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The Unwritten Stories

REP

CW's thread Revisions vs. Proofing vs. Rewrites touched on a topic that I am interested in. Namely a story that I started but did not complete. I would be interested in everyone's thoughts on the stories they started but never completed, especially your views of supporting current serial stories versus starting new stories.

For me, I started writing my story in the 1990's. Back then, I didn't have the skills to convert my story idea into a readable story. I wanted my MC to start out as a 12 year old farm boy on a farm in the Midwest of the 1880's. Unfortunately, I'm what is referred to as a 'city boy' and know almost nothing about society of the 1880's, farming, farm animals, and proper care of the horses that were ridden during that period.

Due to my lack of knowledge of the period, I rewrote the story to set the concept in the future. The MC would be raised on one of Earth's colony worlds and become involved in Earth's first contact with an alien race, which would be a subplot. Unfortunately, I still didn't have the skills to write the story.

Now I have the skills necessary to produce an acceptable story, but I gained those skills by writing other stories and I am spending my time writing sequels to those stories.

My conflict is I want to support my current stories and end some of the serials I started. My readers tell me they want me to continue certain serials and I have a potential story that would probably grow into another serial. I want to do it all but fear I can't support my current stories and start new stories.

Do you have a similar problem and how do you handle it?

Switch Blayde

@REP

how do you handle it?


When I write a story that I lose interest in (plot, characters) I don't complete it and throw it away.

As to serials, my latest short story has the same main character as my latest novel. I plan to use him in my next novel, too, like the authors did with James Bond and Jack Reacher. But I'm struggling to come up with something that won't sound like the last novel.

Btw, is that a serial? It's not a continuation like Harry Potter. It's simply a new story with the same characters. On SOL, probably a Universe rather than a Series.

Replies:   REP  Crumbly Writer
REP

@Switch Blayde

I've read the stories and think additional stories would be a series due to same MC and same types of plots (i.e. PI stories).

You may want to think on setting the next story as an investigation in the southwest. Perhaps you should do a takeoff on Trumps Wall and something like Mexican smugglers brining people into the US and returning with kidnapped young women or something else that would be valuable in Mexico. Perhaps a cartel gathering US defense information (?) or weapons that could be used to takeover the Mexican Government.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@REP

Yeah, good idea. Thanks.

Ernest Bywater

Background
Over the many years I've been officially written fiction stories for entertainment I've written over 150 stories and other works like help guides. I currently have 35 works in progress, of which 3 are not likely to be finished as they are. In that time I've never totally tossed a story, but I have tossed scenes. Of the 3 I may not finish I'm currently working on them to alter aspects of the story so the bulk of the work will be used and finished at some point, but they'll be very different stories at that point.

When the Gestapo took my computer I had at least 16 stories that were works in progress at that time. I've since been able to locate old copies of 15 of those stories and I'm working on completing 6 of them as well as the other 20 I've started in the last 3 years and not yet finished. Of the 16 works in progress back in 2015 there are 4 stories I know were heavily worked on between the dates of the old copies I've found and what the Gestapo took, so I'm trying to get those back to finish them - 3 of them are sequels.

Some of the works in progress go back to 2008 (maybe even earlier but I can't tell right now), and have sat since they were stories I was working on in collaboration with another. When the other person was unable to write I was left with completing the stories myself and I put them aside to think on what to do with them without their input, then worked on other works. I'm working to complete 5 of them and have completed and posted 1 of them this year.

How I work
One of the reasons I have so many stories I'm working on is because when I have an issue about how to do a scene or if I think I may want to change the direction I put the story aside and work on something else while I let my mind work it over. In some cases real life interrupts my creative flow on a story and I put it aside until I can settle down from what upset me so much. Then it's not always the same story I work on once I start in writing again.

I guess you could say I don't have any unwritten stories, just not yet completed stories and some unwritten scenes.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

When I write a story that I lose interest in (plot, characters) I don't complete it and throw it away.

I'm not quite as extreme, as I rarely throw anything in the virtual trash, but I've found that, if I don't act on an idea without a certain number of months, my ideas for the story harden, so what should be a fluid story that essentially tells itself, I become locked into a rigid approach to the story. Thus, anything I don't address in three to six months, I generally consider dead ends. If I don't get to it in that amount of time, I assume the story premise wasn't really that intriguing if it didn't fight stronger to be written. However, as Ernest attests, that's just me, as he actively keeps multiple stories going at the same time, often spanning years between each individual project.

For many of us, mainly those who write 'complete' stories before posting, we write the story to it's natural ending, and write to the conclusion (i.e. we don't keep cranking out chapters to keep the story going). Since we start out having a clear idea where the story will conclude, it's more or less a straight line from the beginning to the end, with multiple surprises for us along the way we never anticipated.

To answer your question, which plays into my point, a serial is a story (on SOL) while continues, chapter after chapter, in an ongoing effort for some time. A series is a collection of concrete 'books' (each a complete story in and of itself), which continue a given story line.

However, having a clear end doesn't mean the story has to stop there. Often, I'll write a given story, knowing where it'll end, but after finishing the story and posting it, several months later, when I'm not even considering the story anymore, I'll suddenly get an insight into an entirely new aspect of the story, which gives me a way to continue the story while making it into a completely new tale. It's at that point that I add a book to an existing series.

When I first wrote Love and Family During the Great Death, it was intended to be a 'one and done' story. I was interested in writing an apocalyptic tale
that address how the individual involved though about the deaths of their families and loved ones. Once completed, even though the two main characters did survive, I wasn't terribly interested in writing 'yet another' post-apocalyptic tale, thinking I had nothing to make it markedly different than the many already out. However, months later, I realized that how those people dealt with their losses impacted the sequel, as instead of fighting over the spoils, everyone simply wanted to be left alone in their grief, even as my main characters realized there were future catastrophes on the horizon, and they had to organize the survivors in order to prevent even more deaths.

It'a akin to the difference between writing a 'day in the life' story, where you simply focus on what happens from one moment to the next, and writing an 'episodic' story, which jumps from one specific episode to another. Rather than covering everything that happens in any given day, each chapter deals with a specific event, whether that event happens in a single afternoon, or covers multiple days.

Once you start looking at episodic stories, it's much easier to control the story, as you ONLY include those items that are central to the plot. It also becomes much easier to control the length of your stories when you think them that way.

In a series, each book is a complete 'story', a string of episodes which involve a specific conflict, but which doesn't resolve the ultimate conflict addressed by the entire series until the final resolution of the entire series.

And once you resolve the essential conflict in a series, there's really nothing else to add beyond a few additional chapters which aren't going anywhere in particular.

Finally, in a universe, you have a string of complete stories which all occur within a given fictional universe. Thus I could have had multiple authors writing in my Great Death universe, by addressing what happens to the survivors in different nations across the globe in the same basic timespan.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
PotomacBob

@REP

I wanted my MC to start out as a 12 year old farm boy on a farm in the Midwest of the 1880's.


Hope you'll finish that one!

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

How I work:
One of the reasons I have so many stories I'm working on is because when I have an issue about how to do a scene or if I think I may want to change the direction I put the story aside and work on something else while I let my mind work it over. In some cases real life interrupts my creative flow on a story and I put it aside until I can settle down from what upset me so much. Then it's not always the same story I work on once I start in writing again.

REP, Ernest has a good point here, but I have a quicker response to the same issues. I take the same approach, but rather than putting the story aside and not thinking about it, I first determine the essential problem with the story as it stands, I then go for a long walk on the beach on in the woods, purposely blank my mind out and allow it to wander aimlessly (i.e. no phone, no music or any other external distractions). Once I understand what's causing the problem, invariable, the story conflict will resolve itself during my extended walk, at which point I'll hurry back, playing out how to resolve the crisis in my mind, and I'm ready to tackle the story with new eyes once I get back.

The key is, recognizing that 'writer's block' is nothing more than your characters objecting that you're forcing them to act in ways they're uncomfortable with. You job, should you accept it, is to identify specifically what your characters are objecting to. Once you have that, your characters will essentially work everything out once you finally give them free reign to resolve it themselves (as aside to shelving the problem without directly addressing it).

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


To answer your question, which plays into my point, a serial is a story (on SOL) while continues, chapter after chapter, in an ongoing effort for some time. A series is a collection of concrete 'books' (each a complete story in and of itself), which continue a given story line.


"Which continue a given story line."

James Bond books don't continue a given story line. Jason Bourne did, but not James Bond or Jack Reacher. The same main character (in Bond, several characters) is involved in different stories. Does it have to be a continuation to be a series or simply just the same main character?

Replies:   REP  Crumbly Writer
REP

@Switch Blayde

Does it have to be a continuation to be a series or simply just the same main character?


According to Lazeez's Help document:

What is a series?

A series is an organizational structure that allows you to organize a group of stories with a common theme or common main character.

Series can be ordered or un-ordered. Ordered series are for a series of stories that are best read or presented in a particular sequence. Un-ordered series is simply a collection of stories and are presented to the reader in alphabetical order.

For example two separate stories that have the same main character who is a detective. Two different cases, that makes two different stories, but it's one series of stories about the detective's exploits.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

James Bond books don't continue a given story line. Jason Bourne did, but not James Bond or Jack Reacher. The same main character (in Bond, several characters) is involved in different stories. Does it have to be a continuation to be a series or simply just the same main character?

In my case, since I'm creating entire worlds with a major conflicting connecting each book, we're basically dealing with different scenarios. Since you're essentially talking about the continuing adventures (non-related by any inherent central conflict other than good-guy/bad-guy), you're basically writing a non-sequential, where the only connection is the time/place/people and the central character.

If you want an classic example, it's akin to a writing Mrs. Marple, Detective Clouseau or Perry Mason series. If you want a more recent example, check out the 'Florida Friends' series (which has a little more of a coherent, sequential nature).

That's a fine way to write stories, but it's not the type of stories that I write where there's an overriding conflict driving the entire series (and clear demarcations, beginnings and ending points for each book). However, in your case, the 'essential conflict' revolves entirely around your character's current case, and once the character is caught, that's essentially the end of that book. How you handle character development, allowing the character to grow and become something bigger than he was initially, will be your biggest challenge, as must of the classic mystery series I pointed out never really addressed those points.

I guess a better example might be the House TV series, where the lead character has a series of episodic adventures, but the central conflict linking them all together his is gradual self-destructive tendencies, with readers wondering when he's going to finally end his career and get himself killed.

You can see the difference in our different storytelling as my currently posting detective story ends * * * SPOILER ALERT * * *, the story concludes with the end of the detectives career, and an entirely new, but non-related career opening up for her. In short, in my worlds, there are clear story arcs with clear beginnings and clear endings.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

If you want an classic example, it's akin to a writing Mrs. Marple, Detective Clouseau or Perry Mason series. If you want a more recent example, check out the 'Florida Friends' series (which has a little more of a coherent, sequential nature).


So they are called series.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

So they are called series.

Yeah, but they were all non-sequential. Even if the character grows, it doesn't matter to the reader in what order the stories are read, as the character growth is essentially unimportant to each story. It's entertaining, but won't affect what happens in the next story.

Florida Friends is a hybrid, as it's sequential, with the actions in one chapter affecting what comes after, but the main continuity in the story is which collection of women are currently following him around (not to diminish the essential strengths of the series).

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