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?
3 thoughts on “When New Ideas Strike (And They’re Not Supposed To)”
I get stampeded by plot bunnies all the time, as I’m sure many other writers do. It’s so hard to annoy the temptation to drop everything and write it, but I always force myself to finish the first draft of my current WIP before pursuing another idea. I think taking some time to develop a plot bunny is a really good idea because usually I can’t stop thinking about them and I’m sure getting it all out on a paper will help m push it out of my mind so I can focus on my current WIP. But it’s really cool that you dropped everything for your new really epic story idea and it worked out nicely.
It’s discipline that wins the day, isn’t it? 🙂 And you get more work done too. That’s why I like writing down my ideas, because I have a reference for the future without having to sacrifice my current WIP, and then it helps me to put it out of mind. I think with my new epic story idea, it was the first time I had truly set down a serious story in favor of a different one, but it truly was the right desicion, and I am so glad that I did it. Thanks for stopping by!
Eh. I normally fall into the temptation of new story ideas. Once I was in the middle of writing and I slouched to think and *POP* an idea came up for a different story! In my mind I had to have said, ‘Ha! Cool idea!’ and straight away I started writing a new story. Yikes!!! Thanks for your post! 🙂 😀
P.S. I will do what I can to not fall into that temptation again 😉