Buzzfeed recently published a cute piece called "The 14 Stages of Writing A Book."
(Go ahead – take a minute to enjoy it. But hurry back.)
The only thing missing is Stage 10.1: "When Another Story Idea Seduces You."
You know this stage, right? You're working on your story, faithfully crafting page and page, even on those days when the spark isn't as bright as it used to be. Even during the weeks when you have regrets.
But you can't help yourself. Your thoughts begin to drift.
Maybe you committed too soon. Maybe you should have played around with some of the other ideas longer, you know, just to make sure that your Work In Progress was really The One. Maybe you weren't cut out for a novel this long. It's just so demanding, so annoying, so…
And then it happens.
Another Idea comes along. Shiny. Seductive. Bewitching, even.
This New Idea gives you an electrifying, come-hither glance. You swallow hard. This is why you shouldn't have committed so soon to your WIP. This Idea is MUCH BETTER! The characters are more interesting, the plot is thrilling, heck, the dialog will practically write itself!
You clear your throat. After glancing around to make sure no one is looking, you scribble down a brief description of the New Idea (although a brief description can in no way do it justice.) You put the file away and go back to your
long-suffering ever patient WIP.
You both know that something isn't right between you, but you don't dare talk about it. You try to spice things up; write in a coffee shop, or experiment with a different POV for a few chapters, but try as you might, you can't help thinking about….
The Shiny. The New Idea. The siren song that threatens to destroy all of your work, but who cares? You throw caution to the wind! You start that new book, commitments be damned! You write with passion, with purpose, for months and months.
You can see where I'm going with this.
Shiny new story ideas will always be hanging around the edges of your imagination, waiting for you to stumble so they can seduce you. This is either a manifestation of fear or a giant red flag that your story took a wrong turn a little while ago.
If you give in, chances are that you'll soon be at Stage 10.1 again.
It is much easier to start a novel than it is to finish one. Finishing requires that you not only figure out what should happen in the middle of the story, but you have to figure out how to end it, too. WICKED HARD!
If a New Idea is calling your name and you are desperate for a break. then give it five minutes. Sketch it out and put it away. If it keeps calling, then give it five minutes a day – AFTER you've given the best of your writing energy to your WIP. No more than five minutes.
If you are not desperate, then give the New Idea five minutes of writing time (a friendly conversation, not flirting), then don't look at it again until your WIP is totally finished and you are ready for a new challenge. A monogamous relationship with your manuscript can be surprisingly rewarding.
Non-fiction prompt – As fast as you can, jot down ten ideas for books you want to write, limiting yourself to one sentence or phrase per idea. Then return to the idea that feels the easiest to describe more fully and give yourself the rest of your fifteen minutes to expand on it.
Fiction prompt – Put your character is a scene in which her commitment to something is tested by something that is shiny and seductive and new. BUT – it can't be a romantic or sexual relationship with another person. Frame the age-old struggle of commitment and betrayal within a different context.
Fifteen minutes spent writing today could change your life.
scribble… scribble… scribble…