Wow, a story about elven wyvern hunters in 18th Century Central America is much more interesting than my current Work in Progress (WIP) about mutant horse-thieves in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by centaurs.
The faerie grabs your hand, hovers it over a new Word document, and jumps up and down on your finger until you left-click it. Ah. Like sinking into a warm bath. The feeling of cleansing away your dirty, stinky WIP and starting a pristine, new document, that little blinking cursor sending shivers up your spine.
You’re about one hundred pages into your elven wyvern hunter story when, wham, you hit that wall. The faerie returns. “How about a story that follows dwarven sewer pirates through their war with alligator people–”
Yeah! That’s much–
You suddenly look at your desktop. It’s a veritable graveyard of discarded manuscripts. Once promising and awesome, they’re now crowding up your workspace, their voices calling from the Beyond. Your WILs (Works in Limbo).
“Write me! Write me!”
You must stop it. You must stop the Creative ADD faerie before it claims another victim. I’ll show you how.
If you have tons of different WIPs, make a list. Number them. Whichever one is ranked Number 1, that is your WIP. Your only WIP. You finish it no matter how many times that faerie offers you Ambrose from the Creative Writing Olympians. You bat it away and keep writing. Look forward to the day when you are finished with Number 1 and can go on to the shiny new Number 2.
2. Blended Story Coffee
If you come up with an awesome new idea in the middle of writing, why not blend it in to your current story? You could open up new possibilities in a sagging plot with some new, fresh ideas. Bear in mind, only use this if it’s feasible. Blending a story about cybernetic puppies might not work to well with your alternate history Genghis Khan vehicle. But weaving in a dragon slaying virus into your cyberpunk/science fantasy story about a dragon slayer could work.
3. Go Into the Creative Light, Carol Anne
Creativity is good right? Embrace it. Open up a new file, name it, write a couple of your ideas, then put in the queue. At least then you expelled the faerie venom for a bit and can come back to the idea later. Don’t let it lure you in though. Stay on task and stick with your Number 1.
4. A Short Story a Day Keeps the Faeries Away
Sometimes, when writing a longer work, you just have to write something else. Take this time to write some short stories that have been hanging around in your head for a bit. Write a blog or article about something. It won’t be cheating on your WIP as long as you aren’t abandoning it full on. Be careful though. Your Number 1 manuscript is your wife or husband. Your commitment is ’til death do you part. Or until you’ve finished editing.
5. IGNORE (In All Caps)
That Creative ADD faerie is blindingly beautiful, isn’t she? Well, write blind-folded then. Don’t let her drag you down the path to incompletion again. If you ignore her long enough, she’ll pout and sulk away into the night. Then you can get back to work and finish your WIP.
6. Talk it Out
Sometimes finding critique partners, friends, or communities (like Mythic Scribes!) will help you purge your ideas a bit or keep you on task. Most good friends will tell you, “Finish what you’re working on!” Friends don’t let friends succumb to Creative ADD faeries.
7. Fall in Love Again
Why did you love your WIP to begin with? Find what attracted you to it from the beginning and try to rekindle that spark. Sometimes giving your current WIP a make-over can really get things going again. Gussy it up, give it some attention, or take it out on a date (take your laptop somewhere nice.) The post-apocalyptic centaur story you abandoned was really cool, wasn’t it? Save those Creative ADD ideas for later.
8. Hate Yourself (For a Little While)
It’s fine to sometimes say, “I’m really weak. I just can’t stay on task with this story.” Like that gif of the little stick figure guy pounding his head on the keyboard, sometimes you just need to let off some steam. Get it out of your system. Vent. Complain. Kill some of your characters off out of spite. Do whatever you have to do. But once the pity party is over, sit back down, and keep working on that story. The faerie feeds off self-loathing. I’m pretty sure it drinks writer tears. So don’t hate yourself too much.
9. Get Out of Your Head
Sometimes the best way to crush Creative ADD is to just quit thinking so much. Like almost anything in life: KISS (Keep It Simple Sauron. That’s it, right?) Writers’ minds go 900 miles a minute most days. Just slow down, stay focused, and stop the daydreaming. If you absolutely have to write down the new idea, keep a “Daydreaming Notebook” with you, so you can write stuff down at all times. You’ll be so happy when you finish your WIP and look to your notebook and say, “Wow, I have tons of ideas for my next novel! No staring at a blank screen for me!”
10. Outlines Kill Faeries
If your current manuscript follows a solid outline, then the Creative ADD faeries will stay away. Faeries hate outlines. If they touch one they burst into flames. If you even say the word “outline” they lose their wings. So use your outlines as faerie traps. If your outline is good, then it’ll keep your story on point and flowing so there are never those, “Boy, that cybernetic puppy story is sounding better and better everyday” moments.
So that’s it! Follow some of these steps and you’ll find yourself staying on task and finishing more manuscripts than ever before. All in all, the best advice is to finish what you start and don’t get distracted by other annoying things. You know, like real life.
Your turn! What methods do you use to stay on task with your stories and novels and keep the Creative ADD faeries away? Leave comments below!
You can find Phil’s blog about Japan, writing, pro wrestling, and weird stuff at philipoverby1.blogspot.com.