Sticking With A Story
Question I'm trying to write a book, and I keep having trouble sticking with a story. I know I want it to be a fantasy novel (medieval styled) and I know what I want some of the characters to be, and the general setting, but I keep thinking way too far ahead. I'll be writing and then I'll get this amazing idea, but to write it I have to change the entire story up, or sometimes just a bit, and because of this I've been working on this book for almost a year and I can't get past the first chapter! Being that I'm in high school I still have a relatively long time to make this story all it can be, but I want to know if this is a destructive habit or if I should keep at it and maybe eventually I will fall in love with the story and finally stick with it.
You can't stop your brain from coming up with new ideas (and you don't want to). It's also true that your first idea is not always your best. Often a story gets refined over time as you think of better and better ideas.
However, as you know, if the ideas do not gel into a fixed story structure at some point, you will never finish.
It can be a good idea to give yourself a reasonable brainstorming period in which to entertain all possible ideas. Then follow this by a session in which you look critically at all the possibilities and choose the best ones. Shape them into
a structure. You may find these articles helpful in writing an outline...
Use the outline to keep your story on track.
If you come up with an idea in the writing process that you think will be far better, look at it in light of how it will affect the rest of the story. Will it make the whole story better or is it just a distraction and a dead end?
If it is a better idea, then revise your outline to include your new idea.
If you are getting so many new ideas that you cannot make any progress, then you have to decide at some point that you are going to complete a draft of the story you have now outlined. Put off any other changes until the second draft. You can write them in notes or a separate file to look at later.
The one danger you have to be aware of is the "bright and shiny." When you're in the middle of writing a story, a new idea always looks more appealing, easier to write than the one you're struggling with. It's always tempting to drop your current story and work on the new idea. It's a way to avoid the anxiety associated with working out the tough parts of a story. Of course, the "bright and shiny" idea will lose its luster part-way through as well.
So once you have an outline you feel good about -- a story that demands to be told -- be wary of dropping it in favour of chasing every new idea that pops up.