After that three-part rambling series about preparing to write a story, let me tell you what happens when things don't quite the way I would have planned.
First, you need to know that I have never been without something to write since I started writing. I can look anywhere and find a new idea. I have written 100 novels, over 200 shorter stories, plus another 200 flash fiction pieces. Ideas jump out and I squirrel them away. They pile up, sometimes meld with other ideas, and suddenly there is something leaping up and down and demanding my attention. It doesn't matter what else -- or how many other 'elses' -- I am already working on.
Take this week.
I need to get the final formatting on Living in Caine's Hold finished for the print version so that I can mark that book off my list. I like getting things done, but I keep getting sidetracked by everything else when it comes to this final step. First, there are the notes to Silversun, the next science fiction novel. I have a major amount of worldbuilding, etc., besides the outline, to do there. Next is the final edits on Ruins, the contemporary mystery/adventure set in the American Southwest. It's going well, but takes time, and then I'll have to do the ebook formatting and the print formatting for that one.
So there we have three projects, all of which should take my full attention.
The other day, while my computer was being slow and I was just sitting here, I grabbed a piece of scrap paper to do some notes. I thought I was going to do notes for Silversun. My brain had a different idea:
History walked into the king's court.
Not the boy -- young man -- himself, but the blood in this veins. Descended of two barbarian conquerors, raised at his mother's court and suspected of magic. Exotic.
Called himself Prince since both grandfathers called themselves emperors by the time they were done. No one argued but they snickered, the princes descended from Gods, though rather farther back than grandfathers.
For all they knew, grandfathers had been Gods leaving destruction where they passed. Kingdoms fell, royal houses disappeared, fire, plague and death across the lands. Could the Gods, short of total destruction, do worse?
People who know some history of India might recognize the tenuous link between my Prince (as yet unnamed) and Babur, who was descended from Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. That was where this idea first took seed, but even in these few notes, it's going off on a different path.
I shoved that note aside. I was not going to work on this right now.
But last night, while my husband was in a store, I found a pen and more paper. (Determined, you see, not to commit it to any kind of electronic device, which then makes it real.) I jotted down two more pages of notes, which are more an outline for the rest of this opening.
I am not ready to truly work on the world building or outline yet, but when something calls to you that strongly, you might as well take notes. Now, with a couple pages of notes all nicely started, I can let it rest again and finish up something else before I bury myself into what looks like an interesting setup. (Of course, he has magic. And he's run afoul of demons.)
This is an important point: just because you have a new idea doesn't mean you should throw yourself into it without finishing something else first. That way only leads to files and notebooks full of unfinished dreams and frustration.
If you want to be a published author, you must finish your stories.
That seems obvious, right? Yet everyday writers convince themselves that the new idea is much better than what they were working on, toss aside the old one because they hit a problem, and leap into something new. You will never learn how to write a novel, from start to finish, if you don't work past those problem spots. You will never be a novelist (or even a short story author) until you learn to write a story from start to finish. No amount of prefect grammar or lovely art work will make you a novelist.
The work is not easy. It shouldn't be. However, if you are serious, this is what you need to do: Set a goal of finishing the story you are working on. Tell yourself that you must write x amount a week (or a day) on that one project before you can work on anything new and fun. When that project is done, move another into that slot. You'll be amazed at how even writing 250 words a day on the novel will move it along. The more often you do this, the easier those words become to write and the more time you have for the fun new project. More likely, though, you'll find yourself adding more to your first project because once you truly commit yourself to doing the work, the more exciting it gradually becomes. It will be hard at first.
However, if this is what you want, then you need to do the work. There are no short cuts.