Change your mind: Should you put a story on the back burner?4 min read

by Nov 18, 2016Writing0 comments

I have really struggled with weeks one and two of Nano this year, even more than normal. My word count crept up to about 7,000 but didn’t progress any further.  My brain was yelling DON’T DO IT, WATCH NETFLIX every time I picked up the laptop to write.

At first I blamed the change in my writing location (some people have lucky pants, I have lucky spicy chips from a specific café).  But then I remembered that this exact thing happened last year.

I change my mind. I don’t always notice that I’ve changed my mind, but my brain refusing to continue is one of the signals.chihuahua-1539632_1280

Sometimes I just need to take a new direction or focus on a new character in the story I’m already writing. This year I have had to put my story attempt aside entirely.

Goodbye sensible(-ish) DS9-meets-Firefly story. Hello Space Zoo!

There are two lessons I am taking from Nano this year;

  1. It’s okay to change your mind. Whatever keeps you writing and engaged is the story you should be working on. (There’s a time and a place for forcing yourself to get through difficult parts of stories, but Nano isn’t it.)
  2. I need to be writing to have better ideas for writing.

anatomy-1751201_1280My best ideas come to me when I’m in the middle of some other piece of fiction. I don’t know if there’s any psychology that backs that up – get your brain on a creative bender to generate more creativity – but that’s how it works for me.

Space Zoo happened because I was more interested in writing about the cat on my spaceship than writing about the characters. My characters and story aren’t bad, but right now my brain just wants to write about critters in space. And the second I started writing about critters in space my word count bounced right up the chart. I’m still behind the daily word count, but nothing a few days of 3,000 word targets won’t fix.

Changing your mind does not negate the stories and characters you already have.  I fully intend to go back to mine at a later stage. Changing your mind is about going where the writing process is currently taking you, and having a poke about to see what’s there.

As a writer it can be hard to put a project aside. If you’re a professional it’s risking all that time you won’t be paid for because you didn’t produce a finished piece. If you write for fun, it’s the worry that you will keep changing your mind and never finish anything.

But all those words you wrote will still be there.   And if that story you’re discarding now was interesting to you once, then you’re likely to be reinvigorated by it again in the future. Nano should be fun, so write what you love and come back to the other story after November.  (Don’t panic – you can still include it in your word count!)

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