On Monday Natalie Lorenzi wrote about getting ideas and inspiration for a new writing project. She shared her idea notebook filled with priceless advice from her students. For me, however, her post was a bit foreign.
She began, “I don’t know about you, but it’s been a good while since I’ve written something brand new.” I have to say, Natalie, that indeed, you do not know about me in this case.
Since sending MAGIC CARP (McElderry 2012) out on submission just over a year ago, I have written two complete new novel-length manuscripts, one that I completed last September, and one that I completed last week. I have also had two more ideas for novels that I put on the back burner, because let’s face it, four new novels in a year is just showing off. But suffice it to say, the “nothing new rut” is not a place I’ve spent time.
Sure, go ahead and think, “Wow, this Jeannie Mobley is really prolific!”
or maybe, “Wow, Jeannie has a rich imagination and great discipline,”
or quite possibly, “Wow, Jeannie is a Super Fantastic Shiny New Idea Ninja!”
Yep. That’s me. Super Fantastic Shiny New Idea Ninja. I’m having it printed on my business cards.
But before you start thinking,
“Wow, Jeannie is way too full of herself,” (I know, too late for many of you),
let me just say that being a Shiny New Idea Ninja has a downside, which goes back to my post a few months ago on writing Zen. The Shiny New Idea leads to the Shiny New Manuscript, and this is the part of the process that for me is pure glory and goodness. After that comes the hard work, slogging, self doubt, temper tantrums, slogging, waiting, nail-biting, cursing, slogging, self doubt, waiting, and nail-biting that encompass the rest of the process.
So I figure, why ever leave the Shiny New stage! I have an embarrassingly large number of need-to-be-revised manuscripts sitting around. Only one of them is currently scheduled for revision. The others I’ve been saving, thinking “someday, I won’t be able to come up with a new idea, and then I will have these to fall back on!” Hasn’t happened yet. And one of them was written when my daughter was in kindergarten (she’s a sophomore in college now.) And no, I’m not going to tell you how many “an embarrassingly large number,” is. It is in the single digits. Just.
So what you should be thinking is, “Jeannie needs to learn to finish what she starts!”
or maybe “Jeannie needs to turn off that overactive imagination and apply a little discipline!”
or quite possibly, “Jeannie needs to find a seven step program for people with Shiny New Idea Syndrome and delusions of grandeur!”
Yep. That’s me. My name is Jeannie, I’m (mumble) years old, and I have Shiny New Idea Syndrome (SNIS).
- hearing a local legend and seeing two radically different ways to interpret it
- watching Bogart in The Maltese Falcon and thinking, I love this old hard-boiled voice so much, I should write a novel that way
- having a vivid dream that was a perfect opening scene for a novel (I’ve done this twice, one of which was MAGIC CARP aka The One That Sold.)
- showing a documentary to students in a college class and thinking a funny phrase in it would be a good name for a garage band
- using a writing prompt in a short exercise and finding the result too fun to leave at three pages
- discussing a scholarly article about ancient weaving practices in a graduate archaeology seminar
- living through the aftermath of a traumatic situation in my kids’ school
I hope you are starting to see how debilitating SNIS can be. Someone will be telling me about the horrible things going on their life, and I find myself thinking, “Gosh, that’s terrible, I really feel–NOVEL IDEA!– feel bad that happened.” That’s right. I’m Dug:
My life as a Super Fantastic Shiny New Idea Ninja has changed since selling a manuscript, too. Because in the fall of 2012 my debut novel is going to hit the shelves–a historical, middle grade novel with a serious and slightly literary tone. Not all my shiny new ideas are in that same genre; in fact, they are all over the genre map. So now I find myself being more selective of the ideas I pursue with the thought of actually building not just a stack of manuscripts, but a career. What should come next after MAGIC CARP? What needs to stay on the backburner for a while, and what should I get out there sooner? And while I don’t have the answers clearly defined yet, I am starting to see the need to break away from my SNIS and become a big picture kinda gal.
So, Natalie, while I don’t feel your particular pain, I have my own cross to bear, and I am certainly grateful for your tips from Monday. Because here and now, I vow to reduce that embarrassingly large number–to be more disciplined about seeing through revisions on publication worthy projects and doing what it takes to get them out there. And while you were using the tips in your notebook to generate a new idea, I think it will be a wonderful place to start in revising:
Does this dusty old manuscript have lots of questions at the beginning?
Lots of good stuff in the middle?
Does it leave you thinking at the end?
I’m not sure I’ll put wolves, wizards or schools on my “must have” list, but I like the idea of a series. Because that means after I revise the first one, I would have to just write several Shiny New Things to follow it up….SQUIRREL!!!