ASK AUNTIE MJ: SHINY THING

Today, Auntie MJ is answering TWO questions that are quite alike:

texarshead asked you:

Oh all-mighty MJ… “AHHHH!!!” *Panics* I keep getting NEW ideas and NEW plots to consider writing, but I’m already started on one I thought was amazing at first. Do you have any advice for sticking to an idea and keeping it interesting and fresh in ones mind for as long as possible? How am i ever to reach 50,000 words if I can’t pass 5,000?

And …

amoiresoul asked you:

I have so many plot bunnies stampeding through my mind that I cannot concentrate on my NaNoWriMo Novel! I keep wanting to stop working on one story and begin another, and another, and another. ‘Tis quite frustrating. I have countless unfinished stories abandoned in the realm of 5,000 words. My characters and plots are left to rot until I remember them and, in a flash of motivation and inspiration, once again take up the story and move forward. What would you do in this frustrating situation?

My dears texarshead and and amoiresoul,

Do not fret … what you describe is the COMMON COLD of writing problems. Most people get this some time or another, and it passes. And the cure, much like the cure for the cold, is sturdy and practical and almost HOMESPUN.

When we write, when we really sit down to do this thing, we often find that we would suddenly rather be doing ANYTHING ELSE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. This often takes the form of thinking up a NEW STORY idea, but it can take other forms. For me, it’s some kind of project. I once ripped up a floor with my bare hands and put down a new one rather than face my book. I did this work between 10pm and 1am. My floor was such a wonderful project. It had to be done now! Now! That’s how I repainted the ceiling, and built the new filing system, and reorganized the closet. That’s how the cedar hangers are freshly sprayed with cedar oil on a regular basis. This is also why I practically tie myself to the chair, or leave the house.

But many are like you, with plot bunnies running wild. The lure of the NEXT BOOK is always enticing, because the next book is a romantic idea. It is not the LURCHING VOMITOSIS that is your current book. In comparison, the current book is the car that seems dead, that you are pushing to the finish line every day.

So what happens? Just what you say. You reach for the SHINY NEW IDEA and you start it, and then … ANOTHER SHINY THING APPEARS. The next book! SEE HOW IT GLISTENS IN THE SUN.

But it’s just an IDEA. What you have in front of you is MORE THAN THAT. What you have in front of you is ACTUAL WORK YOU HAVE DONE. Of course it looks all hinky and broken. That’s because you’re working on it. KEEP DOING SO. This is how books are written … you KEEP WRITING the thing. You take it from adorable shiny baby idea phase, through terrible toddler and cranky teen, and then all of a sudden, it’s walking and talking and DOING THINGS and getting a job and everything!

If you want to write a book, you write it. Which means you KEEP WORKING AT IT even when the next idea seems better. When those ideas come, jot them down in a  few sentences somewhere in a notebook or a pad or wherever you keep ideas for future projects. Then PUT THAT AWAY then KEEP WORKING on the book in front of you. This is how you get past those 5,000 words. And you’ll be surprised. Once you commit, it starts to come easier. You just have to stick with it.

Persistently,

Auntie MJ