The Story That Haunts You

A couple of nights ago, I’d just finished a fairly productive evening of writing. I’d finished about 2500 words that evening, and done over 3000 that afternoon so I had that light, unburdened feeling you get after being able to “vent” an entire scene onto paper (word doc). I was feeling great.

I got up from my desk, and got about halfway to the kitchen when it hit me. It wasn’t the typical “I just got an idea for how I want to work the next scene” idea – those are fairly subtle and I file them away in Evernote on my iPhone so I don’t lose them. This idea, however, appeared before me and bashed me in the face with a Louisville Slugger.

To set the stage here, I’ve finished the outlining (word doc, index cards, and a table full of sticky notes) for my fantasy novel. I’ve written Act I, and am about 30,000 words into the book as a whole. When I’ve had a chance to write, I’ve typically been able to nail a 3k+ scene during that session. I have committed to this novel and I’m in no way feeling frustrated with it and have no desire to give it up.

The idea that hit me is truly unique. I spent several days googling and searching book store keywords for anything that resembled what I wanted to do – nothing. This new idea is not fantasy, but set in current times and will probably have a faster pace. It is also part of a genre for which more agents accept queries, that prints more books, that has a vastly higher readership.

So the dilemma : This story is now haunting me. During the day, the time my brain normally spends thinking about my fantasy novel is now mostly consumed by this new idea. This idea is far more character-driven and doesn’t in any way resemble the “epic fantasy” of my current project.

I have been told many times that dropping a WIP in the middle to pick up another one is one thing that separates published writers from “aspiring” writers. That said, this idea is haunting me and I’m not sure how to get that out of my head.

So, if you’ve ever had this problem – you get knee deep into a WIP you love and an idea hits you in the face and won’t leave you alone – what do you do? What techniques have you tried for calming the second idea so you can finish the first or have you actually dropped the first to finish the second?

I would love to hear how other writers handle this situation.

  • kevin

    My current plan is to jot down as much of the new story idea as I can muster then tuck it away. When I’m done with the fantasy novel, I’ll start pulling out the new WIP and intermingle working on that with doing revisions and queries for the fantasy book. I’m open to alternatives but I think that’s my best bet at this point.