I’m good at biting off more than I can chew.
No, really, just ask my husband how many projects I have going at any one time, and how easily I get overwhelmed by everything I try to do. It’s not really any different with books.
Ideas are an odd thing. They come at any time, usually at the most inopportune moments, so that you’re caught without a pen and paper and get left struggling to remember every tiny detail until you get home and can jot it down. Or until you can burst through the doors of a dollar store, grab a notebook and pen and start writing in it on your way to the checkout to pay for them. Not that I’d recommend doing such a thing, you tend to get dirty looks.
I have a large collection of ideas that I keep in tidy documents on my computer. I also keep backups of them in my iPod and flash drive, as well as the more traditional, less-prone-to-corruption pen and paper version. You’d think that, as a writer, it would be great for me to have a vast repertoire of story ideas to pull from at any given time. You’d be thinking wrong.
The hardest part of having all these ideas is recognizing that not all of them have what it takes to become a good story. I’ve narrowed my selection of the current stories down to just 14, and then I have to pick and choose which of those, if any, are good enough to actually bring to fruition.
I love my stories. I love each and every one of them. But from an author’s perspective, I realize that some of them just don’t have the potential they need to be a great story that someone will love reading, and those are the ones I have to weed out. I’d love to be able to write all my ideas, but I can’t. It just isn’t realistic, nor is it practical. There’s more of them than I’d ever be able to write – Unless, of course, I give up the revision process altogether, and I don’t think anyone wants that.
Still, it is hard sometimes to see dozens of story ideas, saved in documents and scrawled on papers that are strewn about the house, and know that many of them will never see the light of day.
But it happens, life goes on, and if I ever finish the first 14 that I think might have what it takes, they might someday get a second chance for a place on the “To be written” list. For now, they’re banished to obscurity. Much as I wish it were so, not every idea is a million dollar idea. Chances are, none of mine are, but at least I can focus on the best potential, while the cast-off pile of not-quites grows ever taller.
How do you decide what’s worth keeping?