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How Do You Pick Which Story to Write?

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By EelKat Wendy C Allen

You are reading page #46 of EelKat's Guide to NaNoWriMo. If you have just starting reading this, please go back to Page 1 to read this entire series from it's beginning.

"I'm sure a lot of folks know straight away which story they're going to write, but how do you choose if you've got multiple contenders to pick from?

The better outline?

The better conflict?

The most vocal cast of characters?

Whichever project you feel most passionate about at 12:00:01 AM on November 1st?

How do you pick which story to write?

Also I'd wondered previously about trying to work on multiple WIPs at once. Has anybody had good results with that? It seems like it might give you more scenes to choose from whenever you sit down, so you're more likely to have something that you're passionate about at any given time. It also seems confusing and hubristic. "

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.

The End?

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 domain. YAY!

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.)

UPDATE: November 2015: The page you are on now, was written in 2007 and updated every November until 2014 - It was last updated October 31, 2014 and there are no future updates planned for it, as after 10 years of doing it, I have retired from "traditional" NaNoWriMo and am now doing a different writing goal each November.

For the current NaNoWriMo 2015 update see THIS PAGE (which includes the first public release of my Dares Generator and information on how I use it to reach 50,000 words in 3 days instead of 30 days, along with info on how I reached 537,000 words in 2013 and thus changed my writing goals for NaNoWriMo.)

UPDATE: October 31, 2014 -

Due to a major hacking of my online accounts, and the theft and plagiarism of some 1,371 of my how-to articles for writers, I am now removing from public access MOST of my How To Guides for writers. They will return at a future date, but henceforth they will not be available for free. I'm tired of shit-head thieves stealing my work and passing it off as theirs. I'm sorry, to those of you who were not creeps and trolls, I know it's not fair to you, but, the hacking was done by a local person did a lot more damage than you know - the vandalism to my house and cars and the murders of my pets and death threats to my family, are not something I take lightly.

Until we can get to the bottom of this and get this jackass stalker out of my life, I am simply not able to leave my articles online, due to the court case that is now brewing over this. I am also leaving NaNoWriMo, because the local NaNoWriMo ML Kendra Silvermander is the cousin of the man doing the harassment, stalking, vandalism (which included blowing up my house with a grease fryer bomb) and has been not only stealing my how to guides and posting them on the NaNoWriMo forums as her own, but also shows up at local restaurants to threaten me and my family while we are trying to eat. I am utterly disgusted that NaNoWriMo allows a filthy, thieving, vandalizing, scum bag like this to continue to year after year, inciting anti-EelKat riot threads on the NaNoWriMo forum, while continuing to allow her to steal my articles off my web site and post them to NaNoWriMo's website as hers.

This article you are reading now, is one of the few, I have not taken down, it is however drastically shorted. My mega long 20,000 word how to articles are ALL removed now, with only and the ones that remain are stripped of most of the info, with only the barest minimum required to answer the reader question - in many cases the articles are 90% shorter then when they originally appeared, most now under 2,000 words instead of their 20,000 word originals.

Complete Index of
EelKat's Guide to NaNoWriMo
(Including The ORIGINAL 13 Steps To Writing Method)

MANY of these pages are changed to private viewing only now, and or have had most or all of the original content removed - see note above for reason why.

  1. EelKat's Guide To NaNoWriMo
  2. Why Write 50,000 Words In 30 Days?
  3. How Can I Possibly Write a Novel in 30 Days?
  4. Don't Quit!
  5. How long does it take to hit 1667 words? and 50k in one day - is it possible?
  6. Write Now - Edit Later
  7. Write it YOUR Way!
  8. What Is Word Padding?
  9. Word Padding & Why You Should Never Do It!
  10. More ways to write fast without word padding . . .
  11. After NaNoWriMo - Writing to Publish
  12. What I Did In 2006 - Reaching 50,000 using The 13 Step Method to Writing
  13. The Secret to Reaching Word Count Goals Without Using Word Padding - What I Did During National Novel Writing Month 2007
  14. NaNoWriMo 2008: 50k in 3 Days!
  15. Writing Tip: Have Fun!
  16. But, I want to finish a book I already started . . .
  17. Does writing a bunch of short stories count for National Novel Writing Month?
  18. Write What YOU Want To Write!
  19. Accepting Your Writing Style
  20. Writing Advice Doesn't Always Work
  21. What do You Look For in a Book?
  22. Creating Character Profiles
  23. Where Do You Get Your Ideas?
  24. What Genre is My Vampire Story?
  25. What Genre is My Mermaid Story?
  26. Does What You Read Effect What You Decide To Write? or What's on My Bookshelf . . .
  27. WHERE Should I write? Where do you feel you write more?
  28. Create Your Own Writer's Retreat
  29. I Want to Keep Writing December and Beyond: JaNoWriMo, FebNoWriMo, SeptNoWriMo, OctNoWriMo . . . ???
  30. Script Frenzy
  31. GothNoWriMo
  32. Narration for Writers
  33. Novel? Novella? Short Story? How Do I Know What Am I Writing?
  34. ABCs of Writing
  35. How to Become a Writer
  36. Are You a Renegade Writer?
  37. Creating a Fantasy World
  38. After NaNoWriMo: Editing your draft into a manuscript
  39. After National Novel Writing Month: Marketing Your Book
  40. After NaNoWriMo: Home Office, Town Zoning, and IRS Oh My! The Business Side of Being an Author
  41. My NaNoWriMo Journey: The answer the the oft asked question "So what exactly did you write during National Novel Writing Month?"
  42. How Long is 50,000 Words?
  43. Cliches To Avoid When Writing a Story
  44. What are the Benefits of NaNoWriMo?
  45. Is NaNoWriMo About Quantity Over Quality?
  46. How Do You Pick Which Story to Write?
  47. You too can NaNoWriMo like a pro

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The Quaraun Series On Amazon:

I am wondering why has Amazon moved the Quaraun books to the category "Transgender Romance" and also "Gay Erotica"? The base story is a deeply depressed, suicidal, drug addict Elf who's lover commit suicide and he's trying not to do the same. It's an old Elf in a tavern, monologuing a lot of flashbacks and back story scenes of his youth. These stories are dark, bloody, angsty, full of drug use, murder, rape, Medieval torture, mental/physical/emotional abuse, and references to depression and suicide - no romance in it, unless you count the occasional (and usually brutally violent) rape scenes that show up in nearly every volume - sorry - no clue what Amazon is thinking or why they moved these to Romance and Erotica, but these books are NOT even close to being Romance or Erotica on any level at all. When I published these books I put them in "Dark Fantasy" and "Yaoi". If they show up in any category other then "Dark Fantasy" and "Yaoi", it's because Amazon put them there without my authorization or approval.