Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author


Keep your eye on the prize, your shoulder to the wheel, your nose to the grindstone…

In other words, sometimes you must resist the lure of the Bright Shiny New Idea.

Here’s a post about that, from Janice Hardy at Fiction University: Getting Your Novel to the Finish Line: Resisting the Shiny New Idea

The Shiny New Idea is a tempting creature, frequently appearing when we’re stuck on or bored with our current work in progress. For whatever reason, something new becomes extremely appealing. Since we’re still working on a story, it feels like we’re being productive, until we step back and realized we’ve written the beginnings to seven novels and haven’t finished a darn thing.

This caught my eye, because I’m in that exact situation right now — I’m no longer so enthused about my current WIP and all kinds of things are looking shinier. Like the third Black Dog book — which is okay — and suddenly wanting to take another look at a long-finished but unpublished manuscript that’s sitting right here . . . ah, yes, the lure of the new and shiny project, or perhaps any project that is not the actual WIP. Yes, yes. Been here before.

Usually this hits me at the middle of a work in progress. This time, well. If this is the middle, it is certainly the very latest part of the middle. It’d be more correct, probably, to say that I’m now at the beginning of the end. It’s an odd time to lose enthusiasm (for me). But flagging interest is certainly nothing uncommon. I disagree with Hardy’s prescription, though. Putting the manuscript aside would be a terrible idea. No, no. The thing that works is a strict minimum daily wordcount. Also the knowledge that interest will probably rekindle in thirty to fifty pages. Which in this case will probably be right in time for the denouement. I nearly always like the denouement best anyway.

You know what I actually think happened is: once I (finally) worked out the rest of the plot, I felt like I should be done. Wait, I figured out the end, why do I have to keep putting down words? Like that. If you ever feel like that, I hear it’s not uncommon for non-outliners to have that reaction to working out an outline. Usually I’m so incapable of working out an outline the whole question is irrelevant.

Anyway, at least I know if I stick to the 1500-2000 words per day thing, I really will hit the end soon. I’m just about at 350 pages now.

All right, back to Hardy’s post: dissecting the shininess problem. She identifies six types of failure-to-finish problems:

1. You’re bored with your WIP

2. Your WIP has a problem and you don’t know how to fix it

3. You’re scared you’re not a good enough writer to finish a novel

4. You never were that enthusiastic about this particular project

5. You lack the discipline to finish what you start

6. You’re distracted by the illusion of The Project That Will Lead to Fame and Fortune

It’s a pretty good list, I think. #1 and #5 look pretty similar to me. In both cases, the minimum daily wordcount ought to work. It doesn’t even have to be a high word count; 500 words a day will get the job done in well under a year, even if you’re writing a fairly long book.

I’ve certainly had issues with #2 there from time to time. That’s where you force yourself forward and then find yourself re-writing a huge swath of the middle. Usually the middle, anyway, for me. For me, it’s better to force it and then re-write than stop. Forcing myself forward is how I figure out what’s gone wrong and how to fix it.

I think the only way to deal with #3 is to finish multiple novels, so that when you feel like you can’t finish the current one, you have countervailing evidence that you totally can. I don’t think finishing one novel is enough evidence for those of us who deal with an average amount of insecurity. But after you’ve finished four or so, it’s hard to believe you can’t finish another.

Hardy picks out #4 as the one where you should just drop it and go to a new project. I agree. If you just jumped on a current fad because you hope the book will sell, even though you really don’t care for dystopias or werewolves or whatever, yeah, more than likely you should step off that bandwagon and write something you actually want to write. The fad will probably have moved on before you finish the book anyway.

Anyway, if you’re interested, click through to read all the descriptions and solutions.

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