Something Shiny, Something New (It’s really all I want to do)

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!”

Here I am, coming up with yet another Shiny New Idea!

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.

I'm not this bad yet. But I'm getting there.

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).

I don’t have a notebook for ideas like Natalie. The world is my notebook–I get inspiration in all kinds of places, from all kinds of things:

  • 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.

Doing the part that's not as Shiny just requires buckling down. Revisions, here I come!

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!!!

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Something Shiny, Something New (It’s really all I want to do)

  1. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Oh, Jeannie, I really am bowing down to you, Super Fantastic Shiny New Idea Ninja. The one thing we do have in common is that all of the projects on my hard drive are completely different from one another. Can’t wait to see what you come out with next! 🙂

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    • Maybe I should send you some of those old drafts, Natalie. I mean, they would be new to you, right? (Having had a sneak peak at your non-fiction project a few months ago, I am certainly thrilled to hear you have it out on submission!)

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  2. What is this slogging you speak of?
    Thank you for posting this, Jeannie. If you were a fictional character, I don’t think I’d believe you. You pull yourself all the way through what I think of as the most tormenting part of writing a novel and then (temporarily) abandon your projects when you finally reach the first finish line. Novel first drafts kill me. And you have piles? It’s a good thing I’m not the kind of pitchfork-yielding, mob-leading friend. I’m mostly just a standing on the corner of Awe and Jealousy, ready to cheer you on as you whip those projects into shape friend. It’s summer now, right? Get to it.

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  3. Hmm, let me see, Audrey. How many books do you have out there or in production? Is there room on that corner of Awe and Jealousy for me?

    I think all our processes are so different, that probably at some point or other all writers end up on that corner. But I’m glad you’re here to cheer me on. Because the vision of you charging at me with a pitchfork is the stuff of nightmares. Or, maybe a great new book. Hmmm…..

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  4. Jealous! Jealous, jealous, jealous. Oh, in awe, too! (I’m always in awe of how funny you are online, too.) I SO want to be afflicted with this syndrome of yours, but I don’t have time to be sick. Can you “cough” on me or something???

    Very much looking forward to reading MAGIC CARP and seeing what else comes down the *pike.* 😉

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  5. All you people claiming awe and jealousy are missing the point. No matter which part of the proces holds you up, you just have to get through it–that’s the point. I’m personally in awe and jealousy at all you people who have mastered the revision process. If you want to know just how resistant I can be to revision, just ask my critique group what they had to go through to talk me into revising Magic Carp so that it could get out there and get picked up.

    But if you are still feeling jealous, Lynda, maybe I could cough on some Shiny New manuscripts in need of revising and send them your way.

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  6. Gwendolyn McIntyre

    Sad to say but I share this syndrome as well, and … Squirrel.

    Now, where was I? Oh yes… the dozen or so projects I’ve begun, outlined, created worlds for… and maybe in five or six years they’ll be real-live completed manuscripts. But, then I’m not alone.

    …and besides, I like Shiny New Ideas. They sparkle.

    Now, where did that squirrel go?

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    • Sounds to me like the best solution for you, Gwen, is to write shorter books. Picture books, maybe. About squirrels.

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      • Gwendolyn McIntyre

        Thanks, but I have four completed novels, plus two that I’m nearly finished with and another that I’ve been developing that has finally begun to come together.

        … when I’m not busy editing other peoples novels or in the midst of putting together another anthology.

        Besides, as I said, I’m not alone. Tamara Pierce said that for her, from inception of an idea for a book to actively writing it, takes her five or six years. I think I’m in good company.

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  7. I can vouch for the fact that Jeannie is, indeed, a Shiny New Idea Ninja. I think a lot of us have Shiny New Idea Syndrome, meaning we have all the ideas but they haven’t yet been executed into a comprehensible story form. (Says the person with story files started for my next eight novel projects while I continue to trudge forward with perfecting the first.) What makes Jeannie a ninja is that she has an idea and then poof! What seems like a day later there’s this finished manuscript that doesn’t read like a first draft at all.

    I used to be more of a Shiny New Idea Ninja when I was writing short stories. I still am with PBs. But first drafts of novels are T.O.U.G.H. for me. Intimidating. Talk about slogging.

    Revising is my most rewarding, favorite part of the process. I won’t say it’s fun because I’ve had way too many hair-pulling, this will never work, moments of despair to consider it “fun”. But I love the problem solving, getting into the reworking, revisioning, rewriting, feeling like my characters are starting to come alive, and honing in on exactly what this story is I’m wanting to tell and what’s the most interesting way to go about telling it.

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    • Aw, shucks, Jenn. You’re making me blush, but thanks.

      Maybe this has to do with process as well–I don’t tend to outline or work up treatments when I have ideas. Instead, I get this horrible fear that I am going to totally forget this great idea, and i HAVE to get it down now or else it is going to go away and be lost forever! And so I plow through those first drafts so I don’t forget (because I’m not smart enough to have figured out that I could have a new idea file.) In fact, I read your comment and thought, she has FILES! Woah!!! What a concept–Idea files!!!

      I love it when people mistake my stupidity for brilliance. 🙂 Plus now I’m thinking I can just refer to all those unrevised first drafts as “my idea files.”

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  8. Cynthia Levinson

    One of the “skills” my 10th grade English teacher focused on with us was synthesizing. I think I got so good at summarizing, analyzing, and reducing meaning to its most condensed form that I never learned how to actually produce. Researching nonfiction, especially for the word-limited magazine market, I pare, chop, and distill. But, actually getting volumes of my own words on paper or screen–I have to dredge it out of myself. And, Jeannie, we all have to revise. At least you have Something to revise!

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  9. It is interesting that when it comes to my scientific, peer-reviewed article writing I do in my other life (as an archaeologist) I also have to dredge it out of myself. There I adore the research phase, but then don’t actually want to write the first draft. Funny that the process can be so different for different people and in different situations.

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  10. J. Anderson Coats

    Are you finding it difficult to leave certain Shiny New Ideas on the shelf till later, in the name of career planning? That’s something I’m struggling with now.

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  11. Yes, to some extent I am feeling that, J. Last fall I had two three ideas I really liked, (one contemporary high school trama, one contemporary humor with zombies, and one historical literary.) Obviously one of those followed my historical literary debut better than the other two. It wasn’t quite as hard to put the other two on the shelf because I liked the other idea just as well.

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