I don’t know about you but as a writer I have an abundance of SHINY & EXCITING IDEAS. Some of them are small and fragmentary.
For instance, this project exists as a TITLE only. I have no idea beyond the title. It’s called:
Conversations with Myself
Uh…now that I think about it, that’s just another name for blogging!
Okay. Maybe not that one.
Let me present some other examples.
Some ideas exist only as a GENERAL OUTLINE, like this mystery-sci fi crossover!
After an alternate earth from a parallel world intentionally crashes into ours so it can take ours over, war breaks out.
There are spies on both sides. When the spies on our side start mysteriously dying an As Yet Unnamed Great Detective is called out of her retirement to investigate…
I’ve also always wanted to write:
An anti- success story about a writer who writes a novel and tries to get it traditionally published but hits every imaginable obstacle.
She then tries self publishing but this doesn’t go anywhere either and in the end she gives up and settles into the truth of her own mediocrity.
It would be a tragicomedy.
Then of course there are all the Regency GENRE BOOKS I want to write…
Like my Regency mystery series. I started (and stopped) the second book after REGENCY ROMP, the one with Lord Byron as guest star.
The third in the series was going to take us to Italy and we would get to meet the Shelleys. (Yay!)
Some books exist only as CONCEPTS, like this one that continues to haunt me:
Romantic Poets and their notion of nature as The Sublime.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Romantic poets plus The Sublime.
But I know there is a book in there somewhere.
I’ve also got an idea for a SCREENPLAY!
Take all the letters Lady Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron wrote to each other in the early 1800s and fictionalize it.
Boom! Period Drama of the year!
(Why hasn’t someone done this yet? I guess maybe it is up to me?)
There’s also my current project, the companion piece to Hill of Greens.
So as you can see I’ve got enough writing big and shiny ideas to last me a good long while.
Trouble is…I don’t have time for all of them.
I can’t keep up with the IDEAS.
I can’t chase every single one.
And I can’t let all the SHINY IDEAS distract me from my primary writing purposes or I would never actually complete anything.
Now having said that I’m sure you want to ask me:
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH PROJECT TO FOCUS ON & STICK WITH?
Sometimes that energy flags but ultimately I follow the project that has the most energetic juice. The one that means the most to me. Which is why I dropped my Lord Byron mystery and I spent a year and half solely devoted to my clifi comedy Hill of Greens.
To align with this energy you have to listen to and trust your writer instincts.
HOW DO YOU STICK WITH A CREATIVE PROJECT WHEN YOU’RE ENERGY FLAGS?
Writing a novel takes hard work and there are moments when you want to chuck it. If an idea is worth slogging through the hard stuff for, you will dig deep and pull forth that writerly grit and DO IT.
If it is worth it to you, you will do the work. You will know, deep down, that you need to persevere. You won’t allow yourself to get distracted.
Again I refer that nebulous concept: writer’s instinct. It will tell you if a project is worth fighting for.
WHAT IS WRITER’S INSTINCT & WHERE DO I GET IT?!?
Ah. Well. This is what makes writing an art form.
Writing is not a solely mechanical operation. It is not simply the ritual of words written down and words edited and revised for clarity of meaning.
Writing requires an inner emotional thermometer.
This inner thermostat tells you when you are getting closer to the essence of your writing power (it yells: warmer! Warmer! Then: Hot! Hot! Hot!) and when you are not (it yells: too cold! Go back! Try again!)
And how do you get this inner thermometer?
Through writing, of course!
You need to observe ‘hot writing’ by which I mean, good writing. As you test your inner thermometer on those good writing pieces (by reading them), your calibrations should align.
Then you try that thermometer out on your own pieces. And over time you develop your own calibrations.
As always, practice makes perfect!
The more you do it the better you get.
Sometimes it takes time to sort this out.
But eventually your inner writing thermometer will show you the way.
So to summarize: follow the piece with the most energy, you will stick with it if it means that much to you, and if you want to develop your writer’s instinct? Write. And read.
Yes, it really is that simple.