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?

A Brief Summary of Experience as a Language Student

Mine, mine alone, and I’m not an expert but I saw a post again that irritated me by assuming that people did things wrong by doing what I did daily and had to say something for my own peace of mind.

I took French and Spanish in school. I’m an English speaker by birth but I’ve wanted to learn other languages since I was a kid. Mostly French, but I once had grand ideas about knowing them all. I was going to take my French and Spanish and learn all romance languages. I learned a bit of Dutch because of the guy I was dating. I taught myself some Irish and some Italian for stories. I tried hard to learn Ojibwe/Chippewa as I am of that descent.

Now I’m older and I know I won’t be learning everything, but here’s what I know from my experience…

I was at a point where I would and did think in other languages. I would mix all three of them in the same sentence even though I knew the words in English. I would dream in the other languages.

Even today I will randomly ask “ou est mon -?” Like with my phone, even though the last word is almost always in English. I speak bits and pieces of things in other languages no matter what I’m doing or who I’m with, and yes that can be embarrassing but just because I’m around all English speakers doesn’t mean I won’t mangle some French or Spanish in there.

I am someone who doesn’t use bad language as a rule, but believe me, I abused the heck out of knowing the curse words in my other languages, especially in French at work, I swear.

I read a lot of French in the past, sight translating it. I went crazy and collected French music and sometimes randomly sing it.

My friend is learning Spanish to communicate with her step-mother-in-law, and it has sparked a reawakening of both languages in my mind, not just Spanish. I’m mixing in more words in thoughts and spoken sentences than I have in years.

I find it irritating to be told people don’t act like I did myself and that shouldn’t be in the story. I lived it like this, so it shapes my writing. Maybe I’m not the most popular example, but I’m not invalid, either. I exist. I did this. So people do it.

My point with languages like everything else is that it’s unique to the individual. Someone else’s experience as a bilingual/trilingual will be different from mine, and I accept that. I just wish I wasn’t seeing a very popular post going around telling me what I lived was wrong and telling thousands of writers not to write like I lived.

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.