Friday, September 9, 2016

Being Told What to Write Next

Nothing annoys me more than being deep in the guts of a story and having a shiny new idea pop up. It never fails. Never. Used to be, I'd succumb to the siren song of the bejeweled new thing. As a result, nothing ever got finished. My unfinished projects file isn't just a graveyard. It's an entire damned ecosystem.

That changed several years ago when I made a vow to finish a thing. To handle the allure of ideas popping in to seduce me away from soldiering on to The End, I instituted a policy: It takes a number, and it stands in line. This meant scribbling down the gist of an idea - just enough to be able to recapture the feel of the story, then filing it. I'd go back to hacking my way through my WIP.

Now, whether its luck of the draw, a lack of marketing acumen, or the alignment of the sun, moon, and stars, I have two abandoned series of two books each that had been contracted by a traditional publishing house that wanted nothing to do with any further books in either series. Well okay. My obligation to produce the rest of those books went up in smoke unless my contracts allow me to self-publish the follow up books in each or either series (combing the fine print on that point, with someone who speaks legalese.) Until that legal determination is made, I can't be sitting on my hands. I want to write.

No problem, though, right? I had an idea file to mine. I read through everything in that file. I weeded through my notes and incomprehensible (that sounded like a solid story idea? WTH?) tidbits of narrative with no future. I picked the one that I knew needed to be written. Big project with possible longevity. Utterly outside my skillset. Which clearly meant it was exactly what I ought to pursue. Planning, plotting, and research undertaken. Completed. Undertaken again. Completed again. Opening scene written.

And then, I'm embarrassed to say, lightning struck. I was totally sideswiped by a character who insisted his story would be told and it would be told NOW.

That's how Damned If He Does happened. I had no intention of writing paranormal romance. None. But when a hot dude walks into your head, takes up residence and refuses to leave, you either need hardcore medication or you need to write as fast as possible and get rid of him that way.

So I guess the answer to the 'how do I decide' question is this: Sometimes I choose and sometimes I am chosen. The last book picked me. No clue why. But it did. When I have the luxury of getting to choose, I pick a story out of my league. One that intrigues me and that can occupy my mind for days. Some day, when I am again under contract, I will giggle at the notion of getting to pick what I write next. But for now, I'm in a privileged position to write what sounds like fun at any given moment.

Rest assured. I've gone back to the big, scary, historical fantasy project. It's on track for a POS draft by 10/31. And yes. I do know what comes after that. NANOing book 3 of the SFR series. Cause that heroine has taken up residence in my brain and she's tapping her foot while waving her number beneath my nose. Apparently, it's her turn.


  1. "My unfinished projects file isn't just a graveyard. It's an entire damned ecosystem."


    1. 278 separate file folders of stories. One of those files is labeled 'Story Ideas'. I kid you not. This is the shit that haunts me in the still of the night. All those characters whining 'what about meeeeeeeee?'