Mark Terry

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Shiny New Idea Versus The Real Thing

August 26, 2009
Yesterday, among my numerous ongoing writing projects, I pulled up the file on The Valley of Shadows, the 4th Derek Stillwater novel, and continued to read. I recently signed a contract for it and got my editorial comments, but I'm re-reading the manuscript to get it fully in my head.

A while back I wrote that I was going to finish China Fire, whether it was good or not, just to make sure I finished something. So yesterday I pulled up the file, stared at the screen . . . and then my wife came home and I closed it again and we went kayaking because it was a beautiful day and like it or not, the summer (which seemed to last about 2 weeks) is starting to come to an end.

Later in the evening I sat on the couch with the laptop and instead of opening China Fire like I was supposed to, I opened the file for the sci-fi novel I'm working on and without hesitation wrote 2-1/2 pages, then shut it down.

Erica Orloff, She-Who-Must-Be-Read, talks about Shiny New Idea Syndrome, where you're in the middle of a project and you keep getting ideas for other stories. I tend to call this the Eureka Moment, although SNIS works quite well.

So do I have SNIS? Sort of. There's no doubt that China Fire is a struggle for some reason, although I think there's a lot of meat to it. I think it's a good to great idea, I think I'm executing it reasonably well, but I seem to be struggling to actually get from point A to point B to point C, etc.

The SF novel, A Plague of Stars, however, it just plain good. Am I struggling with it? Sometimes, but not so much. It's just outside my usual area of writing and when I recently got stalled I told myself I had to finish SOMETHING and China Fire was further along.

I'm going to try to do all 3, I guess, as much as time allows. I think I know where to go next in China Fire. I definitely know where to go with Plague. And I'm under contract for Shadows, so that's a given.

But sometimes it's really hard to tell if you're jumping projects just to get away from the tough one. Do you have this problem? How do you deal with it?


11 Comments:

Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

I tend to escape into short stories when I need the feeling of finishing something. I also tend to plot and make notes and research when Shiny New Idea syndrome strikes. I don't let myself draft.

Right now I'm making copious notes for the next novel on scraps of paper, notebooks, and in my blackberry. I've deliberately held off naming the character of my next book so I can't start it. I'm deep in finishing a first draft--in three weeks, come hell or high water.

I only have one unfinished book, which I dropped because I absolutely knew it would never sell. I had a lot of short stories false starts before I started plotting them.

The thing that cracks me up though is I'm still trying to sell my first novel. And if it does sell by some stroke of good fortune, they're going to want sequels. So all these Shiny New Ideas will probably get dropped in lieu of that.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

Well, sometimes it works. The mini-break you take from one gives you more perspective when you go back to it. It's sort of like how some people finish and put it away for months and then edit it, except it doesn't take as long, and you don't make as huge a mess 'cause you get the perspective going along.

And sometimes it's avoidance, and sometimes it's just plain annoying! I hate having multiple projects going! Just when I pick up steam on one, I have to switch to the other. Ugh.

8:09 AM  
Anonymous Christine said...

Julia Cameron, author of the ARTIST's WAY, would call this a creative U-turn. It's when you realize just how good the project is, and we get scared of it, for whatever reason. Maybe we think it's too big for us to complete. Maybe we're afraid of the success it could bring. Maybe we're afraid it will all fall down around us. And so, we avoid finishing it. The payoff for doing that is that we will never have to face our fear about what leads in that direction.

Sure, this happens to me all the time. Right now, I'm writing a young adult fantasy that could do for Norse mythology what Rick Riordan did for Greek mythology. It's going okay, I think, so far. But when I think that I'm not Rick Riordan and what gives me the right to think I can do what he's done, or when I think the project is just to big for me...I get paralyzed, and the progress goes from slow and steady to walking in molasses.

And there's that 1920s time travel murder mystery that could be good if I worked at it...and that mystery series with the retired female colonel that is looking good right now...

8:24 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Sex Scenes
I've never been much of a short story writer, but I could see that helping. I did complete the short story, Flatfooted, here on the blog, although it was primarily because I was blogging that I completed it.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Spy
I'm used to having multiple NF projects (in fact, I'd BETTER have multiple NF projects ongoing, w/regular checks coming in as a result), but I've tended to focus on just one novel at at time, and I think with good reason. But I think I've quit some and come back to them later and seen where to go. The perfect example of that is Dirty Deeds. I quit it, then came back about 6 months later, read what I'd written, said, "Hmm, that's pretty good," and sat down and finished it. Then fairly quickly sold it. (Fairly quickly is a relative thing, publishing timelines and response times being what they are).

So I do know that sometimes you come back and know how to solve your problems.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Christine,
I like the idea of a creative U-turn. And I think most projects die from lack of confidence more often than from anything particularly wrong with them.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Hi Mark:
I usually have a few projects going at once and work on that which I am most passionate about. But I do try to slog through nearly all of them to the end, or at least to page 100 so that I am sure if I pitch it and it gets bought, I can keep momentum going.

E

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I think there's a point where an idea is ready for writing to begin and if writing is delayed the idea tends to wither. Then it has to sit awhile before it can be revived by a new rush of enthusiasm.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Erica,
I can see that. I could probably work on multiple fiction projects (and have) if I didn't have so many other NF projects ongoing. And those times when I have effectively worked on multiple projects, the key for me has been to put the most time and energy into the ones I'm feeling most passionate about, but still keep my spoon stirring in the others.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Eric,
Yes, we shall sell no idea before it's time.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Richmond Writer said...

All of Shiny New Ideas come for the newsletter I work on rather than new novels. This of course happens whenever I sit down to write and find that my characters aren't talking to me and it's winter, they're snowed in with nothing to do but quilt.

5:51 AM  

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