Wednesday on Writing: Oooh! Shiny!

I am currently working on the third installment of the series-that-wasn’t-supposed-to-be-a-series and I have hit that point. That point where I know where the story is going in a broad sense, but I need to fill in the bits and pieces that get us from the start through to the end. I am a planster when it comes to writing. A kind of hybrid. I plan to some extent but not in minute detail. I have a broad outline of the story and I know the basic character arcs and plot. But I don’t have each beat planned out nor do I know all the middle parts at the point I start. I begin writing and things just start to flow. But I will almost always hit a point where things just stall. Maybe I’ve written myself into a bit of a corner or I know I need to add some action or danger or something but I’m not sure just what. And that is usually when the bunny runs through the virtual landscape in my head.

To illustrate: 

As I said, I am a at stalled point in the story. I know pretty much what’s going to happen but the fiddly bits are not fitting as well as they should. It needs some thinking about. Instead, while we were driving to Staten Island a couple weeks ago (no, I wasn’t the one driving), not one, but two new ideas for installments of the series popped into my head. One was just a quick two sentence “what if” sort of thing. I pulled out my phone and jotted it down in a note. The other? Oh, now that one is what is often referred to as a New Shiny. The plot basics were all there when I started making note of that one, the title jumped out at me (inspired by the song currently on the car stereo system), and I even wrote out what might be the final scene. Yes, that nice, fat and sassy plot bunny ran right over the story I was supposed to be thinking about. And for a few days, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to set the current work aside and dive into this shiny bright idea. I didn’t.

Why? There’s a lot of danger in doing that. For one thing, that story I have put so many hours of work into? It needs to be finished. And finished before something else takes all my attention away from it. That’s how you end up with a folder full of half-done stories, none of which ever get finished because “Oh, this idea is so much better!”

Is it really? Usually not. It just seems that way because I am stalled a bit on the current story and this one is just bursting to get out. Thing is, I know I will hit the same point in New Shiny that I am at in the one I am writing now. The first burst of words will taper off, and I will be right here thinking: Now what? And at that point, there’s a good chance another fluffy shiny bunny will hop across to distract me.

What to do about it? Well, for me, I take those notes I made in the car, and put them in a file with the working title of the new story. If a new bit comes at me, I add it to the notes, but I don’t let myself start writing. The goal is to get the current story finished before I start another. It usually works. The New Shiny is sitting there, begging me to come play with it, and giving myself a hard goal of finishing one before starting another can jump start the ideas again. 

Moral of the story? Don’t let a New Shiny cause you to abandon project after project. The goal is to finish what you start because you can’t publish a half-written story. Don’t let the New Shiny slip away completely, but rub some of the tarnish off that In Progress and build on it. Finish what you start. Whatever it takes.

Are you subject to New Shiny Syndrome? How do you handle it?


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