Victoria Schwab on "The Shiny New Idea"
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  1. #1

    Victoria Schwab on "The Shiny New Idea"

    Here, bestselling author Victoria Schwab talks about what she calls "The Shiny New Idea", and explains why she considers it a reason to keep going.


    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78-_RbVYWGw)

    What do you think of her advice?

  2. #2
    Good advice, and a good way of looking at the new ideas that crop up all the time while we are working on our current books.
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    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


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    It makes sense but it doesn't massively excite me as a concept. I prefer the notion - and said so on here the other day - of incorporating those shiny new ideas into the existing project to throw it a curveball, enrich it in some way, even as the protagonist journeys towards his or her goal. It keeps the story original and exciting. That being said, it could well be a terrible idea all the same.




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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    I prefer the notion - and said so on here the other day - of incorporating those shiny new ideas into the existing project to throw it a curveball, enrich it in some way, even as the protagonist journeys towards his or her goal. It keeps the story original and exciting.
    I can absolutely see that approach working. Unless, of course, the Shiny New Idea is something completely unrelated to what you're working on.

    For example: if you're a quarter of the way into a Victorian Romance, then suddenly you get an idea for a Dystopian novel told from the POV of a language-less robot. (Which is usually how my SNI's tend to go—complete departures from the tone and genre of my WIP.)

    Mostly, what I like about Schwab's perspective here is the distinction between "familiarity" and "boredom"—and her insistence on not confusing one for the other.

  5. #5
    I like her cat. Her delivery put me to sleep.





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  6. #6
    As with all advice, this should be considered, but not taken as gospel.

    Much of what she said is not true -- for me.

    "The Shiny New Idea" is not a lie. It is simply a thought, with no motivation for anything.

    I enjoy writing openings, so "The Shiny New Idea" is often an opening. I find it best to simply write the opening and leave it at that. That is sort of similar to Ms. Schwab's suggestion of creating a file for "The Shiny New Idea".

    I also question the notion that setting "The Shiny New Idea" aside allows it to grow and get richer, but doing the same with the current WIP is bad/fatal/wrong. Why wouldn't "The Current Idea" improve with some time simmering on the back burner? It might!

    Then there's the notion that if, when you finally return to "The Shiny New Idea", you're not excited by "The Shiny New Idea", then it wasn't good in the first place. That might be true, but it's equally possible that the aspects that excited you originally have been forgotten. Forgetting doesn't mean they weren't worth remembering, either. To exemplify that, I will tell a story.

    Recently I read an old thread that had been resurrected. A member whose feedback I valued, who is no longer active, told a story about having a real life event interrupt a WIP. When the real life event was in the past, the member started other projects. Eventually the member read that old WIP. It was a very enjoyable time ... until the spot where real life had interrupted! The member couldn't recall where the story was going!! It was so frustrating and disappointing. And no attempt to move the work forward seemed right.

    So sometimes moving on to something else can make you lose your train of thought. For that reason, if you know where you want your current WIP to go, it can be a mistake to abandon that for "The Shiny New Idea". If, however, your current WIP is lacking direction, putting it aside, in favor of "The Shiny New Idea" can allow it to grow richer and actually gain direction. It's a matter of judgment and knowing when to do which.


    As always, simplistic advice, that tries to do the thinking for the writer, impedes the growth of the writer and frequently results in mediocre works. Use such advice with caution.
    Last edited by Jack of all trades; April 18th, 2018 at 02:55 PM. Reason: removing an extraneous "e"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    I can absolutely see that approach working. Unless, of course, the Shiny New Idea is something completely unrelated to what you're working on.

    For example: if you're a quarter of the way into a Victorian Romance, then suddenly you get an idea for a Dystopian novel told from the POV of a language-less robot. (Which is usually how my SNI's tend to go—complete departures from the tone and genre of my WIP.)

    Mostly, what I like about Schwab's perspective here is the distinction between "familiarity" and "boredom"—and her insistence on not confusing one for the other.
    Haha yes that's very true. Likewise, if my SNIs are incompatible, I file it to start something new with it later or when I need a break.




    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





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    I think this is pretty good advice.

    I'm not sure the main point here has much to do with the virtue (or not) of a Shiny New Idea. I'm not sure the point of this video is even to say "you should do X", though it may come across that way. I think the main point of what she is saying is simply to be disciplined and committed to your work in progress: To hold fast and not be distracted. By anything.

    There are obviously plenty of distractions out there (this forum being a good example of one...) and they are not all made equally. On the lower end you have, I don't know, cat videos or whatever and on the higher end you have things that seem like worthwhile alternatives to actually doing the work...like doing other work.

    A new idea, however important it might come to be eventually, is arguably the most insidious of distractions because unlike cat videos it makes a pretty good case. Hell, it's writing isn't it? Sort of? Perhaps it's a masterpiece even. Who knows! And perhaps, perhaps, there is an argument to be made that dropping everything (perhaps only temporarily) for a fantastic-sounding zombie novel when you're 3/4s of your way through the hardboiled crime thriller you've been working on for the last year isn't a terrible use of time. Especially if you have lost some degree of faith or excitement over what you're working on. It's not like you're not trying.

    The problem is, I doubt many writers actually get stuff done that way. I think a lot of writers who buy into the notion of chasing ideas tend to fall short on all counts, then tend to become frustrated and depressed and give up. It is painful to say it, but I think too often too much emphasis is placed on the enjoyment aspect of writing a novel and not nearly enough put into the eyeball-burning, tear-inducing, hair-tearing labor of it.

    It's like how (I imagine) a murder must be: A fleeting thrill, followed by a hellstorm of figuring out how you pull this off, how you get away with the mess you put yourself in, and it is a poor murderer who fixates on the former at the expense of the latter. All you have to do is look at this forum and count how many threads are clearly to do with ideas or books in their earliest forms of genesis versus how many are to do with those in the advanced stages of completion.

    So yes, I agree that the advice should be handled with care but I also think Victoria's overall message as I heard it is a good one. Sort of beyond dispute, actually. Writing isn't about coming up with bright ideas anymore than a successful relationship is about a steamy night at the Ritz-Carlton Vegas. Those moments may come, are essential even, but they are not the substance of the craft. Good writing for me is about pushing through with the same attentiveness regardless of whether you're happily bouncing out your ideas or shoveling shit with a teaspoon. To adhere to the principles of enjoyment come what may is to limit your own potential.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Blackstone View Post
    I think this is pretty good advice.

    I'm not sure the main point here has much to do with the virtue (or not) of a Shiny New Idea. I'm not sure the point of this video is even to say "you should do X", though it may come across that way. I think the main point of what she is saying is simply to be disciplined and committed to your work in progress: To hold fast and not be distracted. By anything.

    There are obviously plenty of distractions out there (this forum being a good example of one...) and they are not all made equally. On the lower end you have, I don't know, cat videos or whatever and on the higher end you have things that seem like worthwhile alternatives to actually doing the work...like doing other work.

    A new idea, however important it might come to be eventually, is arguably the most insidious of distractions because unlike cat videos it makes a pretty good case. Hell, it's writing isn't it? Sort of? Perhaps it's a masterpiece even. Who knows! And perhaps, perhaps, there is an argument to be made that dropping everything (perhaps only temporarily) for a fantastic-sounding zombie novel when you're 3/4s of your way through the hardboiled crime thriller you've been working on for the last year isn't a terrible use of time. Especially if you have lost some degree of faith or excitement over what you're working on. It's not like you're not trying.

    The problem is, I doubt many writers actually get stuff done that way. I think a lot of writers who buy into the notion of chasing ideas tend to fall short on all counts, then tend to become frustrated and depressed and give up. It is painful to say it, but I think too often too much emphasis is placed on the enjoyment aspect of writing a novel and not nearly enough put into the eyeball-burning, tear-inducing, hair-tearing labor of it.

    It's like how (I imagine) a murder must be: A fleeting thrill, followed by a hellstorm of figuring out how you pull this off, how you get away with the mess you put yourself in, and it is a poor murderer who fixates on the former at the expense of the latter. All you have to do is look at this forum and count how many threads are clearly to do with ideas or books in their earliest forms of genesis versus how many are to do with those in the advanced stages of completion.

    So yes, I agree that the advice should be handled with care but I also think Victoria's overall message as I heard it is a good one. Sort of beyond dispute, actually. Writing isn't about coming up with bright ideas anymore than a successful relationship is about a steamy night at the Ritz-Carlton Vegas. Those moments may come, are essential even, but they are not the substance of the craft. Good writing for me is about pushing through with the same attentiveness regardless of whether you're happily bouncing out your ideas or shoveling shit with a teaspoon. To adhere to the principles of enjoyment come what may is to limit your own potential.
    "Beyond dispute"? Is any advice actually "beyond dispute"?

    Good writing, to me, is about a quality end product, regardless of how long it takes. Sometimes that can be achieved by plodding on, but rarely, in my experience. Most often when I push through just to get something done, I tear it out again later, because it was that awful!

    I think this advice is more about quantity of books or stories, not quality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of all trades View Post
    "Beyond dispute"? Is any advice actually "beyond dispute"?

    Good writing, to me, is about a quality end product, regardless of how long it takes. Sometimes that can be achieved by plodding on, but rarely, in my experience. Most often when I push through just to get something done, I tear it out again later, because it was that awful!

    I think this advice is more about quantity of books or stories, not quality.
    I think some advice in writing is pretty much beyond dispute, yeah. Not much, and I would note that just because I think it doesn't mean it automatically becomes so for everybody, however there are a few things that seem to be true often enough. Like how editing always makes things better, for instance. Is it true 100% of the time? Possibly not. But 99%, absolutely.

    There is nothing wrong in theory with tabling a work-in-progress because a burst of inspiration appears from somewhere else. I don't actually think she is even saying that. I think what she is saying is that most of the time those ideas are not nearly so great as they appear, and certainly not so supremely vital that they entail derailing or delaying a current work in order to pursue. I think she is saying, correctly, that abandoning ship for the sake of an as-yet unproven idea is a calculation that will not pay off most of the time.

    So it's not about ignoring ideas but about having the discipline to handle them in a way that maintains productivity and sanity. Ultimately professional novel writing becomes a job of manufacture as much as artistic exploration, and like all manufacturing you have timetables, quotas and contractual obligations. The fact that most writers never get to that level is somewhat irrelevant; the advice is obviously intended for those who want to do it full-time and there's no reason why such habits should not become habits early, right?

    Oh, also I am not really saying one should push through regardless. Of course there comes a point when in your heart you know it's not going anywhere. I am aware of many really good authors who sometimes just can't finish something. The issue is that most people give up long, long before that point and not because they have become genuinely unhappy with their work but because it has simply become mundane. They didn't feel like it one night. This then causes them to jump ship for other projects which then, ta-da, become mundane too. Meanwhile countless hours are wasted. The cyclic nature of it is the problem that Schwab seems to be identifying and I think that's pretty common and the harm it causes is, yeah, beyond dispute for me..

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