Ideas for Indie Authors: A Novel is Chasing Me. I’m Losing. (and Winning)

When good ideas impregnate the mind, why fight them?

Over the past three weeks, I’ve had a novel idea, actually related to novel-writing, and I haven’t been able to shake it. Even in the midst of revising novel #5, which was supposed to be my priority, this new idea has consumed me every free moment that I’ve had.

When I go to the store, I’m thinking if the characters drink whole milk or skim. When I’m in my bedroom, I’m thinking about this little flying thing that annoys one of the characters and wonder what it would be like to have that happen. (Sorry, I can’t divulge what I’m talking about there.)

And the plot – it’s embarrassingly exposed – like I downloaded the novel’s Cliff Notes and have been cheating on my writing. It’s seemed so easy, so smooth – the dialogue, the characters, the setting – all laid bare in front of me.

This is the type of inspirational groove that I hope never leaves me.

So why am I losing? Because I’ve lost control of all other parts of my life because of this novel.

So why am I winning? Because I love writing this novel and have had so much fun putting it together.

Why has it been so easy so far?

Perhaps it’s an unimportant question that I shouldn’t try to answer. Just count it as a blessing and enjoy it while it lasts.

But I have to say that I might know what’s going on. In this novel, I’m starting from a premise that is completely unlike me. It dabbles in the supernatural and fantasy genres which, if you’ve read any of my writings, you know if not what excites me. I like real, down-to-earth human stories.

However, this unique premise has allowed me to tell a human story in a very different way. It has led to new discoveries and new ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of anyways. And while the end result will be different from much of my other works, the reader will undeniably see the same creative Sasse hand at the helm.

So if your inspiration is stuck firmly in a hole filled with quick-drying cement, shake things up a little. You might find yourself losing a lot of time on a winning idea.

A Writer Stirring Up the Hornet’s Nest

Why couldn’t I just let those darn hornets sleep? I was almost finished, and then …

I’m sure this has happened to all writers. You are closing in on the end, already with one draft in the books and you’re anticipating finally closing up a project and moving on to something else.

But you, in the ever so subtle way you go about closing a book, had to leave your mind open. And you know what follows when that happens. One thought leads to the next, and before you know it you begin to question the ending or a plot point. Then a new idea slips into your mind and before you know it you are staring down the double barrel of decision.

Do I really want to re-open this plot and re-write everything I’ve already written. Just let the hornet’s sleep!

But that one annoying hornet starts flying around your drink, settling on the edge, trying to drink up a little sweetness. You swat it away, but another comes flying by, this time whipping around your ear. You hate that buzzing sound. It means anything but the finished line. It means re-writes and and pain and more time and …

You swat that hornet away from your ear, hoping it won’t come back.

But then your mind, in an onslaught of flying insect thoughts, armed with powerful stinging abilities, will not let you rest. They chase you out of your complacency, forcing you to go back to your manuscript.

Finally, you look once again at the words on the page, and you realize that the hornet’s were right. It’s not finished. There’s a better way. So the choice is simple, change it or be willing to be stung by endless stings by the writer’s best friend – an honest conscience. At that point, you know that if you really want to be the best writer that you can be – as you always say – that you must deconstruct and reconstruct again.

Once that is realized, everyone will be happier. Everyone meaning the writer and the reader.

So do I want to be known as a writer who finishes or a writer who finishes well?

All right. Now I know what I have to do. Take two.

Finally, Back to Novel Writing

I checked. The last time I had written on my fifth novel was March 29, 2015 – more than four months ago. That would seem terrible for a writer but not necessarily. It’s not like I feel off the writing grid and threw in the towel, far from it. Here’s what I’ve been doing since I last tickled the keys on my latest novel:

April – I started writing my next full-length play called “The Magic Pool.” It’s about forty percent done, and I haven’t written it in a while either.

May – I was neck deep in producing my musical “A Tad of Trouble.” Writing had to take a backseat.

June – Priority was family vacation in Europe and America. I also started writing my OTHER full-length dramatic show.

July – Family and drama writing. Luckily, family drama didn’t give me any ideas.

August – Finished writing my latest show, “Tales of Wonder,” set to be produced this December as my first Christmas show.

August 8 – Finally, back to novel writing. It’s interesting how the characters were still there, waiting for me to finish them. It’s almost as if they are alive (they are in my head), and they have become quite perturbed at me for leaving them hanging so much. It’s been a fun return as I try to figure out what to do with this story. I’m about 60,000 words in and no end in sight. Could end up being my longest novel yet. I suspect it will be.

My goal for finishing this novel, which will remain unnamed for the moment, is before December. That’s also the goal for my play “The Magic Pool.”

Why December? Because I have a month break in December, and I’d love to get a head-start on novel #6 during that time. I have two or three strong possibilities. One that I’ve even started the first few hundred words of it.

So this is my tentative plan. I think it’s good to have an overall idea of what’s coming. It helps me to plan and think ahead. It also gives me ample time to start making new connections and ideas in my mind as I go about normal life in the meantime.

I have to admit it. I enjoy being a writer. Here’s to a productive second half of 2015.

Writers: Do you have multiple projects on your plate at one time? You should!

I’m one of those people with a messy desk.

I clean it a couple times a year to make it clean and pristine, but within a matter of days, it’s back to messy. It’s just the way my brain works. (For reference, I was just cleaning out my in-box and it had over 900 emails.)

Maybe you are one of those other kind of people who need everything organized and neat, and that’s fine. But if you’re a writer, I suggest having a metaphorical writing table that is plastered with various projects and ideas. Why? For me, at least, it creates a way for the synergy of creativity to rejuvenate itself through cross writing-pollination. (Don’t worry, I don’t understand that sentence either.)

Here’s an example for what works for me. I currently have a 75% finished novel that I have been working on over the last 6 months or so. Last month I started a play which I intend to produce sometime in 2016. I have to write 10 different dramatic sketches, and I’ve been brainstorming ideas, jotting down all kinds of things which may be helpful.

Lately, my focus has been on my new play. It’s moving along quite well. I’m about 5000+ words into it and I have a general idea of where its headed. But soon I’ll be putting it aside to get back to my novel, and here’s why that’s a great thing to do: pausing on a project allows your mind to subconsciously work on its content and characters. Now I have absolutely no scientific data to back this up, but I believe the mind doesn’t stop working on your ideas even if you do.

Here’s what happens: something completely unrelated will jog your memory, creating a new cognitive hook that wasn’t there before, a new relationship between words, ideas, or characters that wouldn’t have been obvious if you weren’t working on something different.

This is why I always take a break from everything that I’m writing. Even if I think a piece is finished, I let it sit while I start on something else. Invariably when I return to the first piece, my ideas change, and it’s almost always for the better.

Allow your ideas to feed into each other. You’ll be amazed at how much that will help.

Writing Season Commences

June.

The glorious month when I have my long summer break, which ushers in writing season.

It always coincides with travel season for me as well, and I have a lot of travel on the docket – Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and the USA.  (More on all of that later.)

But as I travel, my laptop will be my company, and when a free hour or two presents itself, I’ll be deep in thought, writing the next project on my agenda. I have a long agenda.

Over the summer months, I try to carve out at least two hours a day of uninterrupted writing. Sometimes a little more, and once the days begin to stack up on each other, I have found that I can do some serious damage to the ideas at the forefront of my mind.

Here’s my summer writing plans, for now. (Always subject to change in case my mind decides to go in a different direction.)

First – “Untitled Novel” – actually it has a title but I’m not ready to give it away yet. This is my fifth novel and the first draft is already about 70% complete. I really want to take a couple weeks and knock out the first draft of this one. It’s an interesting story – a little different for me – set on a fictitious Southeast Asian island. It has bloody clashes with corrupt police, high speed chases, a griping court scene, and a beautiful temptress. It also has a bunch of religious symbolism. It’s an interesting mix and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Second – 10 dramatic sketches. I need to write an hour and half worth of sketches for my drama group – The RLT Players. Our new show will be debuting in December. It is our first Christmas show, and so I want to create a bunch of dramatic sketches to highlight our unique brand of drama – funny, poignant, original. I love writing these. They are always fun and creative. I started a mini-musical the other day called “The Last Shepherd,” which I envision being our final piece.

These two, for sure, need to be finished by August. I’m hoping it all flows quicker so I have some time to get on to some other ideas of mine. Like what?

I’d like to start my sixth novel. I have two very interesting ideas I want to explore. One a political thriller and the other a strange modern fantasy which is WAY beyond my normal genres. I can’t decide which is next!

Plus, I have a colleague who is begging me to write some additional duet and monologue scripts for their forensic competitions.

I wouldn’t mind writing another Christmas short story as well.

Oh, and I’m also in the middle of writing a full-length play for 2016 production.

Lots to do. And now I have time to do it.

Writing season, I warmly welcome you!

Letting Ideas Become Other Ideas

Ideas are not static. There’s a constant ebb and flow to them and any sort of creative artist has to take advantage of the movement of ideas in order to fully develop the original thought.

I’m learning to do this better than I did in the past. Many times I would have a writing idea, I’d write it and then move on to something else. But I’ve come to realize that I might be missing a lot of potential by not putting the necessary thinking into a topic.

Here’s a couple examples:

First, as I mentioned before on this site, my fourth, yet-to-be released novel, A Love Story for a Nation, is a story based on a short 10-minute dramatic sketch. When I started to look at the structure and underlying themes of the short piece, it became obvious to me that it needed a longer treatment and I’m actually thrilled with how the novel has turned out. One idea – two works! That’s pretty cool.

I’m currently working on a short musical about the end of the world. It’s been stalled and started several times, but it’s coming along. A while after I started it, a friend ask me to write a dramatic duet for a forensics competition. I was happy to do it, but I needed an idea. I went back through some of my unwritten ideas for some inspiration and I eventually decided to take the musical I was writing, completely change the characters and setting, but keep the underlying theme and suddenly, within two hours, I had my short sketch called “Words to Say at the End of the World.” It’s a heartfelt piece I really like and I never would have gotten there if I didn’t piggy-back off of my musical. On top of that, sing I have a mini-musical and a dramatic sketch on the same topic – the end of the world – I got to thinking that perhaps I could develop idea into a full-blown thematic play. I just might do it. It has a lot of potential.

So if you are a writer and ever get stuck with what to write next, my advice is to go back to what you already have. You might find a hidden gem of an idea that can fuel your next writing session.

Don’t Take Good Ideas for Granted. Plan ahead!

Have you ever been in such a good creative patch that you are overflowing with ideas and not enough time to accomplish them all?

Relish those days.

That’s what I keep telling myself. I am currently overflowing with ideas. I’ve started to map out my drama writing 13 months in advance because I’m producing too much work than I can actually use for the moment. What an amazing problem!

And my novel writing, I have #4 being read by some advance readers ahead of a 2015 release, and I’m 15,000 words into #5 with ideas for #6 and #7 just sitting impatiently in my brain.

I remember a few months ago over the summer that I felt my writing creativity was in a slump. I had an impending deadline for some short dramatic pieces, and I had to really slosh through, and muddle my way around until the necessary scripts came to fruition.

But more recently, when I’ve been swamped with work, I’ve been approached and asked to write a couple scripts (ASAP) for some competitions. Both times, within a day, I had produced two very solid scripts that thrilled the people who needed them. The ideas were just in the forefront of my mind and the words flowed without impediment.

Here’s a key and something that really helps. WRITE DOWN IDEAS! No matter how big or small or no matter when they come to you. Words, phrases, titles, situations, just write them down. When I need an idea, that is the first place I go to.

Example. I started writing a short musical about a month ago, but I set it aside recently. When a person approached me this week about needing a duet act, I immediately thought about the musical and wondered if I could re-work the scenario as a theatrical piece without music. I kept the overall setting, changed the characters and situation, and it worked beautifully.

One idea playing off another. If I hadn’t written down the first one, the second one would not have turned out so well.

I strongly encourage all writers to keep a running list of ideas which will serve you well in the future, and it will help avoid being completely idea-less in the future when your creativity goes through a difficult period.