11/17/10

Managing Shiny New Ideas

What to do, what to do, when that Shiny New Idea takes hold of your mind? Besides go insane, that is. Anne Gallagher wants to know, and I thought I would detail my process here, because I am phelgmatic enough to have a process.

Shiny New Ideas: A new idea that pops into your head and must be written if you wish to save your sanity. Abbreviated: SNI.

I have several lines of defense against SNI.
  1. Write down the summary. (This promises your brain that it can think on other things without the SNI being forgotten.) I have a file entitled "Great Expectations" that has *counts* eight-nine ideas. (89? Wow. I'm a little stunned at this. I'd never counted.) They are everything from 23-line paragraphs to lines from Lucretius' On the Nature of Things to quick little news articles that gave me an idea. But to give you an idea of what most look like:
    1. Genre, which is usually made up - whatever makes sense to me. Sometimes they look like Mystery/Spy/Detective. Hey, I know what I'm writing.
    2. Summary, which I try to make as short as possible, but sometimes I'll add in a quick scene outline that I have on my mind.
    3. (Date typed, inspired by.) They tend to be inspired by other books and movies, and I want to note that in case I ever go back and have confusion. Remembering the book or movie that it came from helps me get a feel for what I wanted in the first place.
  2. If writing down the summary doesn't help, sometimes I'll open up a new document and just write. Usually I have a specific scene from the SNI that's taking my attention. I write that. No backstory, no goals. Just the scene. Just to get it out of my head. (It's often not as cool on paper as it was in my head, which can deplete my enthusiasm just enough to retain my sanity.) Then I go back to the "Great Expectations" file and link it to the new file (you can do that). That way, if I ever return to it, everything will be tied together.
  3. You've written the summary. You've written the scene. You're still going crazy. At this point, the best you can do is not to stifle it. Just start at the beginning and start writing. BUT, be very aware that your enthusiasm will eventually fizzle and prepare for it. Say, "I am very excited about this, but I know it won't last. And I give myself complete freedom to quit writing it when my enthusiasm wanes. No guilt."
Giving yourself freedom to quit the story (as long as it's not the one you've committed to) is amazing. I have stories (good ones, too) that I've been writing for years. When an idea for them takes me, I write it down. But I don't force it. I don't push it. I write what's on my mind and move on.

That, I think, is my best advice. When it comes to Shiny New Ideas, write what's on your mind and give yourself permission to move on.

Hope this helped!

    2 comments:

    Lydia Kang said...

    It does. It always help to have these kind of reminders! Thanks, and have a great weekend!

    brownpaperbaggirl said...

    You have to love those shiny new ideas! Great post :)