First a quick background history of what exactly I write, otherwise my answer to how I pick what I write will sound utterly ludicrous to you.
I'm a full-time career writer/author. Been writing professionally for 35 years this year. This year will be my 10th NaNoWriMo (and 19th OLL writing contest, including Script Frenzy and CampNaNo.)
I write a long running serial/pulp fiction series (started in 1978, and currently spanning more than 200 stories). It's a mad dash mix of satire, sci-fi, horror, and romance, about vampire like aliens trapped on earth, living in a sentient house that eats people. The series has 75 separate main characters, spans a time period from the 1600s to the current era and into the future, and includes races from multiple galaxies, including talking cats, flying cars, and furniture that comes alive and walks around. On earth, in addition to humans, all the standard Fae races abound (Phookas, MerFolk, etc.) along with Cryptozoology races (LoveLand Frog, Chupacabra, etc). It's very, very dark and bloody (Splatter Punk Gorn). There is grizzly, gory, bloody scenes on every page, and graphic sex (erotica bordering on porn) about every 5 pages. (Blood and sex for the sake of blood and sex, to the point of taking precedence over plot at times). Everything and everyone (including a grandfather's clock and a pipe organ) wants to eat humans. To make it even more ridiculous the whole thing is written tongue in cheek, poking fun at everything from religion to politics (thus is gets classified by some readers as dark humor, or gallows satire). The primary main character is the guy (vampire) who owns the flesh eating haunted house, and his half-vampire/half-merman drag queen son. Good guys always die, villains always win. Usually the story ends when the villain eats the good guy.
If you were to compare it to a movie, think of it as the characters from Rocky Horror Picture Show, acting out Saw and Evil Dead in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (That's how one of my readers described it to me.) It's published through "underground grindhouse indie press" and gets slapped an "M rated; not for readers under 21" sticker whenever a mainstream book store sells it (which is rare). It was easier to publish in the 1970s when I started writing it, but publishing laws changed in 1997 and now it's incredibly hard to find a publisher who will touch it (too controversial) and so in the past 10 years or so I've been forced to have to self-publish the later editions of it.
When I joined NaNoWriMo and discovered the Dares Thread in 2004, I was OMG! This place is for me! This is so perfect! Look at all the insane things I can use to make my psychotic nightmare even more psychotic! As a result of the Dare Thread herds of pink penguins randomly run by for no reason, flocks of flesh eating hummingbirds from hell peck characters' eyes out, a blue box shows up from time to time and gets stolen by demons, everyone wants free shrimp dinners but no one ever gets them, a swimming pool was once filled with green jello and one of my villains swears it makes his skin more youthful, it has become dangerous to eat chocolate pudding as it has now been discovered it is actually alive and talks to you if you stop eating it long enough to listen, and I guy name Woon who shows up just long enough to die (again and again and again in almost every chapter) and yet no one notices. The Dare Thread might not work for some people, but when you write madcap surreal satire that makes little sense and has almost no point other than to be pure entertainment, yeah the Dare Thread is the best thing to ever happen to my series and it's the main reason I come back to NaNoWriMo year after year!
Than in 2005 somebody invented The Traveling Shovel of Death and I just ran with it, set one of my characters lose smashing brains out with a demon possessed shovel and now TSoD is a mainstay in the series. I actually had an emperor put a ban on weapons in his kingdom (guns, swords, knives, gone!) and people took to using spades as their primary weapons. Serial killers love their shovels! And shovels get to do double duty: kill, than bury.
Than I found Maine's Rancid Yak Butter dare in 2007 and knew I had to use it as a weapon against vampires (it tastes like garlic and thus has the same effect as garlic! I've had characters battling vampires with nothing more than a slice of bread spread with rancid yak butter! LOL!)
And thanks to the Maine writing groups, I've had lobsters battling moose and bear; and the lobsters always win, of course! ;)
The whole thing is written as a series of short story varying from 750 to 73,000 words, most of them falling in the 13,000 word range.
I write new stories for it all year long, and come NaNo I usually write no fewer than 5 new stories for the series (including to have written 3 actual novels to go in the series! Yay! I'm not a novel writer, I'm a short story writer, so it's a big deal that out of 18 OLL wins I actually ended up with 3 actual novels!
I also write random "stand alone" stories that are in no way related to the series, but are still in the same sci-fi/horror/romance/gorn/erotica/satire mish-mash blend.
Okay...so maybe not so quick. Oh well.
Short answer would have been: I write a long running series (pulp serial) started in 1978 and spanning 200+ stories (most about 13,000 words). It has 75 main characters (used 1 per story of course). The series is Gorn (Splatter Punk Horror or blood, blood, blood, and hey look is that even more blood?) and Grindhouse Erotica (sex, sex, sex, sex, and hey was there supposed to be a plot in between all the sex and murder going on here?)...but that doesn't really fill you in on how utterly insane this series is.
Okay, now to answer your question:
How do I decide which story to write next? Easy. Usually the answer that question is: Let's see, which guy(character - villain) would I want to have sex with tonight?
Followed by, Which murder weapon, which room, and who should kill who today? (Often asked while rolling dice on a Clue board game to see which room the dice land in.)
So, basically I pick the main character from a cast of already established characters, pick a room (the whole series is set inside a haunted manor house with 500 rooms), pick a murder weapon (from a huge list of torture implements used during the Spanish Inquisition), create a totally new (female) character to be kidnapped/raped/murdered, and then start writing (no plot) to see what I can come up with using these characters/rooms/weapons.
Also as a D&D Dungeon Master I have tons of maps and dice roll charts, and I use those to decide what to toss into the story as I go along. In other words on the roll of a dice, my story might sudden have a brain sucking squid, a herd of kobolds, or a ring of doom show up for no reason at all, and then I'll be: How in the heck am I going to use that?
But when it comes to actual ideas, plotlines, I just use them all. I write them down as I think of them and just go with them.
I suppose the short answer is, I just write whatever pops into my head that is fun to write. I love the series. I love the characters. I love the house. I love writing it, because it's absolutely fun to write. I'm one of those writers who has fun with my writing and if I find myself writing something that isn't fun to write, than I stop writing it and move on to writing something that is fun to write.
Another option is to write all your ideas on a slips of paper, put them in a box, shake the box and pick one at random. If you think: "Oh but I'd rather do the other one" then that is the plot you should use. LOL! I actually do this. The one I pick first always results in "Well Shit! I wanted to write the other one...." than suddenly I know which one I wanted to write! Works every time.
The year of my highest word count (2008 @ 238,000 words) I was writing 5 novels at once, one of which I finished a few months later and it went on to be published. That was of course that last time I attempted a novel. I'm a short story writer by nature, as it turns out I'm not that good at novels. I write great 10k to 15k stories, but try to stretch them into novels and they are mostly just monotonous fluff. So for my NaNos since than, I aim at writing 5 or more 10k stories, and hang out on the rebels forum.
No, you have NOT reached the end of this article! What you have reached is the end of what it currently online. The rest is coming, hopefully it'll be on here in a day or three so keep checking back. I will remove this message at the same time I put the rest of it online.
As my long time readers will already
know a server crash took down most of the old free-hosted site on June
4, 2013 (which was online since 1997 and had reached 6,000+ pages).
Thankfully everything was saved on a separate hard-drive and the site is
being rebuilt with a new host and for the first time on it's own
I am currently moving all 6,000 questions&answer articles to this site one page at a time, at a rate of about 4 to 7 new pages being added each day, so be patient. Not all links are yet clickable. This process started on September 2, 2013 and will be ongoing at least through to January 2014. (And it may be well into 2017 before all 6,000 pages will be back online if I continue at this rate of 5 a day.)
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