Today’s post is inspired by this video from Creative Hive:
It’s not just people who make handmade crafts who get tempted to stray. Writers can fall victim to “shiny object syndrome”, too.
In today’s post, I’m going to discuss the shiny objects and how to overcome them.
Shiny Object #1: A Fresh New Story Idea
Usually, when you get halfway into the story you’re writing, you get another story idea that excites you. It’s so fresh and exciting that it makes the story you’re working on seem drab and boring. The temptation is to set the current work aside to start the next one.
A new story idea often comes out of nowhere, and it comes at the most inconvenient time. The “to write” list is already high enough. All this does is add to it. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. I go through this with almost every book I write. I am tempted to put the current story aside and get to work on the new one. As hard as it is, the new idea needs to be put on hold. If you don’t finish the current book you’re writing, there’s no way you’re ever going to publish it.
What makes this shiny object so bad is that the progress you’re making in the current work tends to slow to a crawl. Maybe it doesn’t do that for everyone, but it does for me. The current work becomes a chore. My advice is to stick with the current work in progress. Even if you’re going slow, you’re still getting somewhere. Set down a goal each day you work on the story. Great goals are specific. So set down either a certain word count or a certain amount of time you’ll work on the story. Once you reach the goal, you can quit. If you want to keep going, by all means, keep going. But I find having some kind of goal, even if it’s 500 words or 30 minutes can go a long way in getting through the muck of the “this story has lost its luster” phase.
One thing I will add to this is a warning. If you have no idea what comes next, either work on a future scene or put the story aside. If you’re truly out of ideas, it’s usually because your story went off course somewhere. After setting it aside for a while, you will hopefully be able to come back to the story later with a fresh new look at it.
However, if you find that you are consistently putting books on hold, then your problem goes deeper than simply running out of ideas. Some things you might want to try is writing a short story or a novella to see if you can finish it. If you can, gradually work your way to longer projects. While I’m a panster by nature, I think plotting might help anyone struggling with the problem of finishing what they start.
Shiny Object #2: Another Genre
This one applies specifically for writers who are trying to make money. If you don’t need to make money, you have the freedom to work on whatever you want. It doesn’t matter if you hop from one genre to another.
If, however, money is part of your goal (and I admit it is part of mine even though I write for passion), then you want to make sure you’re diligent about sticking with your brand. I’m not saying you can’t deviate from the genre you typically do, but if you do something different, it has to be a “once in a while” kind of thing. Part of branding yourself is being consistent with what you write. The reason branding is so important is because your readers need to know what to expect. When you stay with your brand, you’re someone they can rely on to deliver the kind of stories they will enjoy.
I know what it’s like to be lured to write another genre, but there are two problems that came up when I pursued the “other genre” shiny object. One, the books outside of my brand didn’t sell well, and two, I simply didn’t have the time to juggle more than one brand for the long haul. That’s why I suggest only writing the “other genre” book once in a while. It’s hard to make up for the loss of momentum on not getting a new book out in your brand, especially when books only stay fresh and new for a short time. Yes, you can run ads, but it’s really hard to match the power of a new release.
So my advice, for what it’s worth, is to only write in multiple genres if you have the time to devote to each genre you’re working on OR if you don’t need the money from book sales.
If either of those two things aren’t in your situation, then (as hard as it is), put those ideas in a file for the day when it is possible for you to devote the time to that genre. I don’t think you have to permanently give up on the genre; it’s just not the right time to work on it. Another idea is to let our mind play out the story during your free time. I’ve done this method, and I find that if I can get through the entire story in my mind, I no longer feel the urge to write it. (This is why I never plot anything out that I’m writing. Once I know how everything goes, I lose interest in the story.) If you’re the type of writer who wants to write something even more after plotting it all out, then I suggest just writing the idea down and tucking it aside instead of working the whole story out in your mind.
Shiny Object #3: A New Marketing Strategy
There seems to be a brand new marketing strategy coming out all the time. If you run after all of these, it’s going to be hard to establish a marketing plan that works for you. You don’t have to pursue every fresh new thing that comes along. In fact, it’s best if you don’t. You need time to write. All the marketing in the world isn’t going to help if you don’t have books to publish.
I’m not saying you should just write and publish without doing any marketing. You will need to do some form of marketing to get noticed. The key is to pick the areas of marketing you enjoy the most. I suggest sticking with 2 or 3 of these. If you want to sample something new to see if it’s a good fit for you, that’s fine. You don’t know unless you try, right? But don’t go around sampling every new thing that comes along. Pick our your strengths and run with them.
Some authors are great on social media platforms like Facebook, MeWe, Twitter, Instagram, etc. They make fun and interesting posts, and they have a high level of engagement with their readers. Some authors do great with ads. They enjoy spending time factoring in the click rates and the return on their investment. Some authors do great with blogging. They love updating readers and sharing information in a blog format. Some authors do great with their email lists. They love emailing their readers on a regular basis with updates and running special sales. Some authors do great with making You Tube videos. They love getting in front of the camera and sharing what they know with others through a verbal format. Some authors do great with in-person events. They love meeting others face-to-face and socializing. I could go on, but I’ll stop there.
It all boils down to your personality. What interests you? What strengths do you have? Those are the things you should focus on. There’s no point in doing something you hate or something that doesn’t mix well with your personality. I’m all for trying something new and stepping outside one’s comfort zone, but marketing shouldn’t be a chore.
Find the 2-3 things you enjoy and focus your efforts on them. You’re far better off doing that because you’ll stick with it year after year. When you’re in the writing business, you need to take a look at what’s best for the long term. Just as writing and publishing consistently is important, marketing should also be consistent. Authors that come and go in their marketing efforts seldom do well with their book sales. At least, there’s not a single author I’ve come across who stopped their marketing who has continued to do well with their sales. Also, chasing after too many marketing strategies can hinder you from gaining traction anywhere.
The writing business is a marathon. Sometimes it’s exciting and things are zooming along, but most of the time, it’s doing a little more each day/week to add to your brand. The important thing is that you’re progressing in the right direction.
Those are the three main shiny objects I’ve noticed when it comes to being a writer. If anyone has anything they’d like to share, I’d love to hear it!