As people, we think a lot of things over the course of a day, or a week, or year. And as writers, we form a lot of these into story ideas. Some of them we think about, we roll around our heads for a while, and then we decide that they won’t make a good story, or that they will make a good story but we’re not sure exactly how to go about it right now. So, we make a note of it and promise to come back later and look at it again.
But some of them are amazing. Some of them take hold and grow like some kind of virus and leave us unable to think of anything else. But we’re writers. We usually already have an idea, we have word documents on our computer that contain half a book that we’ve been slaving away at, and a quarter of a book that we started before that, and then the bare bones of a story that never got any further than the first paragraph and a list of the main characters.
So my question, and it’s not one that I have the answer to, is, how do you decide what to write? How do you choose which order you’re going to write your stories in and how much attention give each one? What makes you put down your pen on your current project and pick up the pen for a new one? And what, if anything, convinces you to give up and move on?
I sat down at my computer today to write a post for Limebird, it’s my day off and I wanted to be productive. I have a meeting this evening and before then I thought that I had enough time to bash out the post I thought of yesterday and also write a few words for the novel that I started during NoNoWriMo. This is the third Limebird post that I’ve started today.
I wrote a large chunk of the first one, and then I had another idea so I opened a new document and typed the first line, and then went back to the first one so I had at least finished something today. And then another Limebird wrote a post that gave me a story idea so I had to stop everything and write that down, and now I just want to get into that. But I already have my NaNo project to finish, and after that I’d promised myself that I was going to write a new urban fantasy. But the new idea is really interesting! And that prompted this post, which I am now writing instead of any of the four previously mentioned, and now abandoned, word documents.
And that’s just this afternoon! After writing an adult fantasy a few years ago, a conversation with a friend convinced me that childrens fantasy would be easier to publish, so I spent about a year trying to write a kids’ book. It didn’t go very well, it turns out that if I’m going to write fantasy and spend all that time creating a world for it, I want to share all the details of that world with the reader and that’s too much extra information to put into a kids’ book where you’re looking at about 50,000 words for the entire thing, not just the introduction!
But I spent over a year trying to write it before I figured that out, and at the end of that year I had four new story ideas written in my notebook and no idea of how to decide which one to work on. I promised myself that once I’d fleshed out my NaNo project into a full novel I could devote all of my time to the new urban fantasy idea, but now I have this other idea competing with it and my NaNo project is proving tricky to write. I’m half tempted to stop the NaNo and give both the new idea and the urban fantasy idea some attention simultaneously, but then that’s 3 unfinished projects instead of 1 finished project, 1 work in progress, and 1 idea!
And that’s saying nothing for the pages of notes in my notebook for about, hang on let me count, 17 other story ideas. As you can probably tell this new idea has thrown all of my attempts at trying to be organised completely off course. I have a decision to make now, what to focus on and when to focus on it, and I think I’m going to try to be sensible and finish this NaNo story that’s hanging around my neck like a miniature albatross. But what do you do?
New idea or old idea or idea that’s been put on hold for the past few months? Everything all at once, or one idea at a time? Finish something completely, or write a bit of everything as you go?
I’ve always been a write whatever you’re in the mood for kind of writer, but recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more disciplined. As you can probably tell, it’s not going very smoothly!