When shiny new ideas lose their shiny-- What to do when you're not sure what to write next

May 22, 2012

I've finished major revisions on TUGL, yay! I'm currently doing line edits, which I typically do by reading out loud. This takes forever, but man, is it worth it. Helps me find all those tiny problem areas I tend to skip when I skim through.

ANYWAY, because I'm so close to being finished, my brain is salivating to play with a brand new shiny idea. Throughout the last year, I've had about four ideas that now have folders on my desktop. My process for dealing with shiny new ideas when writing another book is to take a few hours to brainstorm ideas, find pictures that go with that idea, and basically flesh it out a bit to see which direction it wants to go. Then I let it sit, usually for months, and when the time comes to write something new, I have multiple simmering ideas to pick from.

This is not working this time around.

Several of these ideas are cool. They would be fun to write. But I've found as I let myself play with them over the months and weeks, none of the are working out quite right. The deeper I get into them, the more I lose my enthusiasm. They all have PIECES I love and think are awesome, but none of them is coming together with the "WOW, I have to write this book, I can't leave this concept alone!" feeling I need to pick one and start writing.

So now what?

Step 1: Let yourself feel frustrated.
I mostly had to put this one in here so I feel justified in being frustrated. I mean...ARGH! Why aren't any of these as cool as they started out? Why can't I have a stroke of genius on one of them, or on a new idea, that will make it "the one?" It's okay. Let those feelings out.

Step 2: Fill your creative well.
Read new books. Watch new movies. Take walks in a new place. Eavesdrop on people's conversations at the mall. Read the news. Draw a cool picture. Knit something. Whatever you do to fill up on creativity and ideas, or even just to create something different, do it. Let crazy ideas come to you, or even just chillax, be creative, and try to forget that nagging feeling that DANG IT I NEED A STORY TO WRITE.

Step 3: Play.
If, like me, you have pieces from multiple stories that you love, but the story itself is a little blah, play with that. Pull pieces from different ideas together. Go back to shelved manuscripts or short stories and rip them up to find the good bits and see if they can fit into a puzzle with the other shiny ideas. Let that creative well you just filled come up with hair-brained ideas that would NEVER work, but sound fun anyway. Just let your brain play.

Step 4: If all else fails, pick one and write.
If you still can't come up with a new shiny that is "the one," don't sweat it. I haven't either. So I've picked my favorite of the ideas (a mash-up that came from step 3), and even though it doesn't feel perfect to me right now, I'm going to start writing it. And I'm giving myself full permission to do two things: 1) Fall in love with it again, and 2) Scrap it if it isn't working and something better comes along. Because the thing is, you're never so creative as when you're actually writing.

So, my friends, have you ever had a shiny new idea lose its shiny? Ever had a hard time deciding what to write next? 

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AVDutson said...

It's easy for me to get distracted too. Usually just doing anything gets me moving.

I've always liked the quote by Stephen Cannell, "I never waited for my Irish Cream coffee to be the right temperature, with a storm happening outside and my fireplace crackling ... I wrote every day, at home, in the office, whether I felt like it or not, I just did it."

DL Hammons said...

*knocking on wood* Luckily, that hasn't happened to me yet, but there are still a few idea's that I haven't circled back to yet. Now I have experienced a problem where I looked at one of my idea's and realized there wasn't enough there for an entire novel. Still loved the idea, just wasn't full grown enough. :)

Meredith said...

This has definitely happened to me before! I love these steps--that's such an effective way to deal with the problem.

Randy said...

I am blessed to have no shortage of ideas for stories. However, I have experienced a form of what you are talking about.

I'll have an idea and be totally excited about it. I'll jot down a quick sentence, or two, about it so that I can work on it in the future. Then a couple of years later I go through my file of story ideas and wonder what I was thinking when I came up with some of those stories. They sound flat and boring to me.

Leslie said...

I try and jot down ideas that come to me (that don't apply to my current WIP) and keep plugging away at my WIP. I've tried to write two things at once and it just didn't work for me so I need to focus on one at a time.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Though a lot of shiny new ideas pop into my mind, the ideas lose shine as I start writing, my enthusiasm wanes big time. I have decided to atleast complete the first drafts, that way I will atleast know where the story stands.

Precy Larkins said...

Oh yes. This has happened to me before. I always write them down, even going as far as writing the first chapter or two just so that I don't forget them. Then I go back months later and reread. If there's a spark, I try to work on it some more. But if the spark fizzles, I let it go for a while. Forcing myself on an idea never works. The writing always come out stilted and awkward. SO I have to be patient and learn to let it simmer until I am ready for it. :)

Ruth Josse said...

There is this story that I started a long while ago but it kind of fizzled out. My writing group wants me to finish it but I don't think I will. The excitement is gone! It's a cool idea, but if I ever worked on it again I think it would become something totally different. And that usually happens with all my books. They start out as one thing and end up as something completely different!

Daisy Carter said...

I had the same thing happen to me a few weeks ago. I have all these story ideas, but when it came time to write one, I couldn't get into ANY of them! I mashed up a few, and that was fun, but still, nada.

There's one idea in particular that I LOVE, but I can't seem to find the right ....X factor. Something's missing from it, and I haven't been able to write through it (yet). So I quilted for a while, wrote silly things, and just stopped.

Now, I'm back in full swing with a new idea that's clicking. I hope i can get back to the others, someday. EXCELLENT post!

Faith E. Hough said...

Yes, totally been there. I usually find that a good dose of just living and reading and creating other things besides writing is indeed the best cure.
Good luck!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

yes and yes!
You've given great advice here. I use the "pick one and write" the most (oh, and feeling the frustration, lol)

Traci Kenworth said...

Yeah, distraction is easy, working through though usually yields some of your best work. It's a process, I think.

M Pax said...

Yes. I have several 1/2 or partially written pieces on the hard drive. Maybe they haven't composted enough. Luckily, I have enough projects to keep me busy at the moment and the next ones are simmering on the back burner.

Golden Eagle said...

Great advice!

All of my most recent projects seem to lose some of their shiny after I've really started writing them. Right now I'm letting an idea simmer for a June challenge coming up--it doesn't really have any competition--and hoping it won't so much.

Karen Elizabeth Brown said...

You're never so creative as when you're actually writing.

That is so true! The more I write the more I want to write. Then it's hard to tear myself away and come back to the real world.

Good ideas! Thanks!

Tanya Reimer said...

Normally, when I get that killer idea I just write it out until my well runs dry and then go back to whatever I was editing. This mean editing takes forever and I have a zillion first drafts, but hey they didn't lose their shine. hee hee

I do have an idea though that I did when I was stuck mid-draft a few times. Pick a character who will not play a major role and write the tale from their pov. It's so much fun! You see your MC in a new light and much to my surprise, I ended up with a heroine that kicked some butt, and a bad guy who was really the good guy!!!

Hope your idea gets a new shine! And congrats on finishing the major edits!!! YAY!!!! WHOO HOOO!!!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Yes! I am having this exact problem, too! I was just sitting here and trying to decide if I want to go back to a previous project that I need to totally rework or start actively thinking/planning a new idea. I couldn't decide so I started catching up on blogs instead. ha ha!

I hope you fall in love again with your idea!

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