3000 words on the wrong story

Ever have your brain go 200 km/h in the wrong lane?*

I have a friend. I’m not going to name them so they can choose to out who they are or not, but they have noted before that the only way work on The Interminable WIP progresses is often if they either A.) swear at the WIP, or B.) threaten to abandon it and start writing on a different story.

No, it’s not that MGC member. That one texted me Saturday night noting that there she was, Standing On Corner Minding Own Business, when Sumdood… Wait, no, she was writing away, putting in foreshadowing for the next in series, when her muse ambushed her with a completely different story.

Both of them I have commiserated with, as this week has been 1.) recovering from Con Crud, and 2.) 3000 words on the wrong story.

(As an aside, I am so glad we’re back to this society being mentally healthy enough that I can say to my boss “I caught a sinus crud. Staying out until I’m healthy”, and the only response is “Get well soon!” not freaking out about Lung Pao Sicken.)

Of course, it’s my fault. I was thumping my brains fruitlessly against the fight scene, and the cold meds, so I decided to take a break. I didn’t feel up to reading anything new, so I started looking through old work. I think I started by wanting to find something specific, but then I got sidetracked. Ended up in something I’ve written a bit on, blocked on, set aside, and then come back to months later only to rewrite, then repeat the cycle… for 6 years now.

And then I woke up from a theraflu-sinus-addled nap and went “Oh! EMP from the shuttle getting blown up! That’ll fix it!” And that solved where I’d been stuck. The good news: this time I’m not rewriting from the start, just picking up from 6 months ago. The bad news: This is not the right story!

I’d call it bouncing between projects if I’d done this intentionally. What do you call it? What do you do when it happens to you?

*This line is blamed on the music playing in the restaurant when I was feeling better, but wasn’t up to cooking. My darling is deaf enough that he probably couldn’t hear the high-pitched female voices singing faintly in the background, but I was going “T.a.T.u.? Man, I haven’t heard that in years. Why is a Japanese restaurant playing a Russian girl group… and that’s not just one song, it sounds like they’re doing the whole 200 km/h in the wrong lane album… yep, including the non-English songs. Trippy!” I’m just happy it showed up here instead of in the WIP… so far.

27 comments

  1. Writing. I always bounce between projects. Terrible habit but I can not stick to one.

  2. How to get the Muse to attack with a chunk from the wrong project. “I absolutely am only going to work on X today/this weekend/during this workshop.” Doooooooomed.

    1. This. The muse is a psychopath with sadistic tendencies.

      Part of the brain has plotted away on story G, while another keeps recommending arcs and twist for story S. Another part wants to work on book 2. What needs to happen is laying the groundwork for act III. And reinforcing the themes in the edit process. And keeping up with the regular posting schedule. And researching marketing, for that’s going to be the long part.

      This one does not expect more than can-of-soup money for the finished project, but at best it is retirement planning. If I can put together ten books in the next ten years that might turn into can-of-soup once a month money, rather than just once.

      And it keeps me out of trouble. Mostly.

  3. Right now I have about a dozen different characters demanding that I tell their stories NOW. One of them is even showing up in my dreams. So I’ve got streams of story coming into my head from several different directions at once, right while con season is in full swing and I need to do bookkeeping for the retail business when I’m not actually at a convention, and the home front is a disaster. So of course I’m bouncing all over the place, giving everyone a little mouthful so they’ll stop yelling at me, but nobody ever gets satisfied.

      1. That’s very efficient, if it works. It also helps fill out the story structure.

        1. Well . . . some of the Characters just don’t fit in the other’s universes . . . But if the threat quiets them down . . .

  4. Are there really any wrong stories, though? As long as you’re stringing words together you’re accomplishing something, and getting those words out of the way might unblock the ‘right’ story. Besides, who knows? You might finish the ‘wrong’ story and get it out the door without even meaning to! Wouldn’t that make it the ‘right’ story after all?
    ———————————
    Major Strasser has been shot! Round up the usual suspects!

    1. Oh, ‘nother point: If you don’t get the words out when they’re in your head, they won’t be there later when you need them.

      1. And that last is why I’m writing it.

        But I still feel it’s the wrong story, because I like monofocusing. And I am at the point with Glitter & Gold where I just want to get it the (expletive) over and done with, kicked out the door to betas.
        (Of course, kicking it out the door to betas is not that satisfying, because like kicking a kid out the door to college, you know it’ll come back with loads of dirty laundry and “mom can you fix this” and “how do I do thingie?” and “Why didn’t you teach me X?”, possibly more than once, before you can send it on its way a final time.)

        But then, finally, finally! It’ll be ready to go out the door with a cover (started looking at models for that) and blurb (eek, no, not thinking bout that yet), and the readers can enjoy it, and it’ll be off my workload and out of my brain.

        Don’t you love the silence when your brain isn’t filled with story? It’s like a vacation. At least, it will be if I can get Mika & Arkady to shut up about exploring a ruined alien city, looking for weapons from the last war and hoping they don’t find them the hard way…

          1. Yes! Right after I finish a story, I get this gloriously empty brain, without the pressing chatter of characters and plot and world… It’s quiet. Restful. Like I have solved a ridiculously complex problem I’ve been working on for months, and with the answer completed, the slates are all cleared and all the reference material put away. I am able to hold a lot more attention to everyday tasks, and focus, and get things done without distraction.

            Alas, it usually only lasts about two weeks, and then story starts creeping in again. Last time, after getting Blood, Oil, and Love and A Perfect Day done almost simultaneously (one was out to betas as the other was finished) was a month, and I started wondering if I had broken the writing thing, and was going to be normal. It didn’t take.

            1. I’m not sure if I should be envious or not.
              I’ve had times when the stories wouldn’t come out, but I can’t remember a time in about the last 30 years where there haven’t been stories in my brain. Usually, for me when I finish a story, there’s about a day where all my other stories stand there blinking at me in surprise before the headlong charge for ‘next on the list’ starts.

    2. Only if you keep circling back. It is very easy to forget projects half done.

  5. I’m very, extremely, completely positive that I’m not the friend referenced here; I threaten to *burn* my recalcitrant WIPs, so it can’t be me. Of course not.
    Never mind that I also swear at them. Or work on other projects to refill the creative well.
    Definitely not me.
    *shifty eyes*

  6. Sounds about right. I need to solve a mystery in one almost done work, and fight the final battle in another, so I’m writing this stupid romantic farce that seems like a twisted Cinderella, with Prince Charming as a conniving but not corrupt political lackey.

  7. The muse strikes – and I get slammed by 400 differenct projects at once; I want to write music, or songs, or draw illustrations… My only recourse ito tie all projects back to my series and never allow creative self to steer away from that project. The problem is that a massive psychological crash will occur for me when this series is done. To invest that much energy into a single project, however massive, is dangerous. I am creating a universe, and until the last word is written, I am living in it.

  8. That is me most of the time, alas. Totally empty of story, characters, or ideas.

    Oh, and I recently found out that C.S.Friedman has answered something like 16000 Quora questions, so I guess she has a writing avoidance activity for breaks.

  9. LOL, I think all of us suffer from that to ‘some’ point… And this whole Intarwebz thingie is a massive time sink when we ‘should’ be writing… Sigh

  10. So I’m supposed to be finishing up the fanfic arc. I’ve got the structure of the last story, but blocking on the main thread and how to fit it all together.

    Which is why today, of course, I had pretty much an entire short story light romance for a tertiary character pop into my head, which may also require research into ancient civilizations star charts to actually finish.

    May be able to blurry page those details, though. The details are not noticing lot drivong, and the viewpoint character doesn’t know any of the civilizations or constellation name, so it is perfectly reasonable for them to come away with no solid grasp of the information itself.

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