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?

On Giving Advice

I started this about a bit of writing advice I saw, though I think it can be stretched a bit to other things, to a point. I got done with it, and despite the headache and the way I feel right now, I thought that it was something worth sharing here, too.

I just got done seeing another bit of writing advice, and I’ve actually had this conversation and see the person’s point. Mom could attest to that, if I was going to be more specific, but I don’t want to start anything and it’s not just this one post I saw that I found upsetting. Still, Mom and I discussed the issue before, and as I said, we sort of reached the same conclusion this person had reached.

Only I did not and do not agree with the way they said it.

Here’s the thing:

Advice is your opinion.

You have experience. You know things. You’ve seen it or discussed it.

You have that knowledge. You have things you can share. You have strong feelings about it.

I get it.

Just remember, this advice you’re giving doesn’t always work for everyone. Your opinion is no more law than the one you’re so very against.

Stop and think about the words you’re using (yes, this is ironic about a post for word choice) and remember, you are talking to an audience. Maybe even a young one. An aspiring author can be more fragile than you realize.

Many writers take years to hone their skills. My skills now compared to what I did when I started are very different.

Back then, though, if I’d seen someone call the way I’d been taught to write what this post did, I’d have been crushed. Even now, after making the changes I have and even following this advice of theirs to a point, I feel hurt.

I just think that people need to remember that it is not just about what they have to say but how they say it.

You can ruin the best, most necessary advice, the thing someone needs to hear if you say it wrong.

So consider what you’re saying. How you’re saying it. Think about how it may impact someone. If you are speaking to be a force for good, do your words reflect that?

I hope mine do. I hope if anyone does read my advice it makes them think, but it doesn’t make them hurt.

Once More with Questions Instead of Actual Writing

Though in part I’m trying to drum up some inspiration for finishing the sequel to Forgotten Legacy I started forever ago and can’t get far into. It’s a wonderful idea, I think, but I can’t seem to get it going.

And this makes me very sad.

So… I am doing another OTP list with Carson and Mackenna. 😛

OTP Questions

1. What is their favourite thing to cook for one another? As a joke, finnian haddie. Though he hates it, she just likes to do it because of her grandfather and their original teasing about it.

2. If they went to a fair, what would they do? Despite a slight fear of heights, they’d do the ferris wheel. And they’d eat cotton candy and walk the booths. They’d be an attraction in of themselves because they do this in costume sometimes. Especially at the end of the car run.

3. How do they make each other smile? By smiling. Teasing. Funny socks. Card games. Making fun of his brothers. Doing their song game. Pretending they can dance. Doing just about anything to get the required reaction out of Mac.

4. Who likes to give forehead kisses? He does, being taller. She can only do it when he’s sitting so it’s a bit awkward.

5. If they got a couple tattoo, what would they get? They wouldn’t get a permanent one, though she might talk him into a henna one for a while as a part of something. Makenna will try a lot of stuff because she has a need to prove she’s brave even though everyone knows she is.

6. Would one of them want them to coordinate their outfits? She did, quite famously, as they were the talk of the town in their matching period costumes for the run and they’ve only made more of them as time goes on, for other cars and time periods and thier wedding. He was resistant at first but he likes it more now. He also really likes her in costume so he will do just about anything to see it.

7. What would they binge watch on Neflix? Old movies with Mac. Things her grandmother loved.

8. What do they do when it’s a rain day? They’ll play cards with Mac or the boys at the Legion. Mackenna can’t work on the Maxwells so she does other things to keep herself busy.

9. Who kisses the other person’s cheek before they fall asleep? Depends on who falls asleep first. Whoever’s awake last usually will before dosing off.

10. Who tickles the other when they are feeling sad to cheer them up? Mackenna will get his feet sometimes but she’s the more ticklish one, to her endless dismay.

As an Example

I decided to go ahead and post something that I was talking about before, as writing is… well, it’s not happening so far this weekend. Work is still giving me trouble and so is life.

Still, I mentioned before that there are questions and stuff in addition to prompts, and this is an example of what I mean. I didn’t make the list, but it’s kind of fun to answer them, and I’ll just do one set, for a familiar couple, that of Carson and Mackenna from Forgotten Legacy, with a few mentions of how her grandfather sees their actions, of course.

Otp Questions

1. Who is more nervous on their first date? Carson. He feels he has a lot to make up for because of the mess he drew them both into and his lingering issues after the discovery they made about his father. Mackenna tries to talk him out of this, but he has a hard time accepting it.

2. Who can’t stop giggling when their partner kisses them all over their face? Neither of them, as Carson would never make that kind of move, and Mackenna wouldn’t, either.

3. Who accidentally wears the other’s hat one day? Mackenna, though it was hardly accidental. She took his “zoot suit” hat he has for when they drive the Airstream and paired it with her dress as a joking thing like they were more Bonnie and Clyde than they ever could be.

4. Who is in love with the other person’s laugh? Carson, because Mackenna’s laugh is somewhat melodic and definitely infectious.

5. Who covers the other person with a blanket when they fall asleep somewhere other than their bed? Both of them. He’ll find her outside sleeping in one of the Maxwells and cover her up or join her, and since he still has bad dreams, she’ll do it for him if he falls asleep somewhere strange, too.

6. Who cracks open their beverage before handing it to their partner? She does. It’s a running joke that she’s stronger than him, which she usually threatens to end that argument with one of her wrenches. Mac watches them and tells them no blood on the cars.

7. What dance moves do they break out on the dancefloor together? Oh, they can’t dance. They both have vague hopes of learning someday, as Mackenna’s period outfits kind of ask for it, but she never learned and he can barely shuffle, especially if his brothers are “cheering” him on. Their wedding dance was very difficult for them.

8. What would be their dream vacation? They really bonded over his antique car, and they’re still restoring it, but the plan is to take it around and show it off when they’re done.

9. If they tried to do the yoga couple’s challenge, how would they do? Terrible. Not that Mackenna would ever be caught dead doing yoga. That’s so very much not her.

10. Where do they spend most of their time together? Carson moved in to Mac’s farm when they married, and that’s their home. Mackenna does her restoration work there, and while Carson’s still floating between careers after quitting his last one over a matter of conscience, he always tries to help even if he’s far from mechanically inclined.

11. Who runs their thumb over the other person’s skin to comfort them? He does. Mackenna’s not big on huge gestures of affection or being weak in front of anyone, but that’s a small enough thing it’s prefect for them.

12. Who accidentally falls asleep on the other? Mostly Mackenna. She’s a workaholic who gets really wrapped up in her restorations and it’s physically taxing work so she doesn’t realize how drained she is until they sit down after supper and she passes out on him. Mac grunts, but Carson just smiles and lets himself doze off with her. He’s been known to fall asleep on her, too.

13. Who would run a bath for the other person? Carson. He’ll do one for her after a long day of her working, and she rolls her eyes and makes jokes about how he must think she smells and he just shakes his head until Mac tells her to wash up for dinner.

14. What would their wedding look like? It was period. Mackenna made a dress with the help of Carson’s sister-in-law Carrie that went along with the Maxwells. He dressed up and got a top hat. They made papers. It humiliated them both, but they were adorable, aside from the really awkward wedding dance.

15. Who would try to do something artsy for their partner and just before they were going to throw it out because they thought it sucked, their partner comes in and loves the art piece? Carson. He considers himself very untalented, but Mackenna loved its hideousness and kept it. Mac banned it to the barn, though.

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.