I’m working on a story… wait, no. I’m working on three stories. Okay, maybe I’ve started and stopped on about seven, but I keep coming back to two stories?

I’d say my muse has ADOS (Attention Deficit… Ooh! Shiny!), but I’m terribly afraid it’s just me. Other people talk about writing to market and checking off the lists of tropes they’re going to use, and I’m over here going “this isn’t working because… I need a second POV? Do I have to go back and rewrite half the scenes? Or am I adding a second plotline in? No, no, bad brain. Just keep going forwa… okay, fine. Wait! I agreed! Why are you trying to throw a different story at me instead of the one I want to work on?”

Not that any of you know anything about that, eh?

My latest effort to wring some consistency out of my brain is accuracy by volume: namely, doing a writing prompt each day, cheerfully lifted from Inktober.


Instead of trying to write 1K a day a miserably failing to write anything for many days in a row, I’m going “Here’s a prompt. I can write at least a sentence. I can do that. Even better if it’s on the WIP I’m really trying to finish.”

So far it’s working. Getting 500-1200 words/day, and about half of them are on the WIP. Which is still 4K shorter than when I started, due to a computer error that erased the whole file, and my backup was almost two weeks old. Rewriting has been accomplished for most of it… Which incidentally allowed me to add in a second POV character. Sigh. (And if it weren’t for the prompt, I might not have buckled down and done the no-fun part of rewriting something I’d already written. So I’ve come out ahead. Really. I’ll keep telling myself that.)

How do you encourage yourself to be consistent? And how do you encourage your muse to stay on one story at a time? (Or at least the same 3 stories at a time?)

Prompt for Day 3, “bait”:

Lizzes blew out her breath, and put her pistol carefully on the shooting bench, flexing her sore hands. Oleksii caught the movement, and holstered his own pistol, then started putting things back in the case. “Cold Range!” She looked up at him as he peeled off his earmuffs, wrinkling up her face in confusion as she looked from his hands to his eyes. “The point’s for you to get better, not to hurt you.” He said it so quietly she wondered if she’d have heard it all without the electronic muffs and the volume turned up. “If you’re hurting, we’re done.”

“But you’ve barely gotten to shoot.” She stopped rubbing her right wrist to gesture at the gun cases still stacked to one side. He hadn’t cracked out any of the rifles, and she was perversely glad of it. He’d already crushed her ego and proved she wasn’t a very good shot, without even trying, in pistol alone. She didn’t want to see what he was like on rifle right now.

“That’s all right. I shoot enough. One missed practice won’t mind.” He kept cleaning up, so she started packing up, too. She’d shot through all her ammo, and another box and a half of his besides; her fingers were cramping as she topped off her magazine.

As she seated the magazine, her wrists hurt too much to tap it with more than a token amount of force, and it hurt her ego a little more to know he didn’t miss that, either. She wasn’t fragile, damnit. He was probably still fresh as when they started. She contemplated her dirty gun as she carefully holstered it, and started packing up. He’d been doing most of the last two rounds of reloading, and had that quick, sure competence that said cleaning his guns would probably be done before she’d even gotten hers apart. “If I ask nicely, and cook dinner, can I get you to clean my gun, too?”

She was mostly joking, and unprepared for the way his head snapped around. “Deal!” The sudden movement made her take a half step back remembering how scary he could seem. Oleksii held up his hands, trying to present no threat, backing up and too-obviously going back to packing things away, studying the table intently. She relaxed, then, but kept an eye on him so he couldn’t startle her again. She brought her gun case to him, to stuff in the back of the SUV as he was finishing putting his stuff away. He stowed it, and looked over his shoulder at her like a Labrador retriever watching someone cook bacon. “Do you have any plans for lunch?”

“No… why?” There was no doubt he was up to something.

“I could show you the trails up by Eklutna. They’re good for running – safe as anything gets around here.” His smile got even more crooked and mischievous as he turned to face her, regarding the way she’d stopped and folded her arms over her chest, radiating skepticism at him.

“Safe as anything gets? You’re not doing a good job of selling this plan.”

“I haven’t run into bears there yet? They’re around, but they’re used to humans and avoid them?” He gave her an very bad attempt at wide-eyed innocence, and she had to shake her head and laugh.

“I seem to recall you saying you don’t run.”

“I try to avoid it, yes.” He nodded.

“And you’re offering me a run why?” She raised both her eyebrows at him, but any attempts at mock severity were belied by the way his grin kept making her smile back. Out here in the sunlight, with his yellow glasses looking ridiculous and collar askew, a smudge of dirt unnoticed on one cheek and wearing that crooked grin, he didn’t look scary at all. He was just her goofy next door neighbor, who was a little geeky and too intense for his own good about everything.

“Ah. One of my friends is fishing there today. His wife always does a cookout. She’s an excellent cook.” He paused, measuring his explanation against her skepticism and clearly finding it wanting. “And, well, if we were to say hello, only long enough to grab a burger and run, then she would be distracted from constantly trying to set me on date with every single woman in Alaska?” The last was said in a rush, and he looked vaguely embarrassed.

Lizzes had to fight down the giggles that were threatening to make it impossible to speak. “You want me to be your pretend insta-girlfriend.” It was ridiculous. It was… a man who shot as naturally as breathing shouldn’t be scared of a yenta. She could just see some well-meaning woman of a certain age trying to fix him up, and…

“Exactly!” He looked far too relieved, and even with one hand lifted to her mouth, she couldn’t stop the giggles. “Please? I make it up to you.” His accent was coming back thick with the stress again.

She laughed, and took pity on him. “All right.”


  1. Yes, please! It’s been far too long since you last one. This sounds “very interesting”!

  2. I do hope you finish this one. It’s charming. And I want to know more.

    One of the things that really helps me is “breakfast words.” On weekdays, instead of opening email, facebook, my news sites, anything at all, I have to open the WIP and write ten words. If all I write is ten words, that’s fine. Often it’s more. Then I can start on the email, etc.

    Somehow, this a) primes the brain for the story, and b) gets me to open the document so when I sit down with it after breakfast, it’s much easier to get into, and I’ve already written somewhere between 10 and 100 words so I don’t feel like I’m starting at 0.

  3. “Not that any of you know anything about that, eh?

    While I’m still trying to work on subtlety (i.e., don’t hammer the idea into a reader’s head with repetition), flesh out a few ideas here and there, oh, and put up new content for the next chapter, I think I am up to (hrm… let’s see: Holm, HFCS, Scout, Ghoul, Golem, Necromancer vs The World, Nadia & Simpkins, The Silent Gods…) EIGHT of the bloody things.

    One of the first things I do in the morning is sort of like Laura’s breakfast words. I open up the WIP to one of the parts I hate and look at it for a bit. Let that stew while I get ready for work. Maybe scribble a letter or half a word here and there. Get back home and look at it again. Eventually it annoys me enough that I fix it, or move on.

    There is probably a better way to write than annoying yourself into it. *chuckle* Or getting ambushed by plot hooks when you least expect it…

  4. “And how do you encourage your muse to stay on one story at a time? (Or at least the same 3 stories at a time?)”

    Deadlines. Doesn’t work well, but it does make me cycle back to the “Book I scheduled for October” regularly.

    In between writing a quick sketch of a character’s early years (in a whole other book!) fussing at a cover, thinking of something that needs to dealt with later in a third book, realizing that this secondary character might come in handy, later . . .

    Really, it’s astonishing that I ever finish anything.

    1. I’m still stuck on not being certain I can even finish anything, so trying deadlines on myself seem like “Wait, you can’t finish stories, and now you want to get them done by a date? Kiddo, you’re trying to run with both your legs still in a cast!”

      …Someday, I hope to get where you’re at!

      1. There’s this scary threshold. “If I actually finish it, I’ll have to publish it.”

        You have to grit your teeth and tell yourself that you don’t care if people might call your baby ugly. And make yourself take that final step.

        My problems tend to hit in the boring middle part, where I’m supposed to be making interesting stuff happen to get to that last big fight.

        “Why? It’s just stupid to have an inner city gang car chase with the cops end up in the middle of the university campus. Not going to do it. It’s stupid.”

        Then I have to bribe myself with chocolate or something.

        1. I know that problem. Sure, they get trapped in an ancient starship full of space zombies (1), then ??? (2), and (3) profit! Err, (3) there is (spoiler spoiler) guns blazing! (spoiler) and they all lived happily, the ones that survive, until the next mission.

          That (2) part’s the kicker.

          1. That’s why, when you’re absolutely certain it’s ready to go, you stay up until 2AM playing some inane game, and you’re so tired you can’t panic, so you push the button.

            It does get better, even if it sometimes comes back.

            1. This is my sixth collection. Plus two novels and a novella that didn’t get into a collection as well.

  5. No idea. The WIP that I just finished forced the previous novel clean out. However, for me that often means that I need to be doing more research in order to figure out something. And indeed, what I lacked was how to purify brine of clay and other impurities. Learned how to do that (two major ways) and that allows me to add a plot layer. And to move on with the story, so I’ll probably start writing on that one later this week.

  6. When my brain’s functioning (which has, ok, been intermittent for the last 6 months) I have a program.

    10 Write a chunk of the WIP, preferably in the morning.
    20 Send the current version to my iPad, so I can do a- first-pass edit while lounging in bed that night.
    30 Begin the next morning’s work by putting all those edits into the previous chunk.
    40 GOTO 10

    What? You thought 20 years of writing software didn’t cause brain damage?

    A desirable side effect of this system is that it keeps the WIP constantly front and center in my head, which leads to the muse thinking about What Comes Next (and Why It Doesn’t Look Like the Outline).

  7. two techniques.

    One is to go and re-read through a pile of stories you abandoned.

    The second is to keep circling around.

    The second has pretty much overtaken the first for me.

      1. Circling around does have the advantage of letting problems stew while you keep on working.

        I know I’m stressed out when I can’t work on the same story two nights in a row.

  8. I don’t think there IS a way to keep the Muse on track… I’m just happy to keep mine in the stadium… sigh

  9. Recently, for me, a timer has been the most effective thing. I set it for 15 min because if I set it too long the subconscious starts going ‘but… but… but…’ in a variety of different tangents. I’ll usually get at least 30 min in (I hit a bump about 10 min in and if I make it over it the 15 typically hits when I really don’t want to stop so I hit ‘do it again’ on my timer.)

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