I am addicted to Shiny New Ideas. You know the ones I mean. The ones who show up out of nowhere, in the sparkly little dresses, just as the world of your current WIP is starting to look a little drab and boring. The ideas that delight in making you question if you picked the right story to dedicate weeks/months/years of love, sweat, frustration, and tears to. I have LOTS of these ideas.
My first question is always: WHERE WAS THIS FREAKING IDEA WHEN I WAS TRYING TO THINK OF WHAT TO WRITE NEXT?
Because the shiniest, most sparkly ideas never show up when you need a new idea. At least mine don’t.
Usually the advice from friends and other writers is split 50/50. The first half will say: “Ignore it! Don’t let it distract you! Save it for later! It’s evil!” The other half will say: “Maybe it’s better than your current story. Maybe you should try it. Maybe it’s the most brilliant idea ever and you’ll regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t stop everything you’re doing and work on it!” Some will say both.
When it comes down to it, you can’t get upset about the split advice, because it’s the same split you’ve got going on internally. And like everything true about your writing, only YOU know what’s best.
I’ll admit the story I’m currently drafting was a Shiny New Idea that showed up about 6 or 7 months into another project. And despite the research, plotting, and writing I had done already, I dropped it all because I KNEW that THIS Shiny New was THE ONE. The book I NEEDED to write. RIGHT NOW.
And now here we are a few months later. The shininess is wearing off a little. My WIP and I are starting to fight. We ignore each other for a few days here and there. The honeymoon is over. Not surprisingly, after a few weeks of feeling slumpish my writing brain woke up the other day. And sure enough, it was flirting with a Shiny New that could not be more different from my current WIP.
For the whole day I was on a Shiny New High. I was head-over-heels in love with the idea. I wrote scenes they made me laugh. I found characters that talked to me SO much more clearly than the ones in my current WIP. I called/texted/emailed my crit partners to tell them all about this wonderful Shiny New. They loved it and were split down the middle as laid out above when it came to advice. (And I love them for it because, as they always do, they told me everything I needed!)
So that night I sat down and made a decision. I was going to write down everything I could think of and then put this Shiny New away with a slightly whistful “It’s not you, it’s me.” I may not be on the honeymoon with this current WIP, but I do still love it. A lot. And that’s not something I’ve ever had with a WIP before. Which is what tells me that despite my struggles lately, this is still THE ONE. The book I NEED to write. RIGHT NOW.
A wise man once told me, “You can’t be good at everything. You’re not Zooey Deschanel.” So until I find a way to be Zooey, I’m going to be grateful to my imagination that it gives me such bright, sparkly, Shiny New Ideas. And I’m going to keep reminding myself that despite the fact that drafting is my greatest struggle in writing, I KNOW that I’m working on the right story.
So tell me: How do you deal with Shiny New Ideas? How do you decide whether to work on it or ignore it? Have you ever worked on more than one story at a time? How did that work for you? Any tips/tricks/ideas you can share with me?