"I have so many great ideas! Which do I work on first?"
Sometimes the reason that we don't write isn't because we don't have good ideas. It's because we have too many, and we don't know where to start. How do we know which to focus on? How do we keep the focus on that one idea without skipping around?
I'd like to address these issues because I have them a lot of the time. I get so focused on a project, but then a little voice in the back of my head pipes up and it's an entirely different book idea or a new character. The fleeting image, sensory detail, etc promises to flit away before I catch it if I don't stop what I'm doing this instant and go chase it.
This makes it difficult to maintain focus on my current project.
Especially when I'm certain that the new idea is gold.
Turning on the faucet to this new idea can be like expecting a small trickle that we can easily notate and then move back into the old project. What we get is more like a fire hydrant blasting out new ideas in conjunction with the book, or a dam breaking and flooding our work-space with new sticky notes, random pages of half-created characters and scenes, or a messy array of new documents on the flash drive.
And it rips our attention away from the older project we were doing so well on, and might have finished if only...
I get it. It's a difficult, agonizing decision.
I'll leave you to make your own decision, based on your writing style, time table, and what works best for you. But, let's look at the pros and cons of both here.
Sticking with the Old Project:
-We keep that faucet flowing, even if it's just a trickle. Any progress is still progress and that momentum that you've built already is forward motion even if the idea is slowly fizzling into nothingness and you feel like you're almost stuck. (The secret here is that "stuckness" doesn't go away, but hits you with each project. If you're starting a new project to deal with "Stuckness" of the old one, chances are you'll just keep skipping from idea to idea and hardly finish anything. Follow through is important and harnessing that momentum is ideal.
-Finishing the project which is its own reward.
-You teach yourself to focus on the here and now, and bull through the project until it reaches completion (even just a first draft).
-We fear we might lose a fantastic idea that the muse has offered to us, and we'd feel ungrateful if we didn't take this golden opportunity. If we snuff the muse, she might not return.
-We might actually lose a great idea, if we forget it.
One piece of advice I'd give here if you want to catch the idea without giving over the new project is to write very little about the idea; a word or phrase that will bring the idea back when you're ready to pursue it fully.
Beginning the New Project:
-We capture a fantastic idea and depending on how far it takes us, we might have the whole thing plotted and outlined with rich characters and settings. We might have pages of great notes that lead farther and farther down the rabbit hole and it seems like the whole idea is writing itself into a book.
-We have more material to work with when we don't know what to work on. Or a great place to start for Nanowrimo.
-We lost what momentum we had on the older project, making it harder and harder to pick back up. It could lay dormant for ages.
-We forget that the older project was just as important as the new project when we first thought it up. It can seem boring and overworked compared with the sparkle, intrigue, and mystery of new project. We need to remember to not let the new outshine the old.
Not all writers will agree with this advice. It's fine, because something all writers can agree on is that writing is a difficult process and it takes time and determination to keep plugging along. How you approach writing is going to be different than how I approach writing, or how any other writers approach writing.
Whatever you decide when struggling with great idea overload, make sure it fits your particular style, and then keep plugging away until you finish. It's a fantastic feeling when it's over. The reason that most aspiring authors are only 'aspiring' is because they don't have anything finished yet. I don't want that to happen to you. I want you to to feel how amazing it is to have your novel out into the world.
Let me give a little more advice here to help you decipher what to work on. As yourself which one scares you the most, and be completely honest with yourself about it. Which project scares you the most? Work on that project first because often, we encounter fear where we know there is great importance.