1. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    Juggling two stories, and other dilemmas

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Birmingham, Jan 6, 2012.

    I'm currently in the middle of writing a novel (ever so slowly) and finally I truly have time to do so. More or less. At the same time, I figured sometimes it's good to take some time off one story and write another. Not two novels at once, but take a break from a novel to write a cute short story, or cute little novella, which you really want to get through. One feels passionately about it at times, because in a few weeks one can feel "yes, I started and finished a project". With a novel, you can't have that in a few weeks or two months, you can have it only 2 years or more since you started writing it (unless you're really fast, and even then, a speedy gonzales will be done in a year).

    So that's the first dilemma. Do I stop my novel in the middle to go off and write a short story or a short novella? Do I take time from my novel research to do some minor research for the novella/short?

    Second dilemma is this: I know two languages pretty fluently, Hebrew and English. I figured since I write the novel in English, I can give myself a break and write the novella/short in Hebrew. Which is better? English is for more people, but I can publish a short story in Hebrew more easily, I suppose, in some scifi or fantasy magazine, online or offline (who knows, I never published anything, ever).

    Third issue is this: I wanted to do something similar to what Orwell did with Animal Farm. Meaning, I take a known historic story I'm familliar with (deeply) and tell it as a fable or a fantasy story. So instead of a President Kennedy, JFK is a 15 year old king who sends goblins and orcs that work for his wizards, instead of some agents who work for the CIA.

    But a facebook friend suggested I drop the whole fantasy angle and just write a historical novel. So I'm torn. Do I write a short story that is historical fiction about JFK's true struggles? Or do I write a fantasy story in which JFK is a 15 year old boy flying on a dragon?

    It's funny, because my research material includes academic stuff about geopolitics, as well as D&D material, so it would be funny to research both for the same project.

    Bottom line:
    Focusing on a novel? or writing novel plus something else?
    Writing both stories in English, or writing the second one in Hebrew?
    Writing the second story as a historical novel using academic research? Or as a fantasy story using D&D research?
     
  2. Ziggy Stardust
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    Ziggy Stardust Active Member

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    Personally I would have no interest at all in reading a fictional story about JFK. He's too well documented and his story has been told many, many times. When I want to read about historical figures, I want to read as close to the real story as possible.

    I have read historical fiction, but they were not about real people. They might mention real people in passing, make reference to them, but they were never featured directly.

    The rest is really up to you. If you're struggling with the novel, or getting lethargic with it, then it would make sense to take a break and write something else for a few weeks.

    If it's a short story that you're writing for fun, just do it in which ever language you want. If it turns out good you can always translate it later on some rainy day when you're extremely bored, if you really want to.

    I love Animal Farm a lot, it is a brilliant novel. I don't see any reason why your Goblin idea could not work out. Remember YOU are writing this, not your friend. Write what you want to write.
     
  3. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Woah woah woah... A YEAR? I know that people write novels at differents speeds, but a, and I quote, "Speedy Gonzales" would finish a novel in more like a month. I finished my first draft of my first novel after two months of work. It ended at 60k.
    Stephen King has said that he finishes most of his first drafts after about three months, and that's novels that can be longer than 200,000 words.
    So, I don't want to make you feel bad, but you've got kind of unrealistic views of how long it takes to write a novel.

    Now, to your questions. You can focus on your novel, or you can work on multiple things. There's no right way. Do what works for you. If stopping your novel to write something else makes it harder to get back to your novel, then you should probably focus on your novel. It's up to you. Some people need breaks. Some people need routine.

    As for the JFK thing... What Orwell did with Animal Farm was different. The plot and the situation was an analogy. What you're doing with the JFK thing is taking a real person and putting them in a fantasy setting. If you look at Harry Potter, a lot of the events are analogous to real life. Dumbledore and Grindelwald, when they were friends, wanted to suppress muggles under wizard rule. That's essentially an analogy of Hitler versus Jews, especially when considering that they were in middle Europe at the same time as Hitler in real life. Even the current Death Eaters are pretty much analogous to terrorism.
    You can't just supplant a historical person into a fictional universe if you want to write something that is, to be frank, respectable.

    English/Hebrew? Write in the language you want to write in. If you plan on having anybody read it, write it in the language most convenient for that, which is probably English.

    Finally, why would you use D&D as research? The thing with fantasy is to try not to be derivative. It's easy to be derivative. A real challenge lies in coming up with something that is inherently yours.

    (Edit: Also, WHOOO! 1024 posts. That's a real milestone! =D)
     
  4. Makeshift
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    Makeshift Active Member

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    Probably there are more experienced writers here with better answers but thought I'd give my two cents. First dilemma: it depends on how your novel is progressing. If you are inspired right now, then definitely focus on that work. You might lose momentum if you take time off. I agree that it's a good thing to take time off, but I think that should be done when you're almost finished. Then take a break without even thinking about your novel, then return to it and read it like it was someone else's work. You can't force inspiration, so if your novel isn't progressing at all, do something else.

    Second dilemma: I also write in two languages: Finnish and English. For me it depends on what the story is like. The English stuff is more plot-centred and speculative, Finnish stuff is more personal. For me being able to post my work here is a big thing, so lately I've written in English. I can't really help you cause I have no idea how many Hebrew-language sci-fi/fantasy magazines there are.

    Third dilemma: Do you think you have something new to write about JFK? If you go with the historical fiction, you should have something, some kind of new angle, something that hasn't been said before. In that way the fantasy angle is easier. I would say if you choose fantasy, don't make it overtly long or detailed in politics. It should be like Animal Farm, something readers can enjoy even if they don't know the politics behind it. That's what you seem to be interested in, so go ahead. Don't change your mind due to something someone said on Facebook.
     
  5. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    First, cruci: I think that comparing my ideas with Orwell's Animal Farm is a valid analogy. Orwell simply took true historic events, changed the location, names, and species of characters, and wrote what actually happened, not inventing much. The old pig (his name escapes me) is Lenin or Marx. Snowball is Trotzky, Napoleon is Stalin, Jones is the Tzar, and the two other farmers represent Hitler and the Western World. If you read it, you'll see it's exactly that story. So, Orwell indeed put real people in the middle of a fictional story. Stalin, Trotzky, Nikolai and Hitler are in the story, just like JFK would be in mine if I take the fantasy route. He won't have the same name or age, of course. And the CIA people won't have the same names and titles either.

    Now, to both Cruci and Makeshift, and everyone else, I did have the idea of writing something specific about a specific event during the 1960s. I found it amusing at how some people don't like historical intrigue or political intrigue but do love stories with the exact same elements of conspiracies, and action, etc. So I figured maybe I could write a fantasy story where I make up nothing, simply rewrite a few anecdotes about JFK and the people around him. Many of the people who believe his story is boring would love it if I make a few changes. But, of course, I'm in the middle of writing an ensamble novel about an administration in the future, and so I don't know if stopping it and going to revisit the past is good or bad.

    As for the time people write novels in... it depends, I guess, on the person and on what the person does or has in his life. I think it's a great topic for another thread, to learn each other's habits and results, and see if there is a correlation between how busy we are, how much research we put into the project, and how many kids we have, whether or not we have jobs or spouses, and what results we produce.

    I guess I have no problem doing it, but I feel for some reason that I'm "betraying" my novel, even though taking time off would help it in the future. The feeling of accomplishment might push me forward, and research for one story can help with another, as they have many things in common.
     
  6. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    Oh, and thanks, Ziggy. I just saw your comment. You're the only one I haven't mentioned in my other post. Thank you all.
     
  7. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    In that case, the analogy stands. You made it sound like you were transplanting JFK as JFK, rather than using a new character as JFK.
    And the reason people don't usually like most historical fiction in that way is because it's not actually that creative. You're writing history. You're not rewriting it. You're just trying to make it enjoyable to read, and that's a fine hobby, sure, but it's not really that much to get excited over, to be honest. I mean, we all know what happened already because we can a) read about the real events on Wikipedia in about an hour or b) watch really well-made and interesting documentaries with visual stimulus.
     
  8. Ziggy Stardust
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    It was pretty clear to me cruciFICTION. :rolleyes:

    There is nothing wrong with a satirical fantasy novel based on real historical events. Animal Farm is a perfect example of this working extremely well.

    I imagine the kind of people who would read a story about goblins and wizards aren't going to be the same ones who watch political documentaries or trawl google for historical information. Especially if she makes it accessible for a younger audience like Animal Farm was.
     
  9. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    It says that JFK himself is a 15 year-old king. It doesn't say the character is based on JFK. It says he is JFK.
     
  10. Ziggy Stardust
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    Ziggy Stardust Active Member

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    And I'm amazed that you thought she meant that she'd pluck a 15 year old JFK out from history and put him into a magical fantasy land with goblins and wizards. Especially as she said she wanted to do the same thing Orwell did in Animal Farm one sentence earlier. But whatever. :D
     
  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It looked confusing.

    But if that is what she's saying, then ok.
     
  12. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    This.
    If you reread my post, you'll notice that I thought she was just mixing up the analogy, but I'm not going to argue the point beyond that. It's a case of me misunderstanding it. If it means anything, it's nearly 5am and I've been awake for a fair while now.

    Birmingham: write how you wish. Just remember to use your words.
     
  13. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    What ever gave you the impression that I'm a female? I'm not. Eisenhower is gonna be a female in my story, but I digress. Stalin will be a midgit, and I dunno about Castro. Yeah, I know that Stalin doesn't fit the story when we're talking about the timeline, but if it's a fantasy thing, and I play with people's ages and with eras, so I mix things up.

    Anyway, male here. But I'll keep you posted when I have the money for the operation :)
     
  14. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    OP: I think you shouldn't stop writing the main story altogether, as it could be difficult to get back into it when you take it up again and you might have lost the flow with (or worse, the enthusiasm for) it. I'd say stick with the main project, the novel if that is it, and dedicate like a time of the day to writing other things if it's possible. Like, the last hour/-s or so of the day (or in the morning, which you prefer) you close down the novel document and write the other stuff. That way you won't lose momentum with the novel because it's hard enough as it is sticking with it for the such a long time and if you keep jumping back and forth it might take even longer.

    Cruci: I think what the OP meant was the time it takes to finish the novel, with revision, editing and all. I'd agree that it takes at least a year to get through all the processes to have a final draft that you can even think of submitting. I can write a first draft in a month or two too, but the revision and editing is what takes the most time. Plus that you should probably let it "rest" for some time in between drafts/revisions to get a fresh eye for it.
     
  15. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    The other poster who I've unfortunately forgotten the handle of called you a "she". I figured they had some knowledge I didn't have. My bad.

    This is true. The whole "year" thing just seemed like it came out of nowhere. Should probably be sleeping more.
     
  16. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Adding my tuppence worth... On your fist two dilemmas, I would say that it's entirely up to you and what you're comfortable with.

    And on the 3rd dilemma, that's entirely up to you too :p But I will add that I tend to think that fantasy based on real life should be based on current or recent events. I suppose my logic here is that the allegorical nature of the story gives you a great opportunity to sneak in satirical commentary, which might seem a bit smug or preachy if you included it in a straight re-telling of the tale; I don't see much point in trying to be satirical about something that happened decades ago, unless you can link it to something that's happening in the world today.

    Having said this, I still think that if the story excites you, you should write it! It certainly doesn't strike me as a bad idea, just not the type of fantasy I'm used to.
     
  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why does everybody keep bringing up Stephen King as an example? He's not any kind of writing god. He's just extremely prolific. About 75 books so far, many of them very long.

    I've heard of people like Georges Simenon who could write a novel in less than a week. He'd write sixty to eighty pages per day. Makes King look like a piker in that department.

    But most of the writers I admire worked much more slowly. It took Ernest Hemingway about eighteen months to write For Whom the Bell Tolls, his longest novel. He only published seven novels and six collections during his lifetime, and won the Nobel Prize.

    It took James Joyce seven years to write Ulysses.

    So saying that someone else has "unrealistic views of how long it takes to write a novel" is a bit silly. It depends on the writer, the novel, the writer's ambition for the novel (are you trying to write a masterpiece or a piece of hack work?), and other things.
     
  18. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    There was a swedish writer recently who got an award for his first novel which took him 10 years to finish. I wouldn't work with something for that long, but it's the end-result that matters, I guess, not how fast it was completed. Actually 200K in three months sounds a little too fast to me. Was that the first draft or the entire work? Does he self publish his books by the way? I don't know where I heard that.
     
  19. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    We seem to be digressing to a fascinating topic, and I think we should separate the issues discussed here into two threads.

    I think that maybe for further comments about recommended pace of writing we should all move here:

    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=49185&p=862588#post862588
     
  20. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, he's not, but not everybody knows who Anthony Trollope is who pretty much was a writing god, considering the length of most of his works and his method of writing. King is just easy to use as an example in most cases because (goddamn, I say this too often) despite his average prose, he's a good storyteller. His works translate very well to film, they're usually pretty easy to get into, and he is quite prolific.

    Consider NaNoWriMo, though. That's less than 2000 words a day. If you're writing full time, 2000 words a day would be pitiful, in my view. So writing 100,000 words a month isn't that odd, really.
     
  21. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    I'm not writing full time, but I think that maybe, like I said, we should have that discussion in a different thread.
     

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