Solution Saturday: I Have a New Idea, But I’m Still Writing an Old Story

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It happens to the best of us: we’re just minding our own business, typing away, and BOOM: new idea. It’s a good one. And we really want to forget about whatever we’re working on and give all our attention to this new thing in our heads.

Take a deep breath. You don’t have to abandon what you’re working on for the sake of one new idea. Try these solutions to your latest #writerproblem before you decide the best way to handle this.

Solution 1: Write down new ideas as they come, then leave them alone

Sometimes we’re overwhelmed by new ideas simply because we can’t get them out of our head. Just because you have a new idea doesn’t mean your old one has any less worth, and if you’re still motivated to finish it, there’s a way to hold onto that new idea without investing your full time and energy into it right away.

As bits and pieces of a new story come to you, jot down those idea fragments, maybe on a note in your phone or on a Post-It note, and then go back to whatever you’re working on right now. Leave them to sit for awhile. You won’t forget them, and when you’re ready to bring them to life, they’ll already be there waiting. 

Solution 2: Use your new idea as motivation to finish your current project 

Maybe you’ve been working on your current book, short story or other project for what feels like forever. Your eagerness to jump into the first new idea that comes along is a completely normal temptation. That new idea seems really good to you right now. It’s bright and shiny and YOU WANT IT.

Instead of abandoning your work for something different, use the promise of a brand-new project to get you through finishing the current one. Just think: not only will you be able to celebrate your accomplishment (it’s finally done!), but you’ll also be able to dive straight into the next thing right away.

Solution 3: Try dividing your time between both stories 

If you really don’t think you can wait until your first project is done before starting the second one (try the above solutions first before you decide you can’t handle the waiting), do an experiment. See what happens when you try working on both at the same time.

This requires a lot of discipline. You’ll need to figure out how to schedule out your writing time so you’re giving equal attention to both projects. It can work, but only if absolutely necessary. You might find that working on two projects at the same time actually makes you more productive. Who knows? Give it a try and tell us how it goes.

New ideas are just that: new ideas. They might seem really great at first, and eventually they might turn out to be even better than you imagined. But they might not. If you’ve already put a lot of work into something, finish that first, if you can. You’ll feel much better when you do.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Solution Saturday: Which Genre Am I Writing In?

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So you’re writing this book, right? It’s going pretty well. There’s a good cast of characters, a few good plot twists, some suspense and a lot of action—it’s definitely something you would read, and hopefully that means someone else might want to read it someday, too.

It’s a great spot to be in, as a writer. But there’s just one problem: in searching for literary agents here and there, you’re not sure who might be good candidates to send queries to. Each agent typically accepts queries about books from certain genres, and well … you don’t exactly know where yours belongs.

You have problems. We have solutions. Writing is hard. Let’s make it a little easier to navigate, shall we?

Solution 1: Determine whom you’re trying to reach

Within each genre are a plethora of sub-genres, but in order to figure out where your story or book belongs, take a few steps back and focus on one thing: who do you picture sitting down to read your work?

Some themes are universal for all age groups, but the age bracket of your characters, the situations you put them in and the range of their development from start to finish can at least help you figure out whether it’s more suited for younger audiences, young adults or strictly adults, as a starting point. This can at least help you determine where your story doesn’t belong, and can help you narrow down where it might fit best. 

Solution 2: Assess what you’re reading

Often the genres we read most frequently are the ones we end up writing in. Mostly because, well, if we’re spending all that time reading this genre or that, it’s probably because we like it. Over time it can become the genre we know best, and therefore, has the potential to become our go-to genre when we turn around and write our own stories.

Perhaps the easiest way to do a genre hunt is to figure out which authors you enjoy, and do a search on them. “So-and-so is a [genre] author who has written …” will usually pop up without too much digging. John Green is a young adult author. It’s not guaranteed or required, but is much more likely, that if you read a lot of John Green novels, your stories will take on more young adult themes. Sort of like a you are what you eat philosophy, except, you write what you read. Maybe.

Solution 3: Keep checking back all month

We’re keeping things fairly general in this post, but as the month goes on, we’re going to take you on a virtual literary genre expedition. GET EXCITED!

We’ll dive deeper into the different types of genres you might be writing in, or might have written in previously and never even knew it. Genres like young adult fiction, for example, have so many sub-genres it can seem impossible to narrow down where your YA book fits. We’re going to make the search a little easier for you.

We hope these solutions can help you at least start to narrow down some possibilities, and if you’re still stuck, we hope you’ll come back and visit soon, for a more in-depth look at what genres are out there, and where you and your stories best belong.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Solution Saturday: I’m Bored Writing This But I Don’t Want to Give Up

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Sigh.

Check Facebook.

Switch back over whichever program houses your current writing project.

Stare blankly at white space.

Sigh.

Repeat.

You’re trying to get work done. Write, which to you, is work. But you can’t.

You’re just … bored.

We’re here to help you find the boredom cure that’s right for you. Stay awake, now. (We saw you yawn. Don’t try to hide it.)

Solution 1: Take a break

There’s no secret writing law that says taking a break isn’t allowed. The general fear is that stopping one project, either to work on something different for a while or just to take a total writing hiatus, will lead to quitting, or at least never being able to go back and finish what you started.

Don’t think of breaks as giving up. Think of them as valuable time for your brain to recover from intense use. Give your ideas time to untangle themselves. Give yourself time to get out and do something else—spend time with friends, do something fun, anything besides writing—before letting yourself sit down to write again. Giving yourself permission will gradually dissolve that initial hesitation and guilt. 

Solution 2: Toss in a sudden plot twist 

Because—why not? Just like there’s no law demanding you keep writing even when you literally can’t even, there’s nothing that says you have to always and consistently stick to something realistic or previously planned out.

If you’re bored, for goodness sake, it’s your story. Throw in your own curve ball. Make your characters do something even you wouldn’t have predicted. Take your original plot line and go completely the other direction. Basically, just shove caution off the page and go for it (whatever “it” is). It might turn out to be a completely useless tangent later. It might inspire you to go back and keep working from your original outline. Or you might actually like the new storyline. Whatever it takes to pull you out of the boredom chair. 

Solution 3: Remember there are no rules

As far as your literary universe is concerned, you are a god. You decide what happens, when, why, how. If you’re just tired of working on the same thing you’ve been plowing through for months, you have options, but really, no one, not even your own conscience, can tell you what to do.

You can change up the story. You can change up the place you write in. You can switch from Mac Pages to paper to dry erase board and back. You can, and should, do whatever it takes to keep yourself going without giving up. You’re not wasting time; you’re giving yourself a new angle. A different goal to work toward. If you’re bored, your creativity just needs a new outlet for a little while. That’s fine. Normal. DO IT.

Giving your work a rest is healthy.

Letting yourself have a little spontaneous fun with words—it’s like a dream come true.

No rules? You’ve been waiting forever for this moment to arrive.

It’s your story.

Do with it what you will. Especially when you’re bored.

Do you have a “writer problem” that you can’t seem to find a solution to? Leave a comment or tweet @MegDowell with the hashtag #NRSaturdaySolutions and we might help you solve your problem in next week’s post!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Solution Saturday: I Want to Write, but Life Keeps Getting In the Way

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You want to write. You need to write. Yet every time you find yourself starting to get into a good rhythm, a steady, routine, life, as it is well known to do, just “happens.”

Life events—whether planned, like holidays and family get-togethers, or unplanned, such as spontaneous road trips or funerals—disrupt more than just writing time. But when you’re a writer, and your writing time gets upturned, well, that can be just as unsettling.

Busyness is actually a completely different hang-up than life just getting in the way. Yet the methods for solving both barriers are quite similar, it turns out.

Here are our three solutions for keeping on pace with your writing goals, on this lovely holiday weekend (Independence Day for us USA’ers) when we’d all rather be writing, but family, food and fireworks are calling (loudly … so loudly).

Solution 1: Plan ahead as best you can

When things come up you don’t expect, especially if it involves spending quality time with someone close to you, the world won’t stop if your writing does for a while. For the expected, such as a weekend holiday spent with family, spend a little more time writing the weeks before and after your break to make up for lost time.

If a break in your normal writing routine is notorious for throwing you off and knocking out your motivation, be prepared. Know ahead of time it’s going to be more of a challenge to get back into the writing groove, and try not to beat yourself up too much when it does happen.

Solution 2: Write when you can; walk away when you can’t

If life is weighing you down, but you feel the urge to write, set aside a little time and let it happen. In those moments, writing can act as a stress-reliever and take your mind off of school, work, family or whatever else has been occupying your time while away from your desk.

When the words just aren’t coming, don’t force them. Sometimes it’s just not going to happen, and as hard as it is to come to terms with that, it’s just part of the deal. Taking a short break—hours, days, even months—doesn’t mean you love writing any less, that you’re giving up or that you’re never going to start again. Sometimes there are other things you need to take care of first. Your ideas won’t go away. They’ll wait until you’re ready.

Solution 3: Use “I need to write” as an excuse

Not to brag, not to be rude, but to give both yourself and those around you a good reason to spend 30, 10, maybe even just five minutes alone with your laptop, notepad or whatever you use to put your thoughts into words. Your friends and family will understand that, even if you don’t get paid for it, writing is your form of work. Yes, take a little time off. Have fun. Relax. But if you’re itching to write, taking time away to fulfill that need is completely acceptable.

If it’s a holiday, you’re on vacation or you have way too many other things to do, block out 30 minutes of writing time per day. If you have to, do it early in the morning, before the rest of the world wakes up, or late at night, when everyone is sleeping. When brain rush leads to seemingly tireless inspiration, don’t let it go to waste. Sometimes, making small sacrifices for the benefit of your craft is one hundred percent okay.

Life happens. But writing is part of your life. Let neither the predicted nor the unpredictable stand between you and writing those words.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Solution Saturday: I’m Not a Good Enough Writer

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We all have those days when we just don’t feel like what we’re writing is good enough. It’s a natural part of the writing process; a little bit of doubt here and there helps us remember we’re not perfect, and we still have a lot to learn.

But when that doubt stretches on too long, it can make us want to quit. Do not save changes. Delete.

Here are three solutions to slowly building up your confidence and reigniting your love for writing—which is why you started writing in the first place.

Solution 1: Read More Books

If you’re already a writer, it’s pretty likely you’re a reader, too. Reading successful authors’ work, over and over again, might have been what started this confidence drought in the first place. “They’re so good at writing! Why can’t I be that good?”

Don’t forget even your favorite authors have agents and editors who help them take their rough drafts to the next level. They have help; you don’t. All you have is your brain and your hands and finished books as inspiration. Let those books motivate you to keep refining your skills, not the opposite. 

Solution 2: Write More Words

Wait, that doesn’t make sense. I SAID I’M NOT A GOOD ENOUGH WRITER. Why should I keep writing?

Because the only thing that makes anyone not as good at something as they want to be is to stop trying to be better. If you’re not where you want to be in your own personal writing game, the worst thing you can do is take a break. Even if it’s the worst thing you’ve ever written, try.

Over time you’ll learn to catch and fix your own mistakes. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. You’ll learn how to write more captivating prose—as long as you keep writing.

Solution 3: Find a Writing Community

Sometimes you just can’t do it alone. Writing itself is an individual activity, but if you feel you need moral support from other writers, that’s not only one hundred percent acceptable, it could help you identify your own weak points and what about your writing isn’t sitting well with you.

There are plenty of ways to find others. If you’re on WordPress, follow other ‘writing bloggers’ and comment on their posts. Wrimos are also a great way to meet writers who might have similar struggles to yours. A good old-fashioned Google search (okay, not that old-fashioned) can give you even more options to virtually connect and find the literary support you need.

As you grow as a writer, you’ll learn how to avoid comparing your work to others’. The truth is, no writer with enough dedication to keep trying is better than another. Everyone has their own voice, their own unique insight. Embrace that. If your writing isn’t just like someone else’s, trust us—that’s a good thing.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Solution Saturday: I Have a Story Idea, but Lack the Discipline to Write It

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At least, that’s what you think.

Welcome to our first Solution Saturday, your chance to find solutions to the “writer problems” keeping you from achieving your literary ambitions.

There are a lot of people wandering around the globe with amazing ideas in their heads. For some reason, humans are really good at coming up with stories. We’ve been telling them for centuries. We’re constantly seeking out new stories to read, when it feels like we’ve run out of our own to tell.

Some writers are really good at transferring their ideas from head to hand. They can get an idea and start working on it instantly, if they want to. Some writers have a little bit more difficulty, as we like to say here, putting their ideas into words.

If the latter describes you, you’re in the right place.

Does this “writer problem” make you a bad writer? Of course not. Anyone with an idea can turn that idea into something real.

Let’s say you have this great story idea. You’ve had it in your head for a long time. You keep meaning to work it out, to start writing it even in small bits and pieces. But it seems you just don’t have the “discipline” to make any progress.

So. How do you change that?

Here are a few solutions to help you turn your idea into a real, physical piece of writing.

Solution 1: Talk About It

This isn’t necessarily a suggestion to drag your closest friend into a secluded corner of the nearest coffee shop and spilling your idea out on the table for them. But if that’s what you think might help you—if you’re one of those people who has to “talk out” their problems—go for it. Just ask them if it’s okay first. If they’re willing to listen, both of you might end up benefitting from the experience.

If you’re not comfortable telling other people about your ideas, this is where a journal, private blog, unlisted video blog or imaginary friend/stuffed animal/God can come in handy (if applicable?). Talk to yourself, for what it’s worth. The simple act of speaking or writing aimlessly about your thoughts might help you get a better grasp on what you want to do with the idea next.

Solution 2: Outline It

Okay, so you might not be a huge fan of outlining. Years of forced outlining for a grade in English class may have turned you off to the process a long time ago. But this is your idea, your work. You don’t have to do it in any specific format. You don’t have to explain your thoughts in detail, if you’re not ready to. It doesn’t even have to make sense.

Start by jotting down anything you think of when your idea comes to mind—in a Word document, on the back of a napkin, whatever works for you (just don’t accidentally thorw away the napkin). A place? A problem? A character’s name or a vague description of a made-up historical event? Think of the fragmented shards of information you may or may not have told someone else. It doesn’t matter how organized (or not) you present it. Sometimes, just getting it out of your head is the first of many triumphant steps.

Solution 3: Schedule It 

If your biggest struggle is finding the time to sit down and crank out a few hundred words here and there, you have to make it work to fit your lifestyle. If you work full-time and have evening obligations, you might only have time for 10 minutes of writing before bed. Ten minutes is better than zero, but the key here is to make the process part of your routine as soon as possible.

Five minutes of your lunch break, the commute home (unless you drive—please don’t write and drive!), between classes, while you’re waiting for your mocha Frapp at Starbucks—whatever works. It doesn’t have to take large chunks out of your day. Once you get better at keeping up with it, you can work toward dedicating more time to each scribble session. 

June already? Camp NaNoWriMo is upon us! Check out our tips for making time to write when you don’t have any.

Don’t get discouraged if you’re still having trouble getting your ideas out. It’s a skill, just like learning to read. No one is going to steal your idea. And if they do, well, they’re dumb. You thought of it first.

Give it time, and be patient. You are a writer with an idea. You are more powerful, and capable, than you know.

Do you have a “writer problem” that you can’t seem to find a solution to? Leave a comment or tweet @MegDowell with the hashtag #NRSaturdaySolutions and we might help you solve your problem in next week’s post!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.