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Testing the Waters: A Tale of Two Stories

October 12, 2013 by Kiersi

Photo by rickpilot (flickr)

Photo by rickpilot (flickr)

I’m stuck.

So, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts soon. Not that soon, not super soon, but soon enough to get me nibbling a fingernail here and there. It’s around the corner, you might say, if months had corners, just waiting for it to be November 1st and for me to be heinously, ridiculously, unfortunately underprepared.

I mean, that won’t happen. That’s the Type A in me talking, needing everything to be perfect all the time and why would you bother doing it if it isn’t perfect. Yeah, see? She’s in there. That’s Crazy Type A Writer lurking just beneath the surface, ready to jump out and pull you in by your ankles. She’s a freak show, man. Don’t even try her.

The real finger-nibbling problem is that I have two big, prescient, powerful, sexy ideas for NaNoWriMo. And I don’t know which one to write.

I’m not going to talk about them, because I read this post a while ago about how talking about your writing gives you bad ju-ju. (I wish I could link it here, but unfortunately, I have no recollection of who wrote it and Google is doing its absolute best to be unhelpful.)

At first I was all, nah, that’s not true, that’s some rinky-dinky insecure writer hullabaloo–but actually, it is true, at least in my tiny, writer-bubble world. The more I talk about an idea, work through the story with someone out loud (or, on the internet, also out loud but in the way it can only be out loud on the internet), the more… I lose my passion for it. The harder it is to write. The less I feel it, deep down in my bones, that almost painful need to put the words down on paper and see it through to the end.

The post I read surmised that it’s because we write to explore. We have an idea, and the only way to realize that idea is to write it down. To spin a story out of it. But when we spin the story with our words to someone, like sitting them down and saying, “Okay, here’s how it goes, there’s this girl…” It’s like the magic gets SLOOP! Sucked right out of it.

Dang. It’s true. It’s painfully true–for me, at least.

So I’ve got two competing ideas for the upcoming novel hustle in November. They’re both great, in their own way. One’s a departure from my norm in that it’s adult; but much like everything else I write, it’ll be a fantasy.

The other’s a contemporary-seeming MG novel, until the magical realism starts poking its nose out a little ways in. I’ve never written anything that’s even remotely contemporary in the MG sphere, not to mention magical realism; but there it is.

Each one is better for my career in a different way. Each one I’m passionate about in completely separate spheres.

What’s a Type A writer to do?

So I decided to stop talking about stories and instead, test the waters. Dip my feet in. In my last post I talked about doing writing samples to establish the tone, style, and voice of a piece before November starts–even if you scrap the original sample when you really dig your claws into writing the manuscript.

But another heaping big benefit of scribbling out a writing sample is you get to try the story out; put it on like a coat when you’re attempting to get out the door and you’re running late but nothing in your closet that’s the right weight and warmth category matches your clothes. Drape it over your shoulders, dance around in the mirror, toss it down on the bed in frustration when it’s still not the right one until you find the one that is the right one, and you pull it on, wink at yourself, grab your purse and rush out the door.

Okay. Maybe not everyone has that experience. But I’ve been seeing good results so far; which idea speaks to me? Which one could I see becoming a part of my life not just for November, but for the months and years afterwards when I’ll have to revise it another five million times? Both books are hard in their own way, and both books will not-so-delicately shove me out of my comfort zone.

The trick will be deciding which one comes first!


  1. I’ll avoid pestering you about it next week then!
    I find I like talking about what I am writing so I can find more sparks for my ideas. Like telling someone you’re going to lose weight or write a book – more support the more it is known. I’m also a huge outlined but not great on character bios. Need to do more there I think. My characters lack a rounded background and motivations.

    • Kiersi says:

      Haha, thanks Ryan! I definitely agree on building the support structure–what I like to do is tell my people, “I’m writing a book. These are my goals for how much I’ll write each day and when I’ll finish it.” Then they hold me to that. But the less I explore my ideas out loud and the more I explore it on paper, the more likely I am to actually finish. But then again, sometimes outside people give me GREAT ideas! So go figure.

  2. I have no doubt you’ll figure it out. One must be calling to you at least a little louder than the other. If not yet, it will soon, I’m sure.

  3. cjmcgean says:

    A great post, and so spot on in so many ways! Knowing when to talk about or share your stuff is big. I, of course, am curious about the magical realism one. 🙂

    Right now in my third grade class, we have begun the challenging task of choosing one piece to revise and edit for publication, and I used very similar language to what you’ve used here. Which piece do you want to spend time with, lots of time with, the time it takes to polish it? Which piece feels like something you will want to share with the world?

    • Kiersi says:

      Wow! You do that kind of stuff with your third graders, huh? And we should talk about magical realism sometime soon. Maybe when I’m done doing some exploration I’ll bring it to group :3 Thanks so much Cindy!

  4. So true! Talking about a story before you write it pisses off your muse. And who needs an unhappy muse running around??? You know what I think? No matter which story you chose it’ll be great because you’re a great writer. And whatever story you don’t write in November you can always write later.

    • Kiersi says:

      Right?! Man, my muse has been pretty furious with me lately. I think she needs some red velvet ice cream! Awww, thanks, Quanie!! You’re so sweet. And yes, I think you’re right–I’ll end up writing both of them eventually <3

  5. Writerlious says:

    Well, no matter which story you choose, you’ll have a nice little baby story egg waiting to be explored and hatched when Nano’s over–maybe even when you’re letting the other one rest before revisions. 🙂

  6. The one with a voice that speaks more honestly to you right now. I think that story is ready to be told. You’ll end up writing both anyway, so don’t worry. Have a great NaNoWriMo, Kiersi!

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