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.

Alternate Universes, Nano, and the Loss of a Cat

Yesterday we lost a cat we’d had in the family for twelve years. He was fifteen. He was very sick, but that doesn’t make it easier. He was a sweetheart and a favorite and I used to spoil him almost as much as I do the namesake of Kabobbles. (I’ve been telling that cat he’s not allowed to die and better not even be thinking of it. He glares at me, but he’s gotten very skinny in his old age and he worries me.)

I flailed desperately for some kind of distraction. I was having a hard enough time before we came home from my sister’s, but when we were home, everything reminded me of Leo and it was worse.

Incidentally, crying with a chest cold is very painful.

So while we watched a movie, an old standby favorite that is one of our cheer up or “feel good” movies, it wasn’t enough. I didn’t have the ability to play computer games or read, couldn’t focus.

I wanted desperately to write. I started considering every possible angle I could after I failed to find any prompts online that I could use and annoyed a few friends asking for them. I thought of trying to create an alternate universe for some of my characters, only the ones that need it the most were ones I couldn’t bring myself to write for, much as I like them.

I would have done things with the original Effie Lincoln and Nick Tennant because their story is tragic and they should have a world where they have a happy ending, but I couldn’t get myself to do anything on it.

I almost went back to this project I had… a project I shouldn’t have started, in retrospect because I did it for all the wrong reasons (albeit subconsciously, my conscious mind didn’t think of them until much after the fact.) I’d just ended it the night before because I figured stopping myself was better, and I was only going to take away from it the basic satisfaction that if it had been my Nano project I’d have gotten 50,000 words on it. I don’t think I would have counted them, but I did have that. Only thing is… I did so much wrong with it that I couldn’t go back in even with the loose threads and the possible domestic cuteness it offered.

So then I went back to a few older pieces, not thinking I would do much of anything, but my brain actually came up with an explanation for the world in Even Better than Dreams that I liked and could run with. I talked it over some this morning, and I think I will try to resume my edits there. I really like Tolan, and I am looking forward to doing more with him, though it’s dangerous because he could end up taking over the story.

I owe Leo, I guess, because even in the darkness of that moment when I was missing him so much and needing a distraction… a bit of light came, and when I feel up to it, I’m putting him in a story to honor him. I don’t know when I’ll be able to do that as thinking of him still makes me cry, but I will.

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.

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?

I Wanna Get Married

So lately, I’ve been working on a lot of historical fiction.

It has been a process that is teaching me better ways of researching and put me in contact with my local museum and got me volunteering, all of that fun. It has also forced me to look at traditional roles.

People who listen to this song are going to laugh, as it is a spoof, and it’s a good one. The thing is, though, that this type of attitude was common, expected, and encouraged back in the times that I’ve been dealing with. To go against it would have invited considerable censure and ostracism. Today if the woman was to think this way, we’d mock her just like the song does.

Yet, this is the role that women like Tillie, Mena, and to a degree even Lady Nichols would have been expected to fill and enjoy. It’s hard to find that balance between what was and what we would like to see today.


Kabobbles Sing Along is just what I think when I hear songs. I sometimes see images when I hear lyrics, pictures or movies in my head. Sometimes I relate it to stories. My interpretation of the songs and lyrics are probably nothing like their original intent.

November Really *Is* the Novel Writing Month

So, I thought I’d sit down and total up what I wrote all through the month of November, aka Nanowrimo, the National Novel Writing Month.

Ready to be stunned and amazed?

Well, perhaps not.

In case you’re not aware of it, I finished three novels in the month, so…

Any Other Reality, Nano, completely done in November = 67,807
The words I added to All the Men in My Life = 43,961
The words I added to In the Family = 76,307
The words added to The Monster in My Garden Shed = 25,864

Total for original fiction last month = 213,669

Two hundred thousand words, lol. I could have won Nano four times, I suppose. I’m just pleased with my overall turnout this month.  Now to get the editing going…