Torn Between Two Loves

(Scroll down for bonus video.  It's Mary McGregor singing "Torn Between Two Lovers."  You know you want to watch it.)

Please tell me this has happened to you.

You're happily writing, making good some forward progress on your novel when all of a sudden, out of nowhere one morning, comes an idea.   Inspiration for another novel.  An idea so beautiful and fully formed that you have no choice–none!–but to stop what you're doing and start writing it.

In this process, you decide that the other novel–the one you were making forward progress on, albeit a bit slowly–is crap, and that that is the obvious reason why you sometimes spin your wheels a bit.  It is all so clear to you now……

Old novel=piece of @%^&*

New novel=wonderful, priceless, shimmering jewel beyond compare

You dive into the new work.  Write some notes on chapter one, begin compiling characters, setting and plot lines.  The jewel glimmers brightly.

Until one day an idea for the old, piece of $(%^& novel sneaks through the consciousness and you open a file to make a note and accidentally start reading.  Hmmm, you say to yourself, it's really not so bad after all.  Perhaps it is not quite the piece of %^$&* that I thought it was.

And then you find yourself with two novels you want to write.

What to do, what to do?

Many writers, myself included, have written about how important it is to actually finish the things you start.  Half-completed novels and stories do not get published.   Some writers, like Dean Wesley Smith, have even gone so far as to state that the reason for their success is that they have learned to finish things.

Then there are those writers like Jess Walter, who says that the secret to his success is to have many projects going at once.  Then when he gets stuck on one WIP, he can switch over to another.

The latter idea appeals to me.  Because I balance multiple projects (ghostwriting, manuscript critiquing, teaching, blogging) in my non-fiction writing life, it doesn't bother me to switch back and forth between novels. 


I am feeling the urge to finish something, and I had previously set a goal of completing the draft of the piece of %^#$% novel by the end of the year.  And if I switch back and forth that won't happen.  I barely have enough time to work on one novel as it is.

So at this point in the year, I really want to focus on one novel.  (And besides, there's nothing better than the feeling you get when you are totally engaged in writing a novel, and I doubt that happens when you are switching back and forth.)

I think I have come up with a plan.  But then again, I'm not sure.  Because things seem to change rapidly around here these days.  So I put it to you–what would you do?  Have you ever run into this dilemma?  How did you solve it? 

Please comment!  I'm all ears.

And let us not forget the video:


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16 Responses to Torn Between Two Loves

  1. Don Williams 10/01/2013 at 17:36 #

    I’m always coming up with new ideas that conflict with the old, but I agree… you just have to stick to something until it’s done. New ideas are great, but sometimes you just have to file newer ideas away for when you first project is finished.

  2. Charlotte Dixon 10/01/2013 at 19:23 #

    Good advice, Don. I tried really hard to file this idea away but it wouldn't let me! I kinda feel like if I work with it for awhile, it might actually let me.

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Lynn Jordan 10/01/2013 at 23:02 #

    I call this the siren song of the “next” book. All I can do is make notes and promise it that it will get attention soon.

  4. 10/02/2013 at 04:05 #

    I’m terrible for being tempted by the new shiny storyline that hasn’t run into any roadblocks yet, especially when Nanowrimo comes around and I feel justified for starting something new. But, as a pantser, I also know I write until I run out of steam, and then shelve it wherever I got to. I have half a dozen nanowrimo manuscripts waiting for me to finish them! Now I’m desperately trying to just write notes on the new ideas and save them for later, so I might actually finish and publish another book! I’ve started telling people my next book will be out by summer 2014 in the hope that the sheer terror of a date will make me get on and finish it!

  5. J.D. 10/02/2013 at 04:41 #

    Has happened to me many times. I write a synopsis of the oh so tantalizing 2nd project. If I have 100 pages of the first, I don’t consider switching. If we’re talking 20 pages, I might change if I have a clear picture of the 2nd in its entirety. Those may sound like rules, but in truth, I’ve been kinda willy-nilly. That finishing stuff sounds like good advice to me.

  6. Zan Marie 10/02/2013 at 06:10 #

    Shifting as the first runs down is how Diana Gabaldon has written 11 best selling books and counting. She insists that this is how to beat writer’s block. Well, that and an absolute iron will to write everyday for a certain amount of time each day on whichever idea is the most hot. My will power isn’t strong enough…yet. 😉

  7. Charlotte Dixon 10/02/2013 at 12:58 #

    Oh wow, I guess I'm in good company then. Diana Gabaldon and Jess
    Walter both are prolific so that makes a lot of sense.

  8. Charlotte Dixon 10/02/2013 at 13:00 #

    You nailed the downside all right–the fact that its harder to get any
    one project done when you are skipping between them, and then you run
    the risk you'll set the novel aside. I may have one or two of those
    in drawers myself. :-) And yes, I am very susceptible to the bright
    shiny object syndrome!

  9. Charlotte Dixon 10/02/2013 at 21:24 #

    I think its always a judgment call. When those projects present themselves that are so fully formed it is very tempting to set aside everything else for them!

  10. Julie Duffy 10/04/2013 at 16:29 #

    Oo! Oo! [jumps up and down holding her hand so high in the air the other hand has to grab the upper arm to stop it floating away] Me! Me!

    I got so bad at this that I launched a writing challenge wherein people commit to writing (and finishing) a story every day in May.

    But that hasn’t stopped me circling around a couple of different novels, not to mention short story series, and flash fiction ‘suites’ . Then there’s my blog and the writing courses, and and and…

    Finishing IS important, so I serially binge, but it usually has to come after a period of self-loathing.

    Care to share your plan?

    (Also, do I get extra credit because I didn’t even HAVE to click on the video. That song will be in my head for days now)

  11. Maryse 10/05/2013 at 11:43 #

    As you know, Charlotte, I’m not a fiction writer, but I’m guilty of having ideas showing up out of nowhere and luring me in different (attractive) directions. I’ve learned to write down what comes up but when the time comes to write and finish a piece, I discipline myself to do just that. Many authors tackle different projects at once. I think it’s a kind of intellectual/spiritual marinating that can enrich all projects. In the end, use your intuition to find out what is the most important call to answer to. You can handle your writing process any way you desire, as long as you honor the true desire within you. ♥

  12. Charlotte Dixon 10/05/2013 at 12:02 #

    Maryse, You are so good to discipline yourself to finish! I do think
    that having several projects going at once can be helpful creatively.
    I had a good novel-writing session this morning (on the new project)
    and as I was writing I got all kinds of ideas for a program I want to
    create. I was very good–I just made notes and kept going!

  13. Maryse 10/05/2013 at 14:16 #

    Excellent!! :)
    And I think it’s good to cut ourselves some slack too. Writers are artists and artists do not like to feel trapped in a box. Discipline and meandering both in moderation. :)
    [and TY for your comment on my piece ♥]

  14. Charlotte Dixon 10/05/2013 at 15:11 #

    You are so right, Maryse! We do need to be easier on ourselves. And
    I loved your piece! You are such a poet.

  15. Charlotte Dixon 10/05/2013 at 16:13 #

    It is a siren song, isn’t it? Sigh. By the way, your comment got stuck in the spam file–sorry bout that!

  16. Charlotte Dixon 10/05/2013 at 16:18 #

    Julie, for some reason I’m not able to respond to your comment in the proper place, beneath it. Also, you got stuck in the spam file with Lynn. Hope you two had a good time there! Seriously, I love what you wrote about starting a writing challenge–good way to change a bad habit.

    My idea for dealing with this issue of two loves is to commit myself to writing the first chapter of the new project and see how it goes and then decide. So far, I’m madly in love with it, in a way that is not happening with the original book. So, I’ll keep you posted.

    And I truly am sorry about the song in your head. Really. I mean it. Torn between two lovers….feeling like a fool….loving both of you is breaking all the rules. Oops, sorry.

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