“Just Keep Writing” is a series of pep talks I’m writing for myself in hopes that it will help you as well. New Courageous Writing posts will be shared every other Wednesday, which include this series, book reviews, and writing tips.
The Shiny New Idea
The idea of the shiny new idea comes up a lot in writing circles, though, admittedly, I don’t know where it originated. I do know that it is a new idea that distracts you from your work in progress.
The shiny new idea becomes the most tempting for me in the middle of a draft. When I was about 30,000 words into my novel re-write, I kept thinking of other book ideas.
This especially happens when I read a book that I love so much that I want to write something that is just as good. This happened to me last year when I read The Wingfeather Saga and wanted to write an epic young adult second-world fantasy with high, world-shattering stakes. Surely that would be more fun to write than the fantasy I was writing.
But the book I was working on was once a shiny new idea. It glistened in every corner, inviting me to my journal where I scribbled the first few concepts.
When you first start a book, the newness itself is exciting. You want to explore every angle and see how it catches the light. But after awhile–after word 20,000 or so–you start to feel full and disinterested. All those other ideas look new, different, and exciting.
Just because your book doesn’t give you that same hunger you had in the beginning doesn’t mean it’s gone bad. And just because other ideas look better doesn’t mean you won’t end up feeling the same way about them when you reach the dreaded middle.
Just Keep Writing
If I chase after every shiny new idea, I’ll never finish a book. Instead, I need to tuck those ideas away and let them simmer awhile. The shiny new idea may be exciting, but right now it lacks substance. Letting it simmer while I work on my current novel will give it time to take its shape.
In the meantime, I can diagnose why else my book may be losing flavor.
This usually means one of two things.
- Something is broken
I’ve recognized that there is a problem in the plot or in a character, and I’m too overwhelmed to sit down and address it. I start to worry that the entire story is broken and terrible and unfixable.
When this is the case, I need to write out the problem until I find a solution.
2. I’m not writing compelling scenes
I’ve heard it a million times: if I’m bored, my reader is bored. I need to find a way to make it interesting again. What does this scene need to be doing? What would make this someone’s favorite scene? Maybe I’m not being ambitious enough. If two characters are sitting down having a conversation, maybe I need to get them something to do.
One thing Brandon Sanderson does is think about how he can make each chapter someone’s favorite chapter. What can you do to make that chapter or scene shine?
It may be that the book you finish isn’t great, and that’s okay. I’m learning that perfection isn’t the point. It’s good for us to finish what we started. It will make us better writers and better people.
Just keep writing, friends.