Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Idea Worm

Something happened to me this weekend that I bet happens to every writer. It's both exciting and irritating. I'm not sure yet. I haven't decided.

It started on Friday with a simple thought. The possibility of a new scene, not in the outline. You know... "It'd be really cool to have a scene where X, Y or Z happened."

You tell yourself there isn't room for this scene in the story. It doesn't work with the greater storyarcs - heck, it doesn't work with the subplots either. Except... well, there is that one place, you know, where it'd fit?

Not quite, though. So you put this cool scene aside and stick to your earlier guns. Let's not derail the whole plot for one epic action scene, right?

The problem is that as time passes by, you can't help but think back of this scene. You list what needs to be changed for it to work. You mentally smoothen transitions from this scene to others, and all the build-up around it.

It'd be a lot of work, changing it. Too much for what it's worth? This is where it starts to get messy. This new scene has consequences on the entire outline. Changing it will require a good deal of rewrite, and replanning the end before you get there. You ask yourself if you should. If it really makes your book better.

You list all the ways in which it does. More tension. Bigger stakes and obstacles. A whole new world of dangers and complications added, both at the scene and for the climax.

The writer in you sees the potential. The human being recalls the hours of plotting and the pain of yet another rewriting.

Tough choice.

Except... we all know it's not really one, right? Once I find a way to make my story better, there's no way I can abandon it.

That's where I stand right now. I'll have to rework the ending and rewrite quite a number of scenes. Perhaps add a POV and cut another one. Right now I'm not sure if I have a handle on this story anymore. All I know is, my brain is fried from thinking through all the possibilities over and over...

At least I still have one scene to write where this whole new storyline branch doesn't change much. Gives me a bit more time.

Does this ever happen to you? How do you deal with it?


  1. I'm dealing with a form of this right now. I have a chip which, when inserted into a person's mind/data interface, will overwrite the brain synapses with those of the person recorded onto the chip. I wanted a MC to end up inserting the chip somehow, as it would be a blast writing the female lead suddenly transformed mentally into a male scientist, but then it hit me how amazing it would be to have the MC insert the chip into the interface of the main baddie. I'm stuck over which path to take, since BOTH sound awesome to write. I don't want to take both roads.

  2. Oh, dear god, this happens to me all the time. I'm kinda at this point in my rewrite. While I needed to rewrite the book anyways, there is a scene that needs to be completely rewritten to accommodate this new scene and I have no idea how to do it.

  3. Tears. I deal with it in tears. And ice cream.

    Once you realize how to make it better, you can't unmake it. You know what you have to do, even if it means oodles of more work. You do it, but you eat a lot of ice cream along the way.

  4. I know exactly what you mean. Half the time I force myself to ignore them, but one that I paid attention to ended up giving me plans for about five sequels to what was originally going to be an open-ended standalone.

    That said, I think this type of idea bomb affects planners more than pantsers. It's easy to see how it could mess up an outline, but for someone who has no outline and is just kind of running with it it isn't quite as detrimental. It always requires a good amount of adaptability though.

  5. Sommer's right--you can't unmake the idea, so stock up on brain food, clear some time on your calendar, and dive right in.

    Well, that advice sounds all well and good, but I'm struggling with this RIGHT NOW and am hating it. I'm somewhat cursing my brain for not settling for a mediocre book and just being done. *Sigh* Back to the notebook and pen I go...

    Good luck!

  6. Outline in deeper detail. :) (You wouldn't expect me to say anything else, would you?) The deeper the detail, the tighter the story and the less likely one of those ideas can wiggle its way in through the cracks. heh heh.

    Joking. Mostly.

  7. Ted: Oh, I wonder if your situation isn't even WORSE. You have to decide which is better first. Heart-wrenching decision, that.

    cookie: I'm going to sound like Margo here, but figure it out before you do anything. Imagine if you start too soon, and have to do that awful scene YET ANOTHER TIME? When I'm stuck-stuck-stuck, I try to sit down with paper and good music for a half hour. No internet. Good luck!

    Sommer: Ice cream. Good idea. Might do with chocolate + coffee, too.

    Will: Yeah, planners might see the effect more, but on the other hand, I think planners have most of the idea bombs while they plan, not while they write.

    TL: *laughs* Most of the time we know what to do, or at least what we're supposed to do. Doing it, though, is another matter. Good luck to you too. We can do this!

    Margo: Nope, didn't expect you to say anything else. At least this new idea isn't character-based. It was me, never wondering how I could use the weather/the world to screw my characters over. It's easier on my ego, if not on my outline.

  8. This is exactly why I don't like planning plot. The writer that finishes the story is not the same one that started it, and I trust the former a lot more than the latter.

    I may not know what happens at the end, but I know what should happen next when I get there, and can always "plan" will the details of execution instead of the sketch of forethought.

  9. Angst for a few moments, then throw the outline out in a metaphorical flutter of loose paper and write pants-lessly. MAY THE BEST PLOT WIN. BUNNY FIGHT TO THE DEATH.

  10. Look at that, my pantser-friend invaded the blog. ;)

    Trust me, cosmam, it's about as impossible to think of every option and decide which is best while in the mist of things as it is with a detailed outline. Also: the writer who finishes an outline isn't the same as the one who starts a story, and I trust the former a lot more. ;P

    Raquelin: I may (and by "I may", I mean "I did") replan the entire ending earlier today. OOPS. Too late.

    We can still set bunnies one on the other, though!