“Just Keep Writing” is a series of pep talks I’m writing for myself in hopes that it will help you as well.
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. Currently, I’m at 36,00 words of my novel re-write, and I keep thinking of other book ideas that would be better than the one I’m writing now.
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 recently 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 now.
But the book I’m working on now was once a shiny new idea. It glistened in every corner, inviting me to my journal where I scribbled the first few concepts.
I like to think of it like a meal. When you first sit down to eat your mom’s homemade pot roast (for instance), your stomach growls. You overfill your plate and can’t wait to dig into those perfectly roasted carrots. After a few minutes, though, your hunger wanes. The food is still just as good, but the initial satisfaction of flavors is gone. You might even start thinking about the pie waiting on the counter with all those new, different flavors. You’ve had enough meat and carrots. How about something sweet?
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 (but I’ll save this for another pep talk).
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. (But, again, this should be another pep talk)
Today, I commit to the book I started. I promise to finish it and make it as good as it can be.
Just keep writing, friends.