When Ideas Become the Enemy
August 22, 2020 by Mason Bell

What if parents were part of a secret organization to dismantle the candy companies? What if a small house were built and had a secret passage to the local swimming pool? What if frogs lived under your bed, and their lifelong goal was to keep your room tidy?

Ideas for stories grow quicker than weeds in a garden, and for each pulled, ten more pop out of the soil. Here lies the problem for the writer. An influx of ideas, each plausible in their own way, often derail writing success.

Writing goals differ from person to person. While one wants to be agented and published, another only writes for his own pleasure. Either way, the hours spent creating characters and worlds for each new idea is time-consuming, distracting from the genuine work of completing a project.

Pecking away at the keyboard on my first draft for months, I marveled at the fact I could write forty thousand words.

When I first started writing, each fresh idea blossomed as I fleshed out the characters and plot. Pecking away at the keyboard on my first draft for months, I marveled at the fact I could write forty thousand words. The next step should’ve been developmental and line revisions. Oh, the beautiful, mind-numbing world of revision! Instead, I’d tackle the next big idea, followed by the one after that.

Over the course of two years, I had five very rough drafts. Almost all dumpster fires. None of them good enough for snuggling with on a frigid winter day. All of them bursting with typos and terrible sentence structure.

I relied on my own sense of humor and thought patterns, which assured me the drafts were brilliant. I happily offered my book to others so they could partake in my amazing talents. Being more honest individuals than myself, they gave me the needed push to improve my craft and complete the writing process (Thanks John and Katie!).

I’m finished drafting for the moment with one book in the editorial phase and a book series in the works. Still, ideas for other stories and fun characters steal my thoughts, promising me relief from the throes of revision, but I keep my secret weapon close. A spiral notebook. When those ideas come calling, I jot them into the spiral and return to the project I’ve already deemed worthy of revision.

Saw a cute older couple at dinner dressed like bears? Log it. That guy at the counter would make a perfect protag? Log it. Something fantastical happened on the way home from work? Log it.

The influx of fresh ideas is never-ending. Make it a practice to log the prospective project and put it aside. No world-building, no cast. Just the idea, waiting for its turn to shine. Then give your current work in progress the full attention it deserves.

If constant drafting taught me one thing it was this-Completing a book to the best of my ability is more rewarding than ten drafts tucked away in a drawer.