I’ve talked about ideas before – you may remember my post How to grow great ideas from the Muses. However, I want to discuss the invasion of story ideas.
I don’t know about you, but my Muse doesn’t wait until I’ve finished a novel before she bashes me over the head with another idea…or five.
So how do you manage to stay honest to your current story while other ideas are tantalisingly waving at you from the side-lines?
When Muses Attack
Case in point, while driving to work this week, I was suddenly accosted by a whole new story.
The protagonist was fully formed and named (though I wasn’t keen on the character’s surname…every attempt to rename her failed and so I have kept it as it came to me).
It came with a basic idea of a plot (along with several other concepts for additional books). That’s right, I have a Serial Muser… my muse is not one for standalone books. NEVER have I had a standalone book idea – always a series of books.
At this rate, there aren’t enough years left to write all these damn series, but apparently, that’s not stopping my muse.
Anyway, I digress… so there I was, tunelessly singing along to Bat out of Hell when I was whacked upside the head with an idea.
This new story even wants to be written in first-person!? I’ve NEVER written in first- person, it’s not my choice and while I do like (some) books in first-person, my absolute favourites are almost always in third-person…. but nope apparently this one just will not be written in third…. *sigh*
It was so intense that when I got stuck in traffic I had to scramble for a pen and pad and start writing it down before my Muse decided to take the idea and give it to another writer. (it’happens).
My partner, who has been desperately waiting to read my current manuscript (in full) was a little dismayed to find I had yet ANOTHER idea. He is well aware that they can often drag me off my current path. Though he read the opening scene and loved it!
So, if you’re like me, new ideas and plots will bombard you whenever they damn well like! What’s a writer to do, eh?
It is waaay too easy to drop a story and chase another. Especially if the new one seems stronger or more interesting.
Not saying that shouldn’t be your move, but definitely think carefully about doing that – especially if your current story is well established.
Are you sure the new idea isn’t just more enticing because you’ve spent months toiling over your current one and might just need to step away from it (not to write the new one but to give yourself a breather?).
If you’re not careful you can be constantly chasing plot bunnies as they appear and you’ll end up with no completed manuscripts and a very tired brain.
However, don’t lose the idea BECAUSE you’re working on something else. If you ignore the idea completely, the muses will take it from you, they will pass it on to another writer.
So, to appease the muses and to give you back (a little) of your sanity, you need to thought dump.
Step away from your current manuscript and write the new stuff down. Unless it ACTUALLY comes to you in scenes don’t write out chapters and scenes.
This Thought Dump is not a chance for you to start this new story. Just write the notes, characters, basic plotline… don’t try and pad it out, don’t try and create it into anything… just write down the notes and ideas that came to you.
This helps to solidify the idea and when you eventually go back to it, you will have a clearer idea.
If you wanted to try the Card Catalogue method, this is a good time to start… with a new idea.
Back on Track
The concept of the T.D. is you get that idea out so that you stop obsessing over it. If you leave it in your head, you start turning it over, examining it, coming up with new thoughts and your old manuscript won’t get a look in.
Will you still come up with ideas for this new story? Yes! But hopefully not all the time, thus allowing you to focus on your current project and get it finished.
It can be hard as we are drawn to new things, to “chase the shiny” as it were. But we need to stick to one project (I know, I’m being slightly hypocritical, as I often have two projects running side by side, though I AM trying to be better…. mostly) but hey, that just means I speak from experience! 🙂
Give the new invading story some solid ground by writing out its notes then go back to the old one. The idea is to finish a project before you move to another.
What task were you in the middle of doing the last time a new idea hit you?