I sat down to write yesterday, and brought out my ideas book. I have approximately 27 ideas I’ve physically written down and maybe four or five more locked in the ‘come back later’ vault of my creative mind. I started thinking – and most importantly, writing – my thoughts on having so many ideas. Imaginary questions presented themselves, and below is the result of this stream of consciousness-turned writing advice and support.
- Which idea do I write?
All of them.
It may sound a cop-out answer but honestly, you should give every single idea you have a go. You were blessed with the excitement of a eureka moment. Note it down and use it!
I believe in all my ideas / concepts to achieve their potential, so I’ll write all of them. I have a notebook full of ideas and I keep checking back on them. A lot feel like they’re short story ideas. Some are full blown novels. Others are more suited to the serial-based mediums like Wattpad or Channillo. Some are intended as TV scripts – my entire higher education was within film and I’d developed a knack for telling them visually – but what is important is that I cannot possibly just pick ‘one’ idea and stick with that, one by one, until they’re done in an order. Time is unforgiving (we’ll get to that later) and I like to make the most of my time.
So if you have a lot of ideas you’re not sure about – as my mother says, ‘suck it and see’. Write a few chapters, a few paragraphs. Get to know your characters. Have a few files on them, if need be. When you feel inspired, write a little bit of Jane. When you find her annoying, write a little bit of Trevor. When you can’t think of where his story leads, why not bring out Ainsley and have a go?
You should find that your stories flow a lot better and also you get more ideas as you go along. Your ideas might merge to become two stories, too, as what’s happened to me several times in the past. Sometimes – and only sometimes – if you keep going back to an idea that just isn’t going anywhere you can lay that to rest in a drawer somewhere.
Most importantly expect your ideas to evolve. I’ve worked on my main baby, George, for the better part of 10 years. The way I knew he was evolving was not only looking back at the previous chapters I’d written in 2006 (cringe! It was like looking at 80’s fashion photos) but I had no idea as to where I was going with the story at all – I didn’t recognise any of it. I took the playlist I’d had for when I’d been writing him and started to make a new one. Some of the songs no longer fit him. No matter if they had no lyrics – which 98% of my playlists don’t – but I knew that he needed a new soundtrack. There was a more mature and yet relaxed ‘sound’ to my baby.
So basically – don’t simply pick the idea you perceive the best and drive on against the brick wall of zapped creative juice. Pick the idea you feel *inspired* to write at any given time. When you no longer feel inspired by that one – put it aside. You may go in a spiral, coming back to various ideas as you go, you could have one main project and then have others as satellites around it, waiting for you to dip into them. But trust in all your ideas. Try and make it work. If it doesn’t, you didn’t fail.
2. Ok. But…. Which story idea will get me an agent?
Never write a story directly aimed at getting an agent. That’s like making a lasagne for a critic you know loves lasagne, but that in itself is a recipe (o hello there you naughty pun) for being annoyed when you find out they prefer someone else’s lasagne. Could be anything which sets you apart – mixture of infusions, herbs, method – it just matches their personal taste better. Not every lasagne is the same.
Also it’d be horrible if they were gluten intolerant and you didn’t know.
I think I’ve gone too far into this analogy. Rewind a little bit.
It’s been said before and I’ll say it again – write the book you’d want to read. I would read George. It has everything I love. That’s why I’m writing it. Does it mean an agent is guaranteed to love it? No. But that’s the risk every author takes with their work. You could be pleasantly surprised when a novel of yours snares an agent’s attention, but don’t write an idea solely for that purpose.
Besides it’s much easier to give up writing a novel if you yourself would bypass that novel in the bookstore. What’s the point? You shouldn’t waste a lot of precious time on writing something you’d just tire of reading in edits.
3. But – I have no time to write them all, what if I miss a window?
And here we come full circle – the wonderful word and man-made creation of Time.
TIME is the enemy of creativity.
So is a low laptop. *kicks mine*
Have you ever hastily written a note for someone? If you’re anything like me your handwriting looks like you were sitting on top of a spin cycle when you put pen to paper. Or just forgot how to write, your stream of consciousness falling off the page.
If you don’t take the time to nurture your work and simply bang it all out, it will show on the page. Readers feel it when a story’s been rushed. Nothing compares to a story which has been lovingly prepared for a reader. There is a big difference.
Putting an “I must have this chapter done before work tomorrow!” is great, but expecting to have your book done and dusted in 6 months and be happily courting agents because you are desperate for it to be ASAP is cutting and selling yourself short. Don’t stress yourself with too many deadlines or a panic about not getting this ‘done in time’. Time is not a thing you need to worry about. Trust me. I’ve had ten years writing one book and even that journey isn’t over yet. I think I can speak quite wisely on this subject.
The thing with this day and age is that everyone wants it to be now. Trends change. Some writers can feel ‘at risk’ of losing touch with an opportunity. You can spend months writing and then you have to WAIT to edit with a fresh head which significantly stops your chances of throwing your novel onto the werewolf-loves-a-swan-romance novel bandwagon.
As an aside, please let that never be a thing.
If your novel is truly great you won’t need a bandwagon in the first place. Your novel will speak for itself. So don’t rush the words. Let every single moment you spend on your book be special, like a cherished moment with a lover. You can be angry with it, sure, but never hate your book. There’s beauty in your manuscript, you just have to find it again.
Time can’t and shouldn’t dictate that journey.
I hope this has helped those of you who needed it. Even as I was writing it answered a few of my own demons and put them not quite to rest, but to sleep for now.
BEST OF LUCK WITH YOUR WRITING, DEARHEARTS! I salute you all.