I get lots of ideas—it’s part of being a writer, no? We’re constantly absorbing the world and framing what we experience in terms of story.
Because I have so many ideas, I’ve gotten accustomed to simply jotting them down whenever they strike. Sometimes simply scribbling down the idea is enough to keep it from nagging further.
Yet other times, the idea gleams and waves—a flirtation I really wish I could ignore…yet can’t seem to. I mean, this idea has all the fun and flash that my WIP lacks, and gosh, what if it’s actually better than my WIP? Should I abandon a project I’ve poured so much time and energy into in favor of this Shiny New Idea (SNI)? And if the answer is “no,” then how do I avoid the temptation?
First, if the idea doesn’t go away even after a day or so, then I’ll set aside my WIP and indulge.
Yep! You read that right: I’ll work on that SNI for a few days—maybe even a whole week. Whatever it takes to burn it out.
You see, very rarely is the SNI a full story. More often than not, it’s just part of an idea or a few snippets of “fun stuff” that doth not a full novel make. So when my muse starts to see that I don’t actually have an easier story on my hands—that it’s going to take just as much work and thought and frustration as my WIP…
Well, suddenly that half-finished WIP doesn’t look so bad.
My other approach is to apply the glitter of the SNI to my current project. I’ll consider what makes this idea so appealing. Clearly there’s a gold nugget here, and clearly my WIP lacks that gold nugget. Thus, the SNI seems shinier because it might actually be shinier.
If I can parse out those glittering elements—a tenser romance, an angrier motivation, a more vivid setting—then I can apply them to my WIP.
Not only will this improve my WIP, but will often cure me of that SNI distraction.
At the end of the day, though, no matter what approach I take to avoid the SNI’s siren call, I have to remember that more often than not, the root of my problem is fear.
It will always be easier to abandon a project that’s close to completion (which is also a project close to being shredded in revisions, close to being seen by others, and close to all that failure stuff that scares us the most) than it will be to simply power onward to The End.
So if, even after I indulge the SNI or apply it to my WIP, I still find yourself unable to rally forth, I’ll ask myself if fear isn’t what’s holding me back.
And if it is, well, then I guess I’ll just have to put my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard anyway. 😉
Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. As a marine biologist, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (she’ll get to Asia one of these days!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.
She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the forthcoming Witchlands series (Tor, 2015), and when not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo.
She lives in the Midwestern US with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog, newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.