As a writer, there is nothing quite as exhilarating as a new idea.
A new character waltzes in, capturing our attention, and whispering about a story flooded with new possibilities, new dangers, and a love so deep it borders on intoxication. Suddenly, we’re taking the long way home from work, getting lost in the grocery store, and filling notebooks with jotted conversations that just have to be written down, because what if we lose them??
Unfortunately, as odd as it may seem, new ideas can be one of the biggest obstacles to a finished book.
That doesn’t sound right, does it? New ideas should be every writer’s dream! They should propel your career forward, not pull it back.
Well, actually—they do. If they’re managed right. But new ideas, when they’re given free rein and allowed to trample everything in their path, can effectively kill any half-finished draft, partially edited manuscript, or fully outlined book. Especially when said half-finished draft or partially edited manuscript has a plot hole that you just—can’t—fix.
Sometimes it really is time to cut the cord and let an old idea die in favor of a new one. But, if we fill our drawers with half-finished ideas, scribbled notes, and books that we’ll finish someday, that goal of eventually writing—and publishing—a book . . . may not happen.
But how do we resist the pull of a new idea when it’s just so enticing?
I have a few suggestions.
1) Jot it down.
This is the obvious one. Have a notebook of future books that you’d like to write. Or a file on your computer. If necessary, write it as a short story and save it for another day. Believe me, it will keep. And it will be all the richer for the time it had to simmer.
2) Admit that you probably cannot write both at once.
Don’t take them both on.
Especially if your half-finished draft is having trouble. Whether you intend it or not, one of them will be set aside, and I can guarantee that it won’t be the shiny new idea.
As a writer, you can decide to write any way you like. There is no set formula for how to write, and no ‘ten steps for success’. But in the end, a book that isn’t finished is a book that isn’t published.
So take it one step at a time. Finish one before you start the next, especially if they are the same genre and type of story. The next ten years of my life are planned out in books that I’m going to write, and I haven’t misplaced a single one of them because I decided to wait.
In the end, it will be worth it.
3) Keep it in the back of your mind.
Sometimes, it really is nice to have another idea to plan and daydream about. An idea doesn’t have to be written for you to enjoy. Spend some time with it. Let it stew in the back of your mind. Explore the possibilities, but keep it in your head for now. Keep your writing time—and a little brain space too—for the book that really needs your attention.
Remember, you will get to write this new idea. And it will be all the better for having finished another book before you started this one.
4) Fall in love with the idea you had.
Remember that the book you’re writing now was once an idea that captured you. That set fire to your thoughts. If you hadn’t loved it, you wouldn’t have started it.
Daydream. Journal with your characters. Explore the settings that once enraptured you. There is no plot hole that can’t be conquered, and no story that can’t be written. Allow room for growth, for change, for a story that you love and are passionate about.
5) Be excited for the work you’ve already done.
New ideas are lovely. They’re exciting and engaging and they bring a spark of creativity back into writing, especially when we’ve been toiling through plot holes and frustration.
And yet, new ideas come and go. They have no roots, no weight to them.
Remind yourself that the work you’ve done already is worth continuing. Your story has a depth and richness to it that only comes with a fight. All that trouble you’ve had fixing plot holes, all the frustration of edits, all the deleted pages that you’ve tossed into the trash combine together to give you a solid foundation to work with. All that work is worth far too much to be abandoned or cast aside.
Respect the story you have.
Respect the time you’ve already put in.
Rekindle the love you have for the story you’re working on, and push through the difficulty. You’re a writer, and you have a thousand stories ahead of you. You have time to write them all, and there is no hurry. Take them one at a time, and one day you’ll have a shelf of books that you can be proud of.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.