How to Deal With Shiny New Idea Syndrome

If you're a writer, then you've probably experienced Shiny New Idea Syndrome.

Shiny New Idea Syndrome is what happens when you're working on your main project and you get a fantastic idea for something completely different. In fact, it's so fantastic that you want to start on it right away!

It can be very tempting to give in and let the Shiny New Idea take over -- after all, when you've been stuck with the same world and characters for weeks/months/years, anything different sounds good.

But before the Shiny New Idea becomes part of your creative pursuits, you need to stop and think it through!

First, do you have time to start a new project right now?

A lot of writers have limited time to write. If you start working on the Shiny New Idea, it will take valuable time away from your main WIP. Can you afford that?

Second, is it really such a fantastic idea?

It might sound cool to you, but sometimes those Shiny New Ideas are just laughably bad. Case in point: a few years ago, I had a Shiny New Idea for a story that was basically Twilight but with elf princes (which is weird, because I hate writing romance in general, and I hate Twilight in particular). When I tried to explain the idea to my brother, he looked at me funny and said, "No, Ellie. Just ... no."

So please, make sure it's actually a good idea before you even consider writing it.

Third, would you actually finish it?

Your idea for a retelling of The Tempest on a distant alien planet told from Ariel's viewpoint might sound like an amazing idea at first, but do you really believe in it enough to take it to completion? (This was one of my Shiny New Ideas last year, and after less than a page of writing, the answer was a firm no) Don't start a book unless you're pretty sure you're going to finish it (see my post about falling in love with your writing). Otherwise, you're just wasting valuable time.

Fourth, is this really just an excuse to stop writing your main project?

It's possible that you're just grasping at straws in order to get away from your other WIPs (and don't feel bad if you are -- every writer feels this way from time to time). In this case, you should almost definitely forget about that Shiny New Idea, because it probably isn't as shiny as it looks from where you stand surrounded by half-revised pages and tears of despair. Remember why you fell in love with your main project in the first place, and keep pushing until it's done.

But what if you really, really, REALLY like the Shiny New Idea?

There's no harm in writing the basic idea out on a piece of paper and saving it for later. Then, when your other project is done, you can come back and see if you still want to use the Shiny New Idea. If you do, then great! If not, you've saved yourself a lot of hassle by not diving in straight away.

Nine times out of ten, those Shiny New Ideas will not come to anything. Every now and then, however, you might come up with a gem. In that case, congratulations! Just make sure that you don't abandon your other projects in favor of your new one.

As a side note, if you've been struggling with your main project for a while and you're considering giving up and trying out one of those Shiny New Ideas instead, read this post first.

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