Thursday, November 17, 2011

To Listen or Not to Listen? Part Two

Yesterday, Danielle wrote an awesome post about Shiny New Ideas and how hard it is to ignore them (even though it's usually the right thing to do!)

Continuing her topic, I wanted to talk about those times when you should listen to those Shiny New Ideas! Quick disclaimer: Unfortunately, like everything in writing, I can only tell you about my own experiences. Please don't take anything I say here as a promise of a magical solution, only you can truly answer the question about whether or not it is right for you to listen to the Shiny New Ideas that are lurking somewhere between pages 50-100 of your current WIP!

Until recently, I have always subscribed to the idea that right way to handle Shiny New Ideas was to jot them down in their most basic form and then desperately attempt to ignore them while they drive you to distraction with promises of complex, complete plots and deep, multidimensional characters. And when your current WIP is starting to feel stalled out and never-ending like this:

It's just that much harder to ignore an idea that feels like this:

This is exactly where I am this week. 10K into my draft of PLETHORA I had a great idea. A different story, with different characters, and countless ideas for scenes. But I was committed to my current WIP, it was a story I needed to tell and I could see this Shiny New for what it was ... a distraction. It is a good idea and I will definitely add it to my queue for future projects, but it was not something I was willing to let interfere with my long-term relationship with PLETHORA. 

But then it REALLY happened... 25K into my draft and things started to get overly complicated. I found myself sitting on the floor, surrounded by piles of subplots and MIA characters. And then I heard it... a conversation between two characters that were NOT from my current book. But they were interesting, and they were snarky, and most importantly THEY WERE TALKING! So I listened, and they kept talking, and the more I figured out about their story the more I loved it. It is completely different from my current WIP, it was simple and fun and had a complete, linear plot that came to me fully laid-out. It had a bittersweet, heart-wrenching romantic ending that I instantly fell in love with.

So after a few days of SQUEEing to myself about it, I decided to tell one of my CPs and my sisters about the idea. And ALL of the conversations started with them chastising me for letting myself get distracted by ANOTHER Shiny New. But then they heard the SHINY NEW IDEA. All of them loved it. And suddenly I was unsure of what to do next.

My options were:
1) Stay the course. Write it down. Ignore it. Come back to it after finishing current WIP.
2) Drop current WIP like yesterday's jam (bonus points if you get this joke) and run off into the sunset with SHINY NEW IDEA.
3) Work on both books at once.

Now I'm going to be honest here, when I first considered this idea, it made me feel a little like this guy:

Writing a book is a LOT like a long-term relationship, you are dedicating a significant chunk of your time on this planet to loving and nurturing it. You will have moments of great joyful happy dancing and moments where you're so frustrated you want just want to cry. You will celebrate milestone and anniversaries with it. You will have fights about the way things are supposed to be and end up not talking for a few days, followed by a make-up session where you write the best scene of the book. It takes up all of your spare time, thoughts, and energy. 

So why, oh, why, would anyone work take on TWO of these book relationships at once?! 
But then I started thinking about my writing process. I love my writing, I love my characters and my stories, and I love the fact that I get so many Shiny New Ideas. But I think the real reason I get them so frequently is because I get bored with focusing all my energy on one story. I pretty much always have many different stories going on in my head at any given time and when I try to block them all but one, my brain gets bored and uncooperative and just shuts down.

Crazy person that I am, I've decided to try it! My hope is that this way I can be thinking about one book and when I get to that point where my brain doesn't want to think about that anymore, I can just switch to the other book and not feel guilty about changing tracks. I'm particularly excited about trying this now because these two particular stories have the main ingredients for being a perfect match: 1) they are different genres, plot styles, and POVs, and 2) I would be happy to finish either of them, so I'm not concerned about one book getting more attention than the other.

I think the moral of the story is this: Until you know what your ideal writing process is, it's important to try new techniques and tricks when you feel like things aren't working. Because if you don't keep trying new things, it's unlikely you'll find the thing that works.

So tell me: Have you ever worked on two projects at once? Any advice? Do you think I'm crazy for trying this? What is the writing process that works best for you?

1 comment:

  1. Patricia! I love this, because this is just what I feel like sometimes. I know my personality, and I know that if I get bored, I stall out. So for me, I think allowing the diversion of the shiny new lets me come back to the original work with a fresh and willing mind. But I'm exactly on board with how you conclude...until you KNOW what your ideal writing process is, you simply have to experiment. LOVE that you put it into words.