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Chasing your next big idea : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Chasing your next big idea

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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DrG2
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Chasing your next big idea

Postby DrG2 » Fri Dec 12, 2014 7:35 pm

There are people who say you should always finish what you start. I am not of that school, except if you find you are NOT finishing things, it's probably time you did. If you thought a "literary high fantasy with talking pink hedgehogs as the main characters on a quest for a magical golden emasculator (there is such a thing)" was a good idea a couple weeks ago, you probably would be well-served by starting something different.

I have finished 3 novels, and I think I've finished just about every short story I've started (I have a few short "partial" stories I wrote for writing exercises, but haven't expanded into full stories yet). But, I still have two novels I've shelved and put on the backburner (same reason - - I didn't think I knew enough about the time/place) and another I've temporarily put on the backburner because I think that my current NIP will be a better entrance into the Middle Grade market.

And of course, now I have an idea in my mind (a combination of Gatsby, Citizen Kane, Garp, professional sports, and Greek tragedy) that I think would make an awesome book. That goes along with the 13K file of writing ideas I have. Clearly more than I could ever write.

I think any writer worth his salt has a million ideas that could get turned into a story or novel (unless you are Harper Lee).
So the questions are:
(1) How do you decide what is next?
(2) How do you decide to change projects (assuming you view it as a possibility)?

max2011
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Re: Chasing your next big idea

Postby max2011 » Sat Dec 13, 2014 12:40 pm

Most of the time if a character jumps out at me calling for attention, that's the story I go for. Sometimes it's hard to pursue what you want when deadlines loom. I just start writing each idea down and let the one which gets me more excited to write.

James A. Ritchie
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Re: Chasing your next big idea

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sat Dec 13, 2014 2:52 pm

Well, I don't write from ideas, and I never plot, so choosing the next project happens in one of two ways. 1. An editor asks for something. 2. I decide which genre I'm going to write, think of a title, sit down and start writing.

Any idea can make a great novel in the hands of a great writer, just as any idea can make a lousy idea in teh hands of a poor writer.

I am a believer in finishing what you start for three reasons. 1. It's one of Heinlein's Rules, and my experience is that writers who follow all five rules to the letter almost always succeed to some extent. 3. Not finishing is a bad habit, an easy habit to form, and a tough habit to break. 3. Not finishing often means writing something else that's easier, and this can be bad. 4. Tied in with three, my experience in workshops, seminars, and writing groups is that the novel new writers abandon is very likely the one that would have turned them into a much better writer. They usually abandon it because it's tough to write, it requires a lot of research, they get stuck, or they simply lose interest, or, the biggie, they get fascinated with a new idea. "Oh, shiny" delays a writer's progress faster than carpal tunnel in both wrists. These, to me, are reasons to keep writing, not to quit, because finishing such a novel teaches you how to write even the toughest project, rather than just the easy ones.

Realistically, I doubt anyone is going to try writing a novel a "literary high fantasy with talking pink hedgehogs as the main characters on a quest for a magical golden emasculator", but there's also no reason whatsoever that this couldn't make a wonderful literary novel in the hands of a great writer.

But it isn't going to happen, and there's almost never anything wrong with the idea a writer comes up with, and then abandons. If you don't know enough, learn it. If you lose interest, tough, just about every writer loses interest in a novel at some point. If the new idea looks better, I'll give eight to five odds that it isn't, and won't work out, either.

Ideas are meaningless. It's what the writer is capable of doing with the idea that matters.

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MookyMcD
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Re: Chasing your next big idea

Postby MookyMcD » Sun Dec 14, 2014 12:52 am

Different strokes for different folks. I gestate on ideas for the next thing when I walk my dog, which is about 90 minutes a day, probably 340 days a year, so that's a few hundred hours a year I spend sifting, thinking, rejecting, developing, expanding (then sometimes expanding and rejecting) and otherwise monkeying around with ideas, so I've gone through a lot of building before I even write "Chapter One." I have two CPs who can't really develop ideas without writing, so they sit down and write, often starting five projects or so before one really gets traction. One of them just got a hell of a paycheck, so I'm not going to tell her that her way is wrong. It wouldn't work for me, though.

This is like anything else. I'm sure I could dig through the Art of Fiction interviews and find renowned writers saying they start and discard scores of things and others who say they've never discarded a chapter. If you hate dogs, my program would be a nonstarter. I can't really think in big picture terms without some kind of movement or exercise being involved (it's just a quirk I have), so trying to story generate at the keyboard wouldn't work for me.

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updog
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Re: Chasing your next big idea

Postby updog » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:33 am

"Is it weird in here, or is it just me?" ~ Steven Wright




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