The temptation is always there. Just as soon as you’ve set yourself on the right path, maybe you’re even on the straight and narrow to the finish line with a manuscript, but then suddenly you spot a new idea out of the corner of your eye.
Something like robots chasing dragons or detectives solving crimes in prehistoric Scotland.
All these new ideas swirling in your head! Each of them begging to be written and somehow brought to life. There’s not enough time in the day to write every idea you ever have – we all know this in because in some shape or form, we’ve all tried to at one point.
So how can you deal with new ideas without losing that spark? Here’s what I tend to do.
Write it down
Obviously, this one kind of goes without saying. Write that mofo down. Even if it seems stupid, even if it’s on the side of a gum wrapper, even if it’s 2am and you can’t sleep — actually especially if it’s 2am and you can’t sleep — write that bad boy down before you forget it.
I sometimes like to imagine that ideas are circular, and good ones will com back to you like elegant boomerangs, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least help yourself along. Write it down, and maybe tomorrow or maybe in two years you’ll look at that note and the idea will come flooding back. Hopefully, along with it, so will some of the excitement that it initially sparked.
We’re very secretive creatures, writers. We scurry away to our desks and whisper thoughts to ourselves lest somebody overhears us and steals our ideas. Except we’re not really are we? Because, if we were, how would we ever get anything done? Writers need people, friends, and confidants to help us through the rough times alongside the good. And we need lots of walls to bounce ideas off, wondering if this next one will stick.
I think the best thing you can do with an idea is share it. I’m not saying share it with the world, at least not immediately. But share it with a friend anyway. Watch as their eyes light up or they straighten in their seat a little as they listen. Enjoy the way they cackle at the wickedness of your plot. Or just enjoy sharing such a beautiful thing as an idea.
For me, sharing an idea helps me flesh it out in my mind. Explaining something to another person really helps you pinpoint the crux of what you’re thinking.
Choosing between manuscripts
If you’re anything like me you’ll give into this ridiculous urge to write the first page down, and then you’ll write another page, maybe just one more, okay another page, and then before you know it you’re on chapter five and this is actually going somewhere.
So, what then? What happens when you accidentally start writing or planning your next novel without finishing the last?
Look, I’m not saying give up but I am saying this: some novels don’t need finishing.
Sometimes you know in your heart of heart whether this is the novel you’re meant to finish or whether it was a learning curve and nothing much more than that. Sometimes you know that you’re just not ready to finish writing this book, and that’s why your mind was wandering in the first place. If this is the case, then I think it’s okay to start that new novel. Go wild. Feel the reckless and wild thrill that only a new idea can offer you and harness that energy.
Even Harder Writing Advice
If you’re reading this, nodding along, and thinking ‘oh Mia, this is so me’ then great! But don’t kid yourself, okay? Don’t put down that original manuscript just because I told you some novels don’t need finishing.
I AM NOT GIVING YOU PERMISSION TO GIVE UP.
Unless, like, you really need to for mental wellbeing <3
Here’s the even harder decision that only you can make: some novels absolutely do need finishing. And, sometimes you need to push aside all other ideas to get to the ending that your WIP is calling for.
You might think the more years of writing you have under your belt the easier this decision gets. Nah. For me, if anything, this has only become harder with time. The temptation of the new idea is tantalising and feels so fresh.
What About Writing Both At Once?
You make a good point, and some find success down this path. For me, this has only ever delayed the decision I inevitably must make. The way my mind works, I have to leave one WIP behind while I focus on others — even if that’s just for a day or a week, but it could also be for a year. For me, I need to properly commit to at least one idea at a time and that means saying goodbye to others for a while.