Breaking up is hard to do (or, when to abandon an idea)

From the archives….

At about 2 a.m. Friday night, I broke up with my Shiny New Idea. I’ll get over it, but it did get me thinking about how we writers can tell when we ought to abandon an idea. (This is, of course, completely different from deciding to abandon a work-in-progess, which is a  post for another day. ;) )

So. Ideas. Sometimes we come across a Shiny New Idea, and BAM! Total infatuation. We’ve got to start writing! Or sometimes the idea has been lurking there for a long time, like a friend we’ve known forever, and the relationship is mulling, changing, blossoming slowly into a full-fledged, must-write Idea. Either way, when we decide to start writing, we’re making a commitment. Books take time, hard work, persistence, patience, more time, more hard work, more persistence…. Sorta makes me want to be sure before I get too involved.

Usually, if an idea keeps coming back to me, if it won’t leave me alone, that’s a pretty good indication that I need to write it. But with my last great idea, I realized a clean break was necessary. It’s not you, I told my idea, it’s me. See, it is a good idea. It’s unique, and high-concept, and I totally know how I’d pitch it. But sadly, I’m not the person to write it. It’s not you, it’s me….

How do I know I’m not destined to write this story? Lack of passion. I just can’t see myself spending a year or two of my life completely wrapped up in this story. Now, if this lack of passion was hitting mid-way through the writing, I’d be slower to assume it’s not meant to be, because I know writing is hard. I expect to hit those this-book-is-going-to-kill-me moments that inevitably pop up somewhere between the honeymoon beginning and the happily ever after. But at the get-go? even before the wedding? Danger sign! Beep Beep Beep! Back away from the idea. Do NOT make a commitment.

Carrying on this already-stretched-thin metaphor, I guess I could look at the several days I spent outlining as the dating stage. The courting. And I’m glad I spent that time with the idea, because if I hadn’t, I might’ve always wondered, you know. Was I wrong? Should I have written that? And now I know. You’re a wonderful idea, but you need to be with someone who will really love you the way you deserve to be loved.

Now what? Well, I pulled out my little black book (srsly, my idea notebook is black) and looked at other possibilities. There’s this one that I’ve known for a few years that’s been mulling and slowly blooming. I’m not sure what others will think of it, but I could definitely see myself spending a great deal of time with it.

I think I’ll ask it to dinner and see what happens.

How do you decide which ideas to pursue and which to toss?

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6 thoughts on “Breaking up is hard to do (or, when to abandon an idea)

  1. Carol

    Sorry to hear of the demise of your SNI.

    “Lack of passion” kills all sorts of my otherwise interesting ideas. They sound reasonable but then I think, “meh” and move on before I’ve even given them a chance. That’s the problem I’m having now with a contest entry; I’ve tossed two of them. I’m about to give speed dating a try soon.

    1. Shari Green Post author

      Thanks, Mom, but this was a “from the archives” post (should’ve put that in the title), so this SNI died quite some time ago, LOL. Current SNI is flitting around in my head as I mull and try to figure out what it wants to be.

      I don’t know what to write for a contest entry, either. But there’s lots of time. We’ll come up with something!

  2. Kimberley Griffiths Little

    I enjoyed this post. I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually done this before – I sort of FORCE my ideas to work, get it written, revise it, and then eventually shelve it – or let it rest until I can figure it out. LOL.

    I recently pulled a manuscript I’ve always wanted to make work (from 8 years ago) and am rewriting it now. Problem is, I have no idea if I’m making it better or worse! Only time will tell. And my crit group. And agent. And editor. And then the reading public – if it ever gets that far!

    There are lots of hurdles and gatekeepers we have to get through first, not to mention actually writing the thing!

    I have ideas I like and want to try, but they’re still sitting inside my mind waiting their turn . . . and often some of those are ones I may never write for one reason or another, as you indicate in this post. Good stuff to think about, Sheri!

    1. Shari Green Post author

      It could be that sometimes I really should “force” my ideas to work — push through the work, just for the learning and experience that comes with it. Because goodness knows I have lots to learn, LOL. But for me, passion seems to be a key ingredient in whether a project will be any good. Maybe I need to find a better balance between the discipline/experience side of writing and the for-the-love-of-it side. ;)

      Thanks for stopping by, Kimberley.

  3. Kimberley Griffiths Little

    Apologies for spelling your name wrong! Sheesh! I should know better, I get it all the time, too. :-)

    And it is true that there needs to be some passion otherwise we’d never finish anything! That probably happens to folks who get halfway and give up, because it is hard to keep the fire burning while you write a long project. But if you feel the “meh” before even starting, then the idea probably isn’t for you. There are lots of ideas in the world and we need to write that ones that won’t let us go and we can’t stop thinking about! :-)

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