How Having Too Many Options Can Be Worse Than Being Blocked

Last post, I’d talked about Sherlock Holmes and writer’s block.

Today I wanted to go in an opposite direction.

I’ve been trying to punch up this snippet about the character Lydia I’d come up with on the spot to talk about how fiction writers create questions in the reader’s mind to answer (it’s a different animal altogether for copywriters, even though the process works the same–and, there I go, on the hook for another post).

Anyway, I realized, other than that snippet, I had no idea of the character’s backstory, family, past, dreams, or what-have-ya–other than what I shot out into the world with those few paragraphs.

And that’s caused me huge problems. Without at least some idea of where to go, I’ve gotten a little stuck.

Why?

Because I can do almost anything I want to.

You’ve heard of paralysis of analysis? Well, I’d like to call this “paralysis of choice.” Being able to go in almost any direction, and having no clue how to get started or what to do because of it.

As I went over the snippet I mentioned, I was having questions like:

Is she really being followed? And why?

If she is being followed, is she just bumping into someone in the woods, someone who really is following her, or a super-clever someone who is following, but wants to make it seem like he or she isn’t up to no good?

Does the follower want to save her? Protect her? Hurt her? Kidnap her? Capture her and take her somewhere?

What does she do? Fight? Run? Surrender, and then try to escape?

And that doesn’t include why her father got murdered and strung up, or who Brynn is and what he meant to her.

There are a few plot points, because as you’ll read, she’s been drawn on by someone who has a sword–but it’s not revealed who they are, or what they want.

I think of Lydia here as smart, as someone who would never give up–and who’s willing to fake out her opponent(s) if another play isn’t available. But the fact that I don’t KNOW these answers for sure leads me to believe I need to sit back, and come up with a detailed sketch or something more to work with before I move ahead (at least that’s what’s making sense to me right now).

I have a very, very (did I say “very” enough?) very active imagination, and like to explore possibilities. That’s great for coming up with ideas, but not so great at narrowing them down.

So I’m going to give myself a piece of advice–an amalgamation of things I’ve heard from teachers, mentors, and what-have-ya, mingled with good ol’ uncommon sense (the more I watch the news, the more that last part seems to be true sometimes).

Anyway, feel free to use this too.

It’s just…

PICK ONE AND GO.

I remember Mary Rosenblum the Long Ridge webmaster saying (I think) that you can always go back to a story and rewrite it into a different perspective, plot, or what-have-ya if you don’t like it, or if things don’t work out, using a lot of the same pieces you started with.

But write something.

As a copywriter, I can’t submit 25 subject line ideas to a client (the most that I’ve been asked for is 2 per email, as a test, but that was for 5 different emails). Not unless they want that. I’d start with a big pool, and narrow it down. Just like ideas for blog posts. Start big, go small. Same with a sales letter–I might be able to use a couple of my headline rejects elsewhere–but I can’t start the thing with 25 different headlines.

Up to this point, I’ve done this type of narrowing with writing ideas in general, but not really that much for variations within the same story (but there haven’t been that many times I’ve been pulled in so many different directions, quite like this).

So if you’re stuck with too many options, you’re in a good place (as far as the opposite pendulum of writer’s block is concerned). Pick one at random, go with it, and tell your “But wait, I…” reflex (if you have one) that you can come back later, or use that snippet in another writing project (email, story, sketch, or what-have-ya).

This is also why I keep a file on my computer with random ideas for projects in there, not to mention the notebooks…

Until next time,

Ty

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About Ty Mall

Thanks for stopping by. I've almost always been interested in writing, among other things. Along with discovering pop culture, I've uncovered a lot about the craft over the past 10 years. And whether you're a fiction writer or email copywriter, I'm here to pass on what I've found out. And have a ton of fun in the process.
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