Too Many Ideas Syndrome: 9 Tips for Successfully Navigating a Novel

Jun 30, 2022 | On Writing

Too Many Ideas Syndrome: Tips for Successfully Navigating a Novel

So you have Too Many Ideas Syndrome. I know, it’s a pain in the butt, but if we’re lucky it will be a lifelong affliction (I say this jokingly, it’s not necessarily a bad thing!) 

It’s just one of those things that creative writers have to come to terms with and try their best to manage if they want to produce quality work.

In this blog post, I’m going to share some tips for navigating around TMIS so that writing is more fruitful and less frustrating.

Document all your ideas!

This is probably the most important step for managing Too Many Ideas syndrome successfully. As writers, we all come up with new story concepts on a daily basis; that’s nothing to worry about. The problem arises when you try too hard to make these ideas into something tangible (a book) instead of just noting them down and prioritizing them for later.

For example, let’s say you’re grocery shopping and come up with an idea for your novel: “What if there was a boy who got stuck in the world of his favorite book and he had to find a way back home?” You then jot this down on your list of too many ideas and continue shopping.

Later that night you’re in the middle of writing when another idea pops into your head: “What if there was a girl who could control fire?” You then jot this down on your list too, but don’t worry about it too much right now; just keep working. The next day at work, another idea pops into your head: “What if the world was made of paper and everything had to be perfect or it would tear?” You then jot this too on your list.

At that point you might start thinking about what order these ideas should go in but don’t worry too much about that yet either; just keep track of them. The next day, you get home from work and have too many ideas again: “What if there were two boys who could control water?” “What if the girl I was talking about before had to stop a war between fire people and paper people?” You then jot these down too on your list of too many ideas.

At this point, you might start thinking too much about the order of these ideas and how they should go together. Don’t worry too much about that right now either; just keep jotting down your ideas as quickly as possible. You never know when they’ll come in handy!

(Also, I was totally spitballing with those ideas so don’t judge me for how crazy they sound! Or…on the other hand, please do. 🙂)

Stop comparing your ideas to other people’s ideas

One thing some writers do too often is compare their ideas to other people. When you’re constantly coming up with new story concepts, it can be easy (and fun) to research what others are writing about and see how they’ve done things before. 

But if you try too hard to make your novel like someone else’s or too similar in concept, you’ll have a tough time separating your novel from their work.

In the end, all that matters is whether or not YOU enjoy what you’re writing about. Remember your first audience is yourself: then comes the rest of the world (and hey, that’s what you have second and third drafts for!)

The only thing that makes any story better than another is the unique perspective and voice of its creator, so don’t try too hard to fit your novel into a specific category.

Pick one idea and start working on it right away!

I know too many writers who have a million ideas and only one or two actually get written — heck, I’m guilty of it too. It’s understandable: we’re all busy, life gets in the way of writing sometimes, etc., but if you really want to see your work come to fruition, then pick ONE idea (or maybe TWO at most at a time) that you like the best and start working on it.

What makes too many ideas syndrome so dangerous is that you’re probably still coming up with new story concepts all the time, which means an idea could pop into your head at any moment and force you to change your current project (or start a brand new one). If this happens too often, then what will happen next? You’ll completely forget about your current work and start working on something else.

A better approach is to pick one idea, jot down a quick summary of your story (so you don’t lose it) and then get started right away! If more ideas come into play as you’re writing, that’s okay too: just make sure not to write too much too fast and then get distracted by something else.

Understand the difference between “having ideas” and “having a project.”

Having a lot of ideas is great but your vision won’t come to fruition until you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, so to speak) and start writing one out. There’s a difference between having an idea for a novel and actually writing that novel out.

Know when to draw the line between brainstorming endlessly and actually committing to writing a novel. It’s hard work, it takes time, and these reasons may lead to you procrastinating so you just keep coming up with new story ideas instead of working on the one they already have started.

I know it’s hard to keep track of all those thoughts in your head but if you don’t start writing down some stories soon, then the idea will leave as quickly as it came into being and no one will ever read your work or know how amazing a writer you are!

Write about what you find interesting. Write about what you love or hate, because that’s why people will keep reading too! 

If too many ideas syndrome is affecting your work (or if you’re waiting for inspiration to strike), then maybe it’s time to step away from the writing process and re-evaluate what you like or dislike, because that will give you a better idea of how to tell a great story with just enough passion behind it!

Know your goal for the project

I’m not going to lie — I have an idea for an epic multi-volume saga that will take me years upon years to write (even with magic). And while my ambition is definitely there, it’s not the right time to turn that idea into a novel.

Putting too much pressure on yourself can make you freeze up and feel like everything has to be perfect before you start writing. It doesn’t have to be! And in fact, most writers recommend against trying too hard for perfection because they never get around to writing at all.

That said, don’t start too small either. If you’re too intimidated by the length of a novel or feel like your ideas are too simple for that amount of content, I recommend doing some research into other novels in your genre and seeing how long they tend to be. There’s no rule on this one but too short of a novel will probably feel too rushed, while too long of one is just plain intimidating.

Once you have an idea for the length of your first book, break it down into pieces. Don’t worry about writing more than one book at once – if there’s too much story for one volume then write out everything that happens and turn it into a series instead. That way you won’t be too intimidated to write one, but it also gives the book some purpose and closure so that readers know they’ve finished something once they turn the last page.

Stick to your established deadlines.

If you’ve got too many ideas then it’s time to pick one and start writing! Sure, you might not be able to stick with the same deadline forever but committing yourself for an extended period of time will keep your focus on one project.

The best way to encourage yourself to stick to your writing deadlines is by incentivizing yourself. You can offer rewards for writing so many words or keep track of your progress in a journal. Find something that will motivate you to write and do it every day – even if it’s just 500 words at first, slowly build up your momentum by sticking to these deadlines!

That said, don’t beat yourself too hard over not meeting them sometimes either. Life happens but eventually the time spent trying to catch back up with missed work will be more than what you lost out on because of writer’s block later on.

Have fun while working too!

You’re going through too much effort just to have a novel sitting around collecting dust? Well then grab a cup of cocoa (or any beverage of your choice) and enjoy all those ideas into action instead! Write down interesting plot lines or character interactions and build off of them. 

Writing a novel should be an enjoyable process, so try not to get too stressed out over it – even if your first book isn’t ‘perfect’ yet.

(Perfection is overrated anyway!)

Commit all the way!

There will always be too many ideas to keep track of, but it’s up to you whether or not they’ll ever become a novel. Don’t let yourself procrastinate too much – just start writing and see where your story takes you!

If Too Many Ideas syndrome is killing your progress, then maybe it’s time to take things slow with the big picture.

Remember that success comes in small steps too so try breaking down this epic idea into pieces before starting on one project at a time until everything falls together naturally…or else all those ideas might stay stuck inside your head forever. But don’t worry – I’m sure there are plenty more stories out there waiting for someone like you!

Use your best judgment on when to let an idea go

…and when to run with it.

Releasing too early can kill your story’s potential while holding onto too many ideas too long will only make the task of writing a novel feel even more daunting than it already is! 

Find that perfect balance and you’ll be surprised at how easy everything seems after finally settling on one idea.

After all, what’s better: creating an epic masterpiece or pulling off a successful first draft? The choice is yours…just don’t let Too Many Ideas Syndrome hold you back from either option anymore!

With great ideas come great novels!

Too Many Ideas syndrome is a very real and frustrating condition for writers. Luckily, there are ways that you can work around this issue before it causes too much damage to your process or productivity. 

Of course, if all else fails then maybe it’s time for a change in career…just kidding!

In reality, try breaking down an epic idea into small pieces by focusing on one project at each step along the way instead. You might find that things fall together naturally as they should have from the beginning – but don’t forget about those dreams inside your head either! 

Just remember folks: everything in its own time. 

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