By and large this is number one on the list of authors’ frequently asked questions. And there are, of course, as many different answers as there are authors. Cited often is music lyrics, overheard conversations, other movies, other books. Almost anything, anything, can get a writer’s fertile imagination going—especially if said author is currently deep in the bowels of writing a another story.
When I’m in the sagging middle of a manuscript and every word is another drop of O-negative on the page, each minute at the keyboard akin to a month of Saturday afteroons at Chuck E. Cheese, that’s when it strikes. Staring at the computer screen, wondering why I’m even bothering to write this stupid, conflict-less story that I’m pretty sure sucks and which no one in their right mind would ever pay actual money for, I—wait, what’s that? That glint over there. Oooh, it’s so pretty. No, don’t look, you have to finish this story, warns my inner voice. But, it’s so bright, sooo shiny, sooooo perfect…Damn.
Bright Shiny. That’s what Emily, Tracy and I call them, these new ideas that call to us when we’re writing. They’re exciting, seductive and so, so dangerous, kind of like that guy--you know that guy: the hot one with the motorcycle and the sexy tatoo on his shoulder who drinks and smokes Reds and your mama would absolutely die if she knew you’re were dating him, but you just can’t say no to his soft baby blues.
Except in this case your mama is your editor. And you have a mind-crushing deadline with no room for a one-night stand, much less the torrid affair you’re actually contemplating. Not to tell tales out of school, but Tracy’s notorious for finding Bright Shinys the second after she’s sold a new book and has a firm deadline. Emily lost four writing days and gave forty pages to one before we were able to stop her (and that’s just the days/pages we know about). Me? Well, we’ll get to that.
The real problem with a Bright Shiny, see, is there’s absolutely no way to protect oneself from them. They can come from anywhere, anything, anytime (all real-life examples):
Two lines from a random song as I’m flipping through radio stations.
An overheard cell phone conversation while I’m waiting in line at Chipotle.
A fortune cookie.
A blog post.
A misdirected text…
That’s how it happened to me. March 12th. Saturday. Up till then I’d been completely immersed in the world-building/researching/procrastinating on a complicated reincarnation story that I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but on which I couldn’t gain any real momentum. My phone buzzed me awake at the ungodly weekend hour of 6:40 AM. A text. Then another. From a number I didn’t recognize.
The demons are fierce.
I hope u r having a safe day. I need your help.
Seriously? I couldn’t just let something like that get away. I saw a boy. I saw a girl. I saw a demon straight out of the inferno. Reincarnation story back on the shelf…Bright Shiny here I come.
It’s now my current work-in-progress. Yeah, it’s lost some of it’s initial luster—they all do. But, I’m plowing ahead, staying the course, word by word, scene by scene, day after—hey, what’s that over there?