Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So Many Ideas, So Little Time

My 'ideas' file is bulging at the seams. Now you would say that's a good thing. Especially for someone who always has two or three works in progress at one time. But this sometimes presents a conflict. I can be going along just fine, hammering out a brilliant new novel. Then--wham--a new book idea.

New story lines are like new babies--you can't resist dropping everything to give them your undivided attention. I mean, they're new, fresh, full of promise. Not like that manuscript with the middle that's beginning to sag just a bit, and with that character who suddenly turned on you in Chapter Fourteen.

The question is: What do you do? Do you drop the manuscript you've slaved over for weeks or months and turn your attention to the new idea? Or do you jot a quick story note, tuck it in your 'to-be-written' file, and keep plugging away at the work at hand? I am often tempted in this way.

I swear my muse is a sadist. She feeds me an enticing story line and introduces me to intriguing characters, and just when I'm immersed in the story, she tosses me a treat. A tasty little morsel of an idea that, I swear, has been dipped in chocolate. It's irresistible. My attention is drawn away from my current work as I sniff around this new and exciting idea. What the heck, I can take the time to write out the story line, maybe identify a few characters. Oh, how about an outline. I should do this while the idea is fresh, before I forget.

The next thing I know, I have four works in progress and I'm suddenly like a ball bearing shot into a pinball machine, zinging from post to post, being flipped around and back again. I can kid myself and say it's all productive as long as I'm writing something. But I'm kidding myself. I manage to get a chapter done here and a few paragraphs done there, but progress toward those two coveted words--'the end'--is slow at best. This is where the discipline of writing comes into play. And I've never been that good with discipline. I'm much better with the 'play'.

There are times when I wish I had an 'off' switch in my head. When I could flip the switch and turn off the flow of thoughts and ideas and just focus on the one book in front of me. I know writers who hit a dry spell or experience writer's block are shouting, "Oh, shut up!" But, trust me friends, being bombarded by ideas (not all of which should become novels) is the other side of that frustrating coin.

I'm envisioning myself with a laptop filled with half-written books. So, I'm wondering: How do you, my fellow writers, strike a balance? What do you do with those brilliant ideas that insert themselves into your mind while you're working to finish one novel? How do you capture the idea and keep it on the back burner? Or do you just drop everything and run with it? If so, what happens to the closer-to-finished work that had your attention?



Carol Mc Phee said...

After finishing my first manuscript, None So Blind, I caught the bug you describe and gave free rein to the story ideas popping into my head. At one point I was working on three storyline, but when I discovered I was taxing myself to a ridiculous point and at times writing the wrong heroine into the wrong story I simply noted the ideas and stuck the list on the wall to let the notions steep.

Concentrating on one story at a time satisfies me to a greater degree and I'm sure makes for an easier, more organized life. Carol

Strong, smart, sensuous heroines; heroes to die for.
Carol McPhee:

Laura said...

I'm generally pretty strict with myself, but I can fail when ideas for stories pop into my head. I only ever allow myself to be "writing" one story and that generally means thinking about it, but if an idea for a book comes to me and sort of hangs in after me saying "not now", I quickly open a word document, jot down a few salient points and close it before I get distracted from my main project. I will allow myself to sneak back in to put in a few new highlights as they hit me, but I don't let myself be distracted enough to write scenes or chapters. I can only do one book at a time!

Infogypsy said...

Maybe you're lucky, Linda. Having so many ideas is a great gift. I have one story in my head for probably two years - not a big choice of what to work on. I do have all five of my books right now begging for attention, but my prone way to operate in life is linear - finish one thing before going on - I'm not sure it's the best approach - but it's the one I have. Maybe you could be happy with yours since it's gotten you five books published (or about to be) - Judi

Allison Knight said...


I can relate. I have ideas popping in and out of my head all the time. If the idea keeps comig back, I jote down as much of a plot as I have and stick it in my idea drawer. Battlesong, the sequel to Heartsong started that way. But, it can sure be annoying when the idea won't leave you alone.

Alloison Knight

Linda LaRoque said...


I usually write a first page or something to help me remember and file it away. However, I usually work on two stories at a time. When writer's block strikes I can move to something else until the block passes.

But, I'm a big procrastinator so am working at getting into a routine.

Enjoyed your post.


Suzanne Hurley said...

Hi Linda,
That's awesome that you have so many ideas bubbling around. Your books are great and the more you write, the more all of us benefit from reading them.

I tried writing 2 books at the same time and couldn't do it. I got mixed up over which plot I was writing about and both stories blended into one. So now I focus on one at a time. However, I write all my new ideas out and save them, hoping to create a book around them at some point.

Keep up the great work.


Anne Patrick said...


I've had writers block so I'd much rather have too many idea floating around in my head than none at all. I'm usually midway through a WIP when an idea pops into my head. I usually just jot the idea down and get back to work. I never work on more than two at once or I'd be pulling out my hair.

Anne Patrick

Verna LaBounty said...

In preparing for my recent move, I had to decide whether or not to keep several notebooks and scads of loose notes with ideas jotted at varying lengths of descriptiveness. Alas, I shoved them in an extra box and now I'm faced with where to put them in my new digs.

I love ideas - always have more than I can use, but seldom work on more than one at a time. I feel secure in having a place to go and browse for mew projects when I finish what I'm working on.

Regan Taylor said...

Linda, I have to admit I swim with ideas. Being the virgo (with capricorn rising) I am, order, organizaton and structure of part of my general makeup. I always seem to start off with a book idea and half way through I "meet" a character I really like and realize they have a story to tell too -- hence I end up writing series.

I have 6 series running right now Bride, Descendants of Earth, McKenna Crime, Treasures, Eyes and Live at Five and I keep track of them and my ideas for them on a spreadsheet. I list it by series, books, done, books in progress, books to write and my ideas for them. Everytime I get a new idea, it goes on the spreadsheet with a link to whatever I've felt inspired to write for it.

Angelica Hart and Zi said...

Linda... How wonderful to be perking with so many great ideas. Ah, we see, though, that our muse must be kin to your sadistic one. Just like you said... so many ideas... so little time. Great blog! Had us grinning and identifying throughout.