We writers have a problem. Sometimes it is a very good problem, and other times it can be a very dangerous problem.
Some of my friends call them plot bunnies. I simply call them story ideas. Whatever name you put to them, their function remains the same: they pop up right when they shouldn’t and distract you.
So what do you do when faced with these? Ignore them? Embrace them? Lose your mind?
Today I am going to discuss the dos and don’ts of these little guys and then give you a couple exceptions.
Don’t panic. That’s a bad idea.
Don’t drop everything and chase after it. That’s also a bad idea.
Do write down the idea for a later time.
Do forget about it after you’ve written it down.
Don’t waste your valuable time dreaming about it.
Don’t give in to temptation to abandon your current work.
Don’t let it mess up your writing schedule or goals.
Do continue to work on your WIP. Give it special attention. Make yourself extra inspired to write it.
Don’t underestimate the usefulness of new ideas. Sometimes it fits beautifully into your current work.
Don’t quench all ideas. We want our brains trained to be creative and productive.
Do know how to control your brain. There is a difference between pointless wandering and disciplined trains of thought.
Now for my couple exceptions:
1. If I find that the new idea is a very good one, I will take a half hour, or sometimes even a day, if my schedule allows, and work on it. I will write out any ideas I have for plot and character arcs, I will cast some of the characters, I’ll write a brief synopsis and maybe a page or two of the actual book. Essentially, organizing anything I can pull from this nugget of inspiration to set the story up for success later on when I can actually get to it. Then I try to forget it as much as I can.
2. This February, I was working on one of my historical fiction books, the one that I had been intending for a couple years to be the one I published first. Progress was a little slow, but I was fully intending to finish it up and edit it for beta readers. And then I got A Very Epic Story Idea. Not my run-of-the-mill weekly story idea, but more like a once-in-a-lifetime idea. I talked with my sister about it, and with her blessing, I decided to pursue the new one in earnest, to publish it first. And in a month or so, I will be sending it out the first copies to beta readers.
There comes the rare time when the new idea is the one you’ve been waiting for. In those cases, don’t be ashamed of setting the current project aside in favor of the new one.
Do you have trouble with lots of unexpected story ideas? What do you do when you get a new idea?