When to Push Forward vs. When to Move On

Last year I finished my first original novel, Robber Barrons. I was—and still am—so proud of myself for seeing a project through to completion. While I’ve written numerous fan fiction stories in the past—more on that in another post—I never thought I’d actually finish an original novel. Well, I finished, and even better I had an idea for a sequel and a prequel! That’s great because I really loved the universe, and still do.

I started writing The Third War in November for National Novel Writing Month. I won Nano, but hit a wall in the novel. I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t that I thought my writing was bad or stopped liking the universe I’d created or anything like that. I just hated the story. No matter how many times my friends told me it was a good novel, I couldn’t believe them. So, over Christmas, I finally sat down with my outline and addressed all my issues. When I was done, I had an outline that I could be excited about writing again. For about a month, I stayed excited, and got almost all of Part 1 re-written.

Then I got another idea.

It wasn’t that I hit a wall, which is a completely different problem that I encountered numerous times while writing Robber Barrons. No, instead I experience a stroke of brilliance while falling asleep one night. I finally knew how I was going to tackle this other story idea I’d had in my head for many years. I figured out the genre, POV, main characters, worldbuilding, and basic plot. I kept jotting down ideas as they popped into my head. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t—and can’t—stop thinking about the story.

So what do I do? Do I power through on The Third War and finish? It’s not that I don’t want to finish. It’s not that I don’t like the story. I really do. I’ve been pitching Robber Barrons as part of a series, and I want The Third War to see the light of day, too. But this other idea won’t leave me alone right now. It’s alive, I tell you! And I’m afraid if I wait to start writing it, I’ll lose the momentum on this story.

Part of me says, “You need to finish The Third War first! That’s your first priority, and you need to see this project through to completion.” That’s the part of me that wants to be a professional writer, and understands that to do so you have to write every day and can’t wait for the muse to strike. The other part of me, the part that’s still suckered in by the romantic idea of the muse, says, “You need to strike while the iron is hot! Write this new story while it’s fresh in your mind! You can come back to The Third War later! And who knows, maybe writing this new story will inspire you.”

I’m still confused on what to do, but I think I’ve decided to compromise and work on both stories at once. Considering this new story is going to be in first person, there’s a good chance I’ll get sick of it pretty quickly and want to go back to reliable third person limited. If that doesn’t happen, at least I’ll have made headway on a new story.

The most important thing? I still have a completed novel to pitch, and I’m going to continue doing that as I work on my next book(s).

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