Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Too Many Choices

I can only imagine how annoying it must be for a writer who struggles to come up with workable story ideas to read or listen to another writer who has so many ideas she (or he) doesn't know where to begin. I can only imagine this because I fall in the latter camp.

NaNoWriMo begins in one short week, and I have to decide which of my twenty or so story ideas I want to focus on. Where I fell down last year was in changing my mind, not just once but twice, and starting on new ideas rather than follow through with my original plan. Like I said before, I did manage to write the 50,000 words that make you a "winner" in NaNo's book, but they were spread over three different story ideas. Yeah, not so good.

Problem for me is that I have twelve different ideas for books that are connected to each other. Yes, each book can stand alone. Each book has a distinct hero and heroine, a complete story arc with neat and tidy HEA, and enough general material to fill well over 50,000 words. But these ideas involve no small amount of thought and coordination. The world building is fairly intensive, and I need to make sure that I'm not setting up major continuity issues. I need to know which characters need to be where and when. Heck, I'm not even sure yet what order the stories follow. I'm constantly changing my mind about what happens when.

All is not lost, however. I do have two or three stand-alone ideas. One of these is actually a Young Adult novel that's been lingering in the back of my brain for a long time. Plus I have three historicals - spanning time periods as diverse as medieval England and Ireland up through pre-Revolutionary America - in some degree of production.

One of the tenets of NaNo is for writers to turn off their internal editors and just write without worrying about quality. Quantity is the name of the game. As such, it makes sense to use a story idea with not much invested into it. If ever there exists a time to try being a pantser, it's during NaNo.

Unfortunately, I can't work that way. Pantsing usually gets me one or two chapters and then a hard crash into a brick wall. I need to know characters and setting and scenes and overall arc. Because if I don't know all of this stuff, when the going gets tough, I use as my excuse to stop writing the need to develop all of these details. Next thing I know, I'm knee deep in personality profiles and plotting boards and haven't written a single world.

Maybe the easiest solution is to put all of my story ideas into a hat and just pick one at random. Whatever I pull out is the focus for NaNo.

What I need to learn to do, though, is turn off the part of my brain that will be thinking about all those ideas still floating around in that hat.


Steph T. said...

I think, for Nano, they don't care if you plot out (shudders at the thought) your book ahead of time - maybe that will help get you through one of those books.

I can't decide what I want to work on either - but I think I'm going to try and finish the book I started a couple of weeks ago. I'm at 28K now - it needs to be 75K and I'm going to work on it for the rest of the week too. But don't tell the NaNo people...I can't start something from scratch - because, like you, I've got way too many to choose from and they're all too tempting.

And then there's the matter of the 90K single title I'm in the process of revising too. *sighs*

Lynn M said...

Yeah, Steph, I'm with you on just continuing something you've got a tiny start on. Most of my ideas have at least a chapter or a scene already written. I'm going to cheat those and pretend they don't exist. I will write 50,000 new words, but I may add those to a couple thousand that already exist.

Because if I start on something brand, spankin' new, chances are I don't have a full grasp on characters and settings and story arc. Which means I'd start writing then come full stop and become distracted by these unknowns. If I want to get 50K done, I need to work on something with a lot of the background work already finished.

Honestly, since the only reward for this entire endeavor is personal satisfaction and hopefully a completed manuscript, I think bending the rules slightly to suit individual needs is reasonable.