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Love at First Idea

The first day it’s Leslie and Trix, two newly orphaned sisters against a system that wants them to move in with their evil aunt. The next time you sit down to write, Eduardo, fresh from the barrio, fighting oppression to make it to the world of the Ivy League, is crawling out onto the keyboard. That night, you find yourself lying awake while the rest of the house is silent, counting and naming the islands in the water-based fantasy world you’ve just created.

But it has to stop. You know it must. So you throw the covers off and flip in the T.V. The History Channel. There, that should put you right to sleep. But half an hour into the episode, your eyes are glued to screen. That long-lost story about the European prince who tossed aside his reign in order to marry the girl his mother despised would make the most amazing novel.

Enter the world of the writer. We are seekers of passion, of lust, of first love. We are made less of flesh and bone than of characters and conflict. Most non-writers call us mad. Most of us agree that we are. But that doesn’t lessen the urge to create, torment, fall in love with, and develop the ideas that plague us day and night.

But there must be structure so that books actually get written. I would love to have a chip in my head that reads and transcribes ideas the moment they pop into my head. Alas, it is not so simple. See, the idea is the easy part. Falling in lust with a story, in love with characters, in hate with villains, in passion with a setting – those are the easy things. The things that drive our need to write. But when the honeymoon is over and we’ve only written two thousand words, we must make a decision:

Toss the idea aside, or forge ahead.

I have more than a dozen projects hanging out in my files right now. The shortest has seven hundred words. The longest uncompleted has over 36,000. Most fall somewhere between 5-15,000 words. And I struggle to not sacrifice these works to the drudgery, the consistent work required to finish a novel. Because, believe it or not, completing a novel takes a lot of work.

So, what to do? I don’t want to become a writer who fumbles through a zillion uncompleted manuscripts. I’m a finisher; I know I can finish because I have, more than once. But now, when it has become so very fun to jump into new, passionate ideas, I must be even more diligent about finishing what I’ve started.

The solution is discipline. A nasty word for any creative –minded person, but essential to develop. I have two major works with more than 25,000 words each. I love them both. They will get finished. I have already imposed a 2,000 words per day minimum on myself. I have decided that those 2k words can only be applied to those two major works. When I’m done with that, I can then allow myself to jump into my new affairs with a clear conscience.

How do ideas strike the rest of our YA Highway writers?

Kirsten: For some reason, I can ward off ideas for entire books pretty well, seeing as I've already got a couple WIPs in queue. Within the books themselves, though, sometimes I'm bombarded. This particular WIP is epic in scope, and I have to keep the idea fairy in check. . . I file good ideas I'm not ready to use in notebooks, quick-access documents, and idea bank folders at the top of my Firefox screen. A simple scan greets me with articles on dumpster diving, Byronic heroes, and Pruno.

Amanda: I don't usually get overwhelmed with SNI's (Shiny New Ideas-learned that handy term just the other day lol). I'm very focused when I'm working on my WIP. Before I ever started writing, I had several ideas that I typed out for the future so I always have something to work on. I'm interested to see how I'll spend the hiatus after my current one is finished.

Michelle: I'm usually hit with Pants-Wetting Awesome New Ideas when I'm revising a WIP and trying to finish. I'll take a break from said WIP, outline, research, and write the fun scenes of the PWANI (new acronym!), then force myself to return to the WIP. This happens several times throughout the course of revisions. Then the WIP is finished, and....the PWANI's vanish. And often, I'll find the ones I started aren't nearly as appealing to me as they were before (although some are). In other words, many of my PWANI's are merely evil distractions designed to pull me away from finishing a novel.

Kaitlin: Ideas tend to come to me slowly in little pieces. I've yet to have the issue where they come at me in a big distracting mess. Usually I let my mind flesh out ideas before I write them down, because I sort of have to coax them out. I don't want to scare them off!
Kristin Halbrook

Kristin Halbrook is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novels Nobody But Us (HarperTeen, 2013) and Every Last Promise (HarperTeen, 2015). She likes many things.

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  1. Someone needs to invent this chip that immediately transcribes ideas from our brains into our computers! Although then I'd probably wind up with something that had random sentences stuck in the middle like 'oh crap, did I take out something for dinner?'

    Still, it would make writing so much faster.

  2. I agree, kaitlin...
    because I type like crap. It's embarrassing. I can force myself to type pseudo-correctly, but it's not quite encoded in my muscle memory.
    *shrivels with shame*

  3. A chip that transcribes ideas from brain to computer....

    *runs off to start new sci-fi WIP*

  4. All right, M! Way to take an idea and run with it (you'll be like me in no time)!

  5. Water-based fantasy world? Umm...Can I steal that idea, please? :P

  6. Lol, steal away. I'll never get to it (not with the backlog of hundreds of other ideas . . .)


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Item Reviewed: Love at First Idea Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Halbrook