I’ve spent part of the past several days putting all of the Eighteen Crossroads stories into a single document. WIP-ing it into shape, you know. Seems like a simple enough task, right?


First, it took me two days to find and collect all of the most recent versions of the stories. I’m an inveterate reviser, so there are multiple versions of each story, and I’m obsessive about saving them all. Fortunately, I do date each one, but this leads to a second problem: Having had to completely re-image my computer not once but twice in the past year and a half, I’m downright phobic about losing content. I don’t ever want to be one of those people sitting with her head in her hands in front of a computer screen blinking “Novel not found.” So I back up my backups, and then I back those up just to be sure. In addition to two different computers’ hard drives, my work is also saved to four different flash drives.

Did I say obsessed? Yes.

And the most recent version of a particular story is not necessarily on the same flash drive as the most recent version of another story. Backing things up, I’m good at. Logical systems of organization, not so much.

Backups can create havoc. I really need a better system.

But I did eventually find everything. I’ve always kept the stories in a folder that orders them by generation: Each document is titled Gen 1, Gen 2, or Gen 3, followed by the character’s name and/or the title of the story (if it has one yet), plus the date of the revision, like this: GEN 1 Aniela 6-15-13. The computer alphabetizes the stories by document name, of course, but I’ve always vaguely planned to order them by birth year, Gen 1 first, then Gen 2, then Gen 3, in the final version.

Key word: VAGUELY.

But the plan seemed logical enough, so I’ve never questioned it. However, in putting the MS together this weekend, I discovered it won’t work. There are spoilers in some of the earlier stories that would ruin the later ones long before my readers got to them.

So OK, let’s try Plan B.

I decided to put the stories in chronological order according to the year in which each one takes place. Again, this seemed logical. But this plan revealed problems of its own, since it will mix up the generations, and it also creates some organizational nightmares. For instance, one story occurs in 2006, but the bulk of its content is a flashback set in 1941. So does it belong chronologically in 2006, or 1941?


On to Plan C: Pull a Louise Erdrich. Place the stories in whatever order is most logical to me personally, and let the reader figure out who’s who and what’s what. (But for me, Love Medicine is what author Holly Lisle calls a “throw-across-the-room” book. It’s not that I hate it—it’s brilliantly written—but I still struggle to figure out the relationships and the time lines in that book, and I don’t want my readers having the same reaction to mine!)

Ultimately, I left the document in its Plan B stage, but I know it won’t stay that way.

I realize that no one who hasn’t read all of the MS (and so far, nobody has, because the first draft isn’t complete) can give me advice on how to order the stories, but I am REALLY FRUSTRATED right now and I just needed to get this off my chest.

Nothing worth doing is ever easy, right?

What problems have you run into as you write? How do you solve them?