Unfaithful Writer Feature

Are you an unfaithful writer?

Writers are often asked what camp they’re in. Plotter or pantser? Self-published or traditional publisher? Genre or literary fiction?

There’s one question you’re rarely asked: faithful or unfaithful?

Because I am not a faithful writer. At all.

Living a lie

The weird thing is, I’d forgotten about this faithlessness until recently. I don’t know how this happened – perhaps I was inspired by listening to stories of authors who commit themselves to entire novels and see them through to the end.

Inspired by this sort of dedication, I started projects in NaNo and dedicated myself to their very existence… until I ran out of steam. I focussed on one story at a time – spending all my energy on one set of characters and solving plot points for just the one story (generally at 2am when I’ve been trying to get to sleep for hours). Sure, I may have flirted with another project or two along the way, but they were short-lived things. I always came back to that main story.

But it was all a lie. A façade. An attempt to ignore my true nature.

For most of my early writing life, I had so many stories on the go that it was possible to write the wrong scene in one and put a completely different character in another. If I was bored with my sci-fi story, I’d hop across to my ghost story. If I was in a mood for fantasy or ghost trains, I had options for both (there were a lot of ghost stories in the mix – I’m not sure what that says about me).

Perhaps if I’d focussed, I’d have written a complete novel by the time I turned fifteen… but I was having much more fun spreading my attention around. It meant I could experiment and try different genres instead of being stuck with one.

It meant I was never bored.

The unfaithful (but never bored) writer

I can’t believe I spent so long pretending I was happily committed to one story at a time. What happened to me? How did I manage to forget my true nature for so long? I honestly think my current story was a bit of a cry for help with its constantly-changing genres and settings.

Now that I have the time to focus on writing, I’ve decided that means I can focus on a lot of writing on a lot of different stories. And by “a lot” I mean “three”.

Well, three for now. Who knows how many I’ll have in a few months’ time?

In the meantime, let me introduce you to my three contenders.

Unfaithful Writer Note

The Current Crush

Title: Yeah, I’m still working on that part | Word Count: 60,236 | Status: In love

I started writing The Current Crush during NaNoWriMo 2014 – I had no plan and no plot and I just went for it. It was a coming-of-age fantasy story until I read a fabulous sci-fi story and wished I’d chosen that genre instead. So I changed it mid-story with the intention of changing the beginning to fit, before deciding that it would be much more fun if the change somehow became the story.

I wrote 45,000 words during NaNo and I’ve since added another 15,000. In recent times, I’ve even found a plot for the whole thing!

This story is ever-changing and always surprising me and I have at least one character who can’t seem to decide if he’s on the right or wrong side. I basically spend the whole time tormenting my main character and I love it.

The Fling

Title: Ryn’s Final Episode | Word Count: 30,359 | Status: Can’t keep away

It feels as though The Fling has been around forever, probably because it technically started around 2007-ish as a massive collaborative story with my friends. I’ve been promising them for years that I’ll finish my character’s story and I keep toying with it but it’s not done yet.

Part of the problem is that I’m experimenting with not writing in linear fashion – I dip in and write scenes whenever I want with no idea of how they all fit together (or whether they’ll even be included in the finished story).

The other part of the problem is that I don’t want to give it up.

I know how the story ends, which is a rarity for me. The only trick is getting all the preceding bits in the right order.

The Old Flame

Title: The Black Fiddle of Barnet | Word Count: 145,994 | Status: We just need another chance

Then there’s the one I can never forget. The one I actually finished. The one I wrote mostly over one Summer holiday when I was working in a school.

The Black Fiddle of Barnet.

It was only ever a first draft and I knew it needed work but I didn’t know where to start. Plus, it took me quite a while to realise there was a massive problem with it: my main character, Jeannie, is kind of unlikeable. She’s driven and talented and loyal and really good at playing the fiddle… but she kind of grates on your nerves. Whenever she gets into trouble (which is a lot, because she’s the main character, so obviously), you nod and think, Well, you brought that on yourself, didn’t you?

Luckily, this problematic realisation didn’t come to me on its own: it brought a friend with a plan. Why not turn one of my other characters into a first-person narrator? He’s funny; he’s engaging; he’s always mocking the main character in a way that renders her almost human. Not to mention he has a massive secret that could act as a shocking turning-point.

So here’s the thing: all I have to do is re-write the entire book from Cianan’s first-person point of view instead of Jeannie’s third-person subjective. Easy. So easy. Let me do that tomorrow before breakfast.

(Oh good lord – I literally just starting thinking about this and massive ideas fireworks have gone off in my brain. It turns out that Jeannie’s objective in the first draft is actually the wrong one. Which changes an early section of the book. Which adds extra dimensions to the entire setting of the story. And all of this comes about because Cianan’s secret has to tie in better with the existing plotline, which has the flow-on effect of completely changing the existing plotline. And so help me, I want to re-write this thing right now.)

Ahem. With that interruption out of the way…

I love the idea of telling a massive story from a by-stander instead of the person creating the change. It’s something I’ve always loved: stories told by the people you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Although you would notice Cianan. He’d make sure of it. Plus, there’s the other massive secret of his that I can’t reveal here in the hopes that one day this will be an actual book that you can actually buy and actually read.

Unfaithful Writer Multitasking

Why do I think this will work?

Firstly, this is going to work because it’s the way I’ve always worked. I’m returning to my unfaithful roots!

Secondly, it will work because it gives me options. Single-minded focus on one story is great… until that story wears out its welcome. So when the Current Crush isn’t going well and the Regular Fling is flinging somewhere else, I can count on the Old Flame to be there for me. Each of them is different in some way, whether it’s style, genre or audience, and the Old Flame is something else again, being a new draft based on an original. There’s a lot of variety in that bunch.

The only trick will be making sure the right characters stay in the right stories!

Should you consider being unfaithful?

Are you tempted to try this, too? I highly recommend being an unfaithful writer, mostly because it comes with this handy list of benefits:

1. You’ll never feel trapped

You know that awful feeling you get when you’re bogged down in your own story and you’ve written yourself in a corner? When you’re an unfaithful writer, you can escape to another story and give your creative mind time to think of a solution.

2. You can pick your own (fictional) friends

You can choose your story based on your mood. If you don’t feel like hanging around with the character who always makes the worst life choices, go for the one who lives the charmed life!

3. Choose your point of view

Perhaps you’re in a third-person frame of mind one day and have a first-person craving the next. When you have multiple stories on the go, the choice is yours!

4. Skip the writing entirely.

What if you’re not in a writing mood? Good news! When you’re unfaithful, you can go for editing or revising instead!

I’m a pantster. I’d like to get a contract with a publishing house. I definitely write genre fiction.

And I am one hundred percent an unfaithful writer.

What about you? Are you faithful to one story or not? Please share your thoughts in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!

Try these stories next

10 comments

K.M. Allan 26th September 2018 - 12:17 pm

I usually can’t write anything but the story I’m working on. My writer-brain just won’t allow it. Luckily I’m working on a four book series so I’ve got four different WIP’s on the go, they just happen to involve the same world and characters. Good luck with all your projects. They sound great!

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Katie 26th September 2018 - 12:22 pm

I’m intrigued by your four book series – are they all at different stages or are you writing them simultaneously? Both options sound fun to me! It would be handy to have a dedicated writer-brain but then I remember that everyone approaches the craft in so many different ways that there’s no way we could all be the same.

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. 🙂

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Emma Hughes 27th September 2018 - 10:49 am

Loved reading this! Your framing of it is so good, and it makes total sense when you put it that way…. Very intrigued to read more of your work someday, sounds like you have some killer ideas and a great grasp on how to make them even better 🙂

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Katie 27th September 2018 - 10:57 am

Thank-you! I thought it was worth coming clean about my faithlessness in case it encourages some other unfaithful writers out there. Even when I was writing the first draft of my book, I was working on other projects. It’s just too much fun to be able to choose which story I want to work on!

Thanks for dropping by my blog. 🙂

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Trey 28th September 2018 - 1:12 am

I’ve missed you talking about writing.

I’m with K.M. above: I have to stay focused on the one thing. In fact, with my trilogy, I had to write the books in this order: One, Three, Two. That’s because Books One and Three have the same narrator and characters, while Book Two steps farther back and looks at the big picture, focusing instead on people who are minor characters in the other two volumes. It made more sense to me to stick with the same narrative voice before attempting others. It was also tricky, but fun, to have Book Two refer back to things in Book One and also tease things to come in Book Three, all the while avoiding spoilers.

Ray, the protagonist, is definitely unlikable the more you get to know him, so I surrounded him with people who are better. There are plenty of passages where the reader is meant to roll their eyes at how self-centered and clueless he can be, and sometimes the other characters call him on his crap. I even considered doing the thing you mentioned of changing the POV and having Book Three be told by one of the other main characters, but it was too much of a stretch, particularly because so much of the plot relies on Ray’s ignorance of what’s really going on around him.

For a good, quick read, I’d suggest the YA novel Luna by Julie Anne Peters. It’s about a transgendered teenager and their struggle to find their identity, all the while keeping things hidden from their family. And sometimes, they’re a jerk. But instead of it being from their POV, it’s narrated by the sister, how she’s burdened by keeping Luna’s secret and how this affects the rest of her life. It’s a book that’s both sad and funny at the same time (and because it’s YA, you can probably get through it in an afternoon or two).

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Trey 28th September 2018 - 11:51 pm

Crap, I replied to the wrong comment, didn’t I? *facepalm*

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Katie 30th September 2018 - 10:41 am

You replied to the blog post, so all is good! I think it looks like you replied to a comment because there’s no userpic.

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Katie 30th September 2018 - 10:46 am

I’m amazed by all of these people who have written out multiple-book series already – you’re incredible! For some reason, my brain never thinks in series, so this seems like some kind of sorcery to me.

Thanks for sharing your approach to writing an unlikeable protagonist. It’s given me a few ideas of how to deal with the different POV, actually – Cianan will have to hide something pretty horrible from Jeannie and now I’m wondering how to hide it from the reader as well. It’s interesting how this decision changed my attitude towards the book itself: I’d never really looked forward to the next draft because I didn’t know how to deal with it and somehow, having to change literally everything has made the task more appealing. I’m not sure what that says about me personally… 😀

I’m glad you liked my return to writing about writing, too. There should be quite a bit more of that now. 🙂

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Poppy (Tall Tales) 18th January 2019 - 11:36 am

Oh this is fascinating! I have never tried working on multiple drafts at once, but I do now wonder if I could. I love writing in very different YA genres (light and fluffy book followed by book with loads of action and death, ha!) and it would be nice to have that escape when a project is giving me trouble.

Thanks for the idea! 🙂

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Katie 18th January 2019 - 12:15 pm

It’s definitely worth a go! I’d love to know if it works out for you. I’ve been doing it this way for so long (except for that weird hiatus) that I can’t imagine writing any other way. 🙂

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