*Nonfiction* and *Fiction*
You have definitely gotten ideas for half a dozen other books over the course of this challenge.
You might not know this because you’ve been trying to squeeze them all into your current book.
Whether it’s a particular area of research that turned into a really, really long chapter, a subplot that expanded until it rivaled the main plot, or a character who has repeatedly tried to promote themselves to protagonist, something in your book has caught your attention in a way that you weren’t expecting when you started writing.
This is a wonderful problem to have. Now you have sequel material.
While it may be possible to fit everything about this shiny, new idea into your current book, ask yourself these questions to make sure:
1. Is this going to overshadow my main point?
If your subordinate idea becomes the most memorable thing in your book, you may want to reconsider the emphasis you place on it (or if it’s actually better than your original concept, switching your book’s focus).
2. Is this going to interest my readers as much as it interests me?
You may have found an eclectic interest that, while exciting and fascinating to you, will turn off your readers if you dwell on it too much. This is especially true in nonfiction if you delve into a specific case study that doesn’t apply to most readers’ experiences.
It’s especially true in fiction if you dwell on a subplot not usually stressed in your book’s genre: an academic discovery in a shoot-em-up, a police procedural in a romance, a technical manual in any kind of fiction, etc. This is why people skip the parts in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when he lists different kinds of fish for three pages.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to explore a concept in depth, but if it won’t keep the readers’ attention, consider moving that exploration to an appendix or a separate piece of writing.
3. Would this idea do better as a standalone piece?
Your idea may be too important or too interesting for you to relegate it to sub-concept status. It may deserve greater attention and analysis, and that may take more pages than your current book can absorb. If so, the idea is a good candidate for standalone material.
Based on your answers to these questions, you may find that you need to write an independent follow-up piece that enhances your book from afar, rather than from within. For nonfiction this might be a white paper, a pamphlet, or a blog post on your website. For fiction it might be a sequel, a prequel, or a short story that ties into your novel. Shorter works make great marketing pieces, so this can also help you promote your book in the long run.
This may seem like a contradiction to March 28th’s post about not holding back from your reader, but it’s not. The difference between withholding and enhancing lies in the reason you cut the ideas out of the text. If it’s to get your readers to buy more of your stuff, you’re withholding. If it’s because the ideas themselves demand more attention than you can give them in the current book, you’re enhancing. Only you can truly decide which applies to your situation, so be honest with yourself and try to objectively evaluate your motives.
Keep a list of the shiny baubles that didn’t fit into your book so that you can return to them later. You will probably come up with more material to add to them as you continue writing, so keep expanding your list as you go. You may find that you finish your first book with a complete outline for your second book all ready to go!
What shiny baubles have you encountered so far? How can these blog posts further help you in your writing process? Leave a comment and let me know! I appreciate your feedback!
*This Week’s Word Count*
Your book is as long as: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Your book is as long as: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare