It hunts you down when you’re exhausted, powering through a first draft in search of the finish line. Or maybe when you’ve just settled in for a long night of revisions, it calls to you. It can strike as you try to fall asleep, or wake you up before your alarm goes off.
The Shiny New Idea.
Mine usually start with a situation, and then the attendant plot structure and necessary characters spin off of that. The function comes first. But I know plenty of people who find their characters first, their form for the book, and grow the plot out of that.
But how do you tackle that idea when it’s not yet time? When you’re caught up in your old love, or maybe multiple ones, and can’t make brainspace for whatever comes next?
If you’re a plotter, can you step outside of your current work long enough to get the outline down on paper? Or maybe you trust that if the idea is good enough, real enough, it’ll patiently sort itself out in the back of your mind so that once you have the time, it’ll be ready and waiting and all gussied up.
Or maybe you have to word-vomit anything and everything associated with the new idea before you can trust that it’ll stay put. When my new idea woke me up last weekend, I had to sit down, write out her first few paragraphs and a few bullet points, and then get on with my day. Otherwise my MC and her story would wander back into that jumble of isotopes in my head, never to collide and form a full-fledged atom again.
Whatever your method, I think we’ve all faced the dark fear of running out of ideas. I have a bullet point list of at least twenty books I want to write eventually, and I still fret about reaching the end of that list someday and having nowhere to go. Which is ridiculous, because it feels like each book I go through the writing and revising process with spawns at least ten more ideas, usually completely unrelated to the task at hand.
How do you tackle those shiny, sparkly plot-predators? Do you succumb to them, indulge them just long enough to keep them happy, or ignore them completely until the task at hand is done? Are you desperately in need of a new idea and fantasizing about smothering me with a pillow for daring to suggest that there are more ideas than hours in the day?