They happen when you least expect them to – those pesky, brilliant, wonderful, torturous shiny new story ideas. They usually pop into existence when you absolutely have no time to work on them and you’re neck deep into another project. They don’t leave you alone, pounding around inside your head until you write them down. Sounds familiar? I bet it does.
If you write, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. They’re usually the opposite genre – in my experience – or sometimes just different than your current project. Some insist that you write them right now and others are good with just a quick jot down of ideas…mine are often the former. I have journals and files full of shiny new ideas and since it’s been awhile since I’ve talked “writing journey” on this blog, I’m going to tell you how I handle them.
I categorize them into two different groups – genre doesn’t matter. They are either “500” or “10k”.
These are basically just kind of basic synopsis’s for whatever idea. These are the ideas that kind of just pop into existence without having a solid idea for the entire story. So, I quickly write out everything that’s swirling around in my head. I try and keep these roughly around 500 words. Yes, they sometimes run a little over, but this exercise is supposed to be quick. Sometimes it’s just a quick scene, or a rough outline, and getting those few thoughts on paper achieves two things – 1: the shiny new idea is recorded and I can go back to it on a later date, and 2: it’s no longer beating around inside my head begging for my attention.
But you might ask – what if that doesn’t work? What if after giving yourself 500 words, the idea is still beating around inside your head?
Well, my answer to that is 10k.
Meaning, I put aside whatever currently project I’m working on, and I sit down and pump out 10k of whatever is going on in my mind. Usually it’s a scene or two between whatever the characters are doing or feeling. I’ve found that just giving myself 10 thousand words and dedicating a few days to just word vomit the story out of me, fully kicks it from my head.
I don’t always reach 10k before the pressing urge dissipates, sometimes it only takes 2, or 3 thousand. I cap it at 10k, because I would continue writing if I didn’t and would completely ignore the initial project I was working on. It’s shiny with a new world and new characters to explore and learn and that’s enticing to any writer. As much as we love our characters, sometimes we just need a break and that’s where it becomes dangerous – at least for me.
I often get plagued with shiny new book ideas – I remember a lot of my vivid dreams, which always somehow make for pretty interesting story ideas. Actually, most of my shiny new ideas are story idea. Like I mentioned earlier, I have so many journals and files pertaining to new ideas that I’ll likely never be able to write them all, especially when new one’s pop into my head all of the time. Some of them are like half-baked chicken, they might look good from far away, but they are utterly raw underneath, and honestly, are probably subjected to forever being ideas versus an actual story. These ones are usually just little scenes that have no story behind them, and I probably just wanted to write that kind of scene.
Others come to me as fully-fledged ideas with a conflict and resolution. I can see the world, the characters, everything about the story, and then I hope one day I can write it and it just doesn’t sit there collecting dust. Other ideas come from music or a writing exercise, and the creativity just starts flowing.
If you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo – I usually try and tackle one of these shiny new ideas that I’ve accumulated over the year(s). I normally take November off from whatever project I’m working on to work on something else. In a time of the year where it’s usually pretty hectic, I use it as a chance to be creative.
Maybe I’m alone in this feeling, but I don’t feel truly creative in the revision process. Drafting is where I see the world come to life on the page. I get to create, rather than improve. I’m not knocking the revision stage – it’s important. So, I usually use November as a way to fall back in love with writing, and I get to work on a new story while I do it, and then it’s back to regular programming.
I’m currently working on my SF WIP, and occasionally working on a high fantasy. But I’ll give you a peek into what other ideas I want to work on. Now I’m not going to go into any specifics, because I do want to write these stories, so I’ll give you genres. I’m also not going to dig out my journals – there are so many of them, and it would take a year to go through them to find the ideas, so here are the ones on my mac.
-Beach Contemporary Romance
-Summer Camp Contemporary
-High Fantasy: Light v. Dark
-Beauty and the Beast Fantasy Retelling
-Fantasy with a savior heroine
-Mermaid (inspired by TSwift Starlight)
-Fantasy: girl on an island
-Fantasy: Frozen Underworld
-Peter Pan Retelling
There are quite a few, I know, and most of them are probably multiple books stories. My brain is an over achiever obviously. For me, I’ve learned that I can’t ignore the shiny new ideas. They tend to eat away at me until I acknowledge them and if I don’t, I can’t focus on whatever project I’m currently working on.
I will say this, and I can’t stress this enough – this two-category method works for me. It allows me to ultimately stay focused. I can’t guarantee it will work for you, but feel free to give it a try! It’s taken me a few years to get to this spot with my constant onslaught of shiny new ideas.
What are your methods of dealing with shiny new ideas?