Monday, December 20, 2010

the myth of Shiny New Ideas

...well maybe not myth so much as illusion.

clearly, the Shiny New Idea is not a myth. ideas are very real things - tangible even. we can see them, hear them, taste them. it's the "shiny" part that's an illusion... for me at least.

Shiny New Ideas sneak up on me when i least expect them (i.e. very inconvenient times, like when i'm in the middle of another manuscript or about to start a long revision.)
i find new ideas are shiny only when i need a distraction from the work i'm supposed to be focusing on. i had at least three shiny - even glowing - ideas when i was smack in the middle of NaNo. funny how the shine slid off those ideas as soon as NaNo was over. now they're kind of muted and dull and not even interesting enough to distract me from editing.

i'm not saying all SNIs are clunkers disguised as something sparkly. some of them are worth exploring. for many authors, every book started with a SNI.

but i'm learning that, for me, the ideas that become full manuscripts aren't the shiny ones that pop up out of nowhere... they're the ones that slink in barely formed - just a character or a line of dialog - then slowly grow and fester, refusing to go away until i deal with them. (which is probably why i can't pinpoint the exact moment i came up with either Butter or Billy D. - they were both books that snuck into my brain through some dark back door instead of bursting above my head like a light bulb.)

i get those "light bulb" ideas all the time. they just tend to fizzle out. whereas the ideas that creep up on me nice and slow are the ones that eventually illuminate my entire imagination.

okay, are you tired of my lighting metaphors now? me too.

the point is - SNIs, for me, are just fuel for the creative juices. sometimes i need them to get my gears going when i'm in a slump with the current WIP. and sometimes i need them to bridge the gap between the ideas that will actually become stories. But i've yet to turn a Shiny New Idea into anything more than a dusty word document abandoned somewhere inside my laptop.

what about you? did all of your stories start with that burst of inspiration that writers have come to call the SNI? or do your stories sneak up on you?


Tracey Neithercott said...

I think each time I get a SNI, it's like a spark. But only those that seem worth writing about months down the line--the ones that keep tugging at me even though I never wrote them down--are the ones I turn into stories.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

The ideas I try to come up with suck--but then I'll have a bizarre dream and go, "Hmm, I never thought of that. I wonder what would happen if . . ."

Except that I wasn't planning on writing a sequel to my finished novel, until a SNI for the next book slapped me in the face.

Michelle said...

My current WIP on query took four years to conceptualize, and just now in this revision does it resemble what it really meant to.

I think I had SNI's upon SNI's, and melded some together to make what the originaly WIP's frame is. That's how it usually goes with me!

(Butter's a great name for a character, by the way.)

Kate said...

Mine tend to be the ones that creep up on me. They only become shiny when I finally notice them :-)

erinjade said...

Tracey - yes, you sound a lot like me. love the spark, but it's the nagging stories that last.

Angelica - i'm jealous! i love hearing about writers inspired by dreams. my own dreams are way too abstract to become stories, sadly. (i think there might be a blog post in this!)

Michelle - thanks! i love picking character names. :) and i like that method of shiny ideas on top of shiny ideas and making them one bigger story. nice!

Kate - well said! the truly shiny ones are the ones that last.