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Compulsive Stories

So the weekend begins. For me, since I usually work on the weekends, they aren’t such a big deal. Except I have two days off in a row (such luxury! All I have to do is clean house and do homework) and a story in my head talking to me. Or rather, in this tale’s case, talking, while I listen. I’m still trying to stem off the flow on this one. I will begin as soon as finals are over, but before, I need to study. Why are the stories always loudest when we least need them to be? And inversely, they fall silent when there is nothing to do but stare at the blank page or blinking cursor. Frustrations and annoyances.

Yet still I write. So why write? Because ever since I was perhaps ten, I have been telling myself stories at times I couldn’t have a book in my hands. I started to write them on paper much later (from a child’s POV) because I hated physically writing up until I was 14. Mom had to stand over me with a whip and a chair (kidding, kidding!) to get me to put more than two sentences on paper. It wasn’t until I had an English teacher not-my-mother who coaxed a story out of me that I discovered the wonder there is in penning a tale.

But somewhere in the next few years it all went askew, and I wound up writing poetry until I was married and a mother. Then the stories became the thing, although the poetry still kept persisting (against my will, you understand, and rarely shared. Most of it is beyond bad). I don’t believe I ever finished a full story, though. I just wrote beginnings, and genealogies, and maps, and…

It wasn’t until just a couple of years ago that I discovered why I couldn’t finish a story (beyond sheer immaturity, because I know that was part of it). I was outlining and plotting too much on paper. Essentially, by laying out those bare bones, my mind was satisfied, and the tale was told, and my muse said “Oooh! Shiny!” and went on to another project. So it isn’t that I want to be a pantser, it’s that I have to be one. Although with Trickster Noir I learned that I could plot ahead a bit, to keep the tale on track, but not too much.

The other thing I learned about myself during the writing of Trickster (which is now available for purchase, by the way!) is that if I sit down and pound out words, with a set deadline, and few interruptions, I am capable of a prodigious wordcount in relatively little time. I know there are others who can write faster and more copiously, but the thing is, it’s only been a little over a year since my first novel was published, and three years since I began writing it. When I started on Vulcan’s Kittens I didn’t think I could ever write anything longer than 10K words. Putting out just under 100K in six weeks was… a revelation to myself.

I’m about to do it again. I have from May 16 to June 30 to write The God’s Wolfling. Ok, until June 27, so I have time to go to LibertyCon. So if you see me at the con and I seem a bit frayed about the edges and dreamy-eyed, that’s what it is. Post-partum euphoria. I’m not shooting for 100K for this book, that would be too long when the first one is less than 60K. But I’d like to hit at least 70K in this six-week period.

I’m already reading back through the first book, making notes (I did look, and there is no Android app for Scrivener. Since I use my tablet when I am at school or away from home to make the notes, I’m using Evernote for now. At home I get distracted too easily from it). So that’s the state of this writer. In need of coffee, and to attend to her list, but first I had a duty to my readers. It’s an odd thing, but you all keep me in line, some days. If I can’t help writing, it’s nice to know I have an audience and that’s not a wasted effort.

(click on icon below to find Trickster Noir, or visit here for other versions)

 

32 Comments
  1. The same thing happens to me when I outline a story! Poof, it’s DONE! And I can’t go back and finish it! At least now I know I’m not the only one that happens to.

    May 3, 2014
    • I think, having had this conversation a few times, that by outlining, we satisfy that urge to tell the story, so we can’t tell it anymore. I have learned to just write, and you may want to try that, too.

      May 3, 2014
      • I need a general idea of how the story will end, but even a sketchy route map of how to get there seems to satisfy that storytelling demon. I hate fighting to get the words out, but generally once I’ve got the flow started again I can at least finish a single scene. Then I fight all over to get the next scene going.

        The things that insist on being written when you ought to be doing something else? I think that the subconscious taking advantage your conscious mind avoiding thinking about what it ought to be doing. And i love the feeling, and often indulge it. But putting off editing or washing the dishes is a bit different than not studying for a test! Be strong! Resist doing more than writing the first page to help you remember.

        May 3, 2014
    • Synova #

      I don’t even have to outline it, I just have to think it through, in my head. ;P

      (And I know that I’m whiny and excusing myself from doing the hard work part, but still… )

      May 3, 2014
      • *taps toe* We’d agree, but that would seem pushy. So, when are we seeing your stories?

        May 3, 2014
        • Synova #

          I *am* sending one to the Baen contest! Granted, it’s not new, but I rewrote and I think I solved the problems in it. My husband has read the new version and forbidden me from additional changes and *he* said it’s really good. And I don’t think he’s being nice. So we will see.

          May 3, 2014
          • Excellent! I am submitting one as well, but I hear John C Wright is submitting, so… I’m doomed! LOL

            May 3, 2014
            • Synova #

              There should be an anthology published afterward called “Everyone who lost the Baen contest to John C Wright.”

              Or something. 🙂

              May 3, 2014
  2. I’ve been a pantser, relying on that mad, subconscious urge, and all it gets me is massive re-writes that take as long as the first draft. I’m working off an outline for the WIP. We’ll see if it works.

    May 3, 2014
    • For me, my first drafts almost always need massive structural reorganization. But once the words are down on, well, electrons, I can scrammble them around and see what I need to add or subtract and make it into a semi-coherant tale.

      May 3, 2014
      • And my stories come on strong, lay out in a nice direct path… I rarely need to do heavy re-writing. But I have trouble working in more complicated plot lines, because the characters want to show me ‘their’ story, not someone else’s.

        May 3, 2014
        • Yeah. I have an issue with multiplying POVs.

          May 3, 2014
  3. I think I became a fiction pantser because all the non-fiction I’ve written since junior high had to be outlined, first for the teachers, and then because that’s how I develop the framework to hang my data on. The one time I tried outlining fiction (the novel “Hubris”), half-way through the “villain” switched roles, another character refused to die, and everything veered off my nice outline and went merrily of on its own track. *shrug* Who am I to argue with characters?

    May 3, 2014
  4. dakorillon #

    I have that exact problem, Once the plot and outline are laid out, I have no motivation to do the rest of the story. The creation is there for my mind’s eye to behold!

    May 3, 2014
    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

      IMO the “plot” is much easier than creating “real characters”. Mind you, it’s sometimes hard to make the plot work if the characters are “real”. IE would a real/intelligent person do something that way. [Sad Smile]

      May 3, 2014
      • Yeah, my Beta Readers are forever going “I thought he was supposed to be smart. Why did he do something so totally stupid?” and somehow “I needed him to, for the plot.” doesn’t get any respect.

        May 3, 2014
        • Considering how many smart real people do stupid things, you’d think they’d cut you a little slack. 😉

          I know, truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be believable. 😀

          On Sat, May 3, 2014 at 2:32 PM, madgeniusclub wrote:

          > Pam Uphoff commented: “Yeah, my Beta Readers are forever going “I > thought he was supposed to be smart. Why did he do something so totally > stupid?” and somehow “I needed him to, for the plot.” doesn’t get any > respect.” >

          May 3, 2014
          • Synova #

            Yes, smart people do really stupid things. But they always seem like a good idea at the time.

            May 3, 2014
            • Laura M #

              And very well rationalized.

              May 3, 2014
              • bearcat #

                It seemed like a good idea at the time, IS a good rationale. Or at least it was at the time.

                May 4, 2014
                • But the reader has to find it plausable that it was _ever_ a good idea.

                  May 4, 2014
                  • Laura M #

                    On a related note, stupid has to be plausible, too. My husband and I just finished watching all of Justified over the past couple months. There are a couple of characters who are really dumb, and we were discussing how sometime you react to stupidity with the observation that no one is that dumb. These characters are so well drawn and acted, that it all works, the dumb things they do and think.

                    May 4, 2014
  5. Laura M #

    I just pushed “Publish” over at KDP on Manx Prize. Cedar, your comments about how much faster you write hit home. It took me three years to finish the first draft of my first book, and only a few months to finish a draft of my second. Nonetheless, I published my first one on May 5, and I think the second one will go live May 4, almost exactly a year later. I had planned to publish by December of last year, but, obviously, that didn’t work out. With the next book only about a third written, I’ll be glad to make it by May 3. If every year, I shave off one day…..

    May 3, 2014
    • Synova #

      Grats on the new book! And really, a book in a year is a professional rate of speed and nothing to feel slow over. (No matter that we all worship at the feet of Sarah.)

      May 4, 2014
      • Laura M #

        Well, see, (mumble, mumble, drawing circles in the dust with big toe), I had that first draft done by the end of 2011. Some of the lag was publishing Sky, so I set Manx aside. I made additions and changes to Manx over time, and spent way too much time last spring and summer not addressing it head on. I’ve learned to focus in the drafting and I’m someone who loves NaNo but, when I think about it, I didn’t work very smart on revisions and publishing in a timely way.

        By the way, as previously noted, I haven’t done this publishing thing in a year. Is there usually big lag on the cover showing up? Or, does its absence mean there’s a problem?

        May 4, 2014
  6. I know the feeling about having to “pants” in order to avoid my brain becoming content to settle. (I deleted a fair long ramble here, as I don’t know if it’s interesting.)

    Good luck on your next project!

    May 3, 2014
  7. Synova #

    I think I need to kill a character, but now I’m not sure if I feel like I need him to die *because* I don’t want him to die, or if… oh! Wow, does this whining thing work well… I just thought of a very good reason for him NOT to die… and it helps other very important stuff.

    You guys are awesome!

    May 4, 2014
    • Laura M #

      We’re here for you.

      May 4, 2014
      • Synova #

        🙂

        May 4, 2014
  8. This morning I woke up with an idea for the new Baen fantasy contest, which is interesting in that I haven’t attempted fantasy since the late ’80’s. and I’m already 1000 words in.

    Oddly, it’s coming out first person, and the protagonist is female. I should be worried about being accused of something there….

    And I’m fighting very hard the idea of her having a lesbian relationship with the succubus, (surely that would work for other publishers…) but I guess that means I still have SOME male instincts.

    May 5, 2014
    • I’m… going to resist commenting on the relationship 😀

      However, I am delighted to see all the enthusiasm over this contest!

      May 5, 2014

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