Woe is Me: Ode to the Shiny New

I'm not a very good poet. If I was, I'd totally write a ballad & I would call it "Woe is Me: Ode to the Shiny New."

If you write at all--or follow anyone who does--you've undoubtedly heard someone refer to the Shiny New. It can have other names, but it's the same concept. What is it? It's the point in writing, typically somewhere in the middle of a novel, when a brand new idea occurs. These are always the most incredible ideas you've had, the most desperate to be written, and oh so exciting!

I asked my friend Victoria last year the biggest advice for a writer aside from writing. I can't remember exactly what I asked, but I remember her answer. She said, "Only write one thing." Her reasoning: when you write more than one project, you never finish one. Especially when you are starting out, focus on getting one novel written. All the new ideas will leave you with ten half-written stories and not a single finished one. Since she told me, I've always followed that advice. Trust me, it's not always been easy. But if you know V, then you know she's brilliant and should be listened (especially when regarding cookies and writing!)

With my first novel, it was easy. I wrote that book in four months, which included stopping mid-way and starting over. There wasn't much else I wanted to do. With the one I just finished, it has been a constant battle. I love, love, love my MS. I've enjoyed writing it--even in the frustrating parts--but I felt for months it would never be finished. I was plagued with the Shiny New throughout most of those 100,000 words. When I get an idea, I'm  forced to write it down or I'll forget it. Most of the ones I had over the last few months were really awesome. I mean, I loved them. But I had to forge on with my novel and avoid them. There were days when that meant writing nothing at all because I couldn't focus.

Last week, as I was nearing the end of my WIP (and before my big fear revelation) Heather Brewer (who is completely amazing!) wrote this post about how to write a book. I was struggling with a Shiny New idea I'd thought of the night before. (No lie.) I wrote it down, but the idea was five pages. Five. I really wanted to write it--but I was so close to the end of my other one! Then, I read this post. The whole thing rings true, but this part was what I needed to hear.
I start writing the story, and usually, in the beginning, my fingers fly and my keyboard catches on fire. HOWEVER…after some time, my mind begins to wander…often to SHINY NEW IDEAS. This is a dangerous time for a writer. Because if you really want to write a book, you’ve got to hit The End. So SHINY NEW IDEAS must be ignored, no matter how SHINY or NEW they are. I’ve taken to scribbling down just a few basic notes in a notebook and then getting back to work on the book I’m writing. Otherwise, I will have a bajillion partially-written books, and I will NEVER reach The End. And, c’mon, be honest…how many partially-written books have you ever seen at the bookstore? The answer is NONE. So…shaking off the urge to frolic around my office with the SHINY NEW IDEAS, I apply the formula and get my butt back in that chair.
Does it need to be said that I didn't start the Shiny New? Because I didn't. And now, I'm finished with the novel. One of the first thoughts I had when I was finished: Yay! I get to write something new.

But this is a ballad entitled woe is me. Thus, here comes more heartache. 

What is it with the Shiny New? They plague you while you are working on something else, but when you need them they are nowhere to be found! This has been my week. I've opened about five of those ideas I had to see what I wanted to work on; none of them are appealing. I read it now and wonder what on earth I was thinking. Some of them aren't good--or they are, but I don't have a clue where to start. They aren't the shiny or new I need.

I guess it's for the best. I'm been editing instead, and my TBR pile is insane. Plus, you can't write a story that isn't ready to be written.

All that to say these three things:

1) Sometimes you should avoid the Shiny New. When you are working on something else the Shiny New is your brain's ploy at distraction--or your way to run away from the scary middle of a story. If you never do the scary middle, you'll never have a novel.

2) Sometimes the Shiny New may, in fact, not be shiny or new. But when you think of a new idea--it's always the most incredible thing in the world. Take some time away from it and then re-visit. It will probably not be good anymore; if it is good, then maybe it's a story that you need to write. You shouldn't jump blindly into something--especially if you're working on another project.

3) Sometimes the Shiny New will disappear when you "need it most". On the plus side, it always comes back. I've got no doubt that I'll be working on something new in a couple weeks. Down time is good. It gives you a chance to evaluate, to edit, to read and to bake cookies. Plus, a little bit of sleep and sunlight is a good thing.

If you are a poet, you should write this "Ode to the Shiny New" for us. I think everyone can agree with it....right? Tell me I'm not alone here!

1 comment:

  1. I know what you mean. I have this problem ALL the time. And when I go to write my Shiny New Ideas, I can't see why I liked the idea in the first place. I've found it's usually better for me to leave any new idea sit for a while and think about it so it has time to develop before actually writing it.



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