tremayne in character, though.

So I’m not sure. I don’t know what that elusive quality is that would allow me to pick up where I left off with the characters (or even jumping ahead a little) and keep going.

I want to find it, though. I miss my old friends. I want to continue having adventures with them.

Predictability and Writing: Your Opinion, Please

I recently had the same reaction as Tom Selleck’s character in Her Alibi when a couple of my regular readers had most of my story figured out before I’d written it.

It was predictable. My writing was predictable.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these are smart ladies who tend to figure out the plot of episodes and movies before they’re done. I do the same thing. That is why to me the important part of writing a good story is an enjoyable journey because I can, nine times out of ten, pick out the end of a mystery before it happens or predict that “big” twist that’s coming before the end.

But… to have two stories, back to back, be that predictable, bothers me.

If my writing is predictable, does that mean that I am, in essence, telling a story that I have told before? My characters are similar in many cases (they tend to be broken in some way and recovering from that because I like stories where they overcome that kind of thing in themselves in addition to the stuff around them) and since I write mysteries, predictably, there is a part where they identify the bad guy and the end comes.

I am a bit worried that I’m creating stuff that’s all the same, and who wants to read that?

I thought I’d work more in my science fiction areas or maybe a bit of fantasy to change things up some, but I have a poor track record of finishing my science fiction.

I thought I’d ask, then… How much predictability is too much?

In Her Alibi, his editor tells him its a comforting quality that his readers like. I put the question to all readers. What do you think of predictability?

A Potentially Disturbing Pattern. I Blame Edits…

I was looking at the numbers again. It’s a new month; it means new numbers.

Where does January sit?

Behind November and December, actually. I did finish The Memory Collector in January, and Variety Store was really close (so close that I finished it today), but the official finish count is only one book.

I think, in addition to a few issues with life in general, the main source of the lower number trend was the edits. It takes a bit to go through the stories, reading them, sometimes out loud, to make sure they make sense and are clear, and then I go back in and change whatever I notice as I read them on my phone. Yes, I do read my books on my phone. It’s portable, and it shows me how the epub format is going.

Anyway, here’s the breakdown of what I did in January:

Additions to The Monster in My Garden Shed: 15,902

Near completion of Variety Store:  62,650

Everyday posts to The Not-So-Super Superhero:  38,337

Complete total for The Memory Collector:  42,634

Start for the third Nickel and Dime, tentatively titled Five and Ten:   1,464

Shorts probably to be included later in the Nickel and Dime series:   3,844

Miscellaneous other writings:   13,106

Total:   177,937

Again, lower than the last couple months. I’m not sure if the trend is something that should worry me, if I need to make myself buckle down and accomplish more, or if it’s too soon to tell.

I did a lot of editing, I typed on an older, handwritten story, and there was chaos going on in life as well, and so there are plenty of factors going into the count. I’ll keep an eye on it, though. It should level out somewhere, and that’s really the target.

Besides, the numbers don’t matter so much. It’s quality, not quantity, so that’s part of why editing is so important. Clearly, I haven’t stopped writing, and that’s the main thing.