I had an idea. In retrospect, this was a bad occurrence as it will only bring me pain and generally make my life more difficult.
...let me start over.
I've been working on yet another book plot, because that part of my brain never stops working and hopefully never will. It's been difficult for more than the usual reasons - not only have I genuinely figured out how to put these new characters through hell, it's also shaping up in a way that it could be one of the most personal things I've ever written. The theoretical book also already has a soundtrack in the new Garbage album (which is frickin' awesome and you should listen to it), and some of the songs fit the characters ridiculously well.
During a lull at work last week, I ended up hashing out most of the plot. I determined that since I knew how it started and how it ended, I could rough out an outline of what happens in between. Five notepad pages' worth of frantic scribbling later, I thought it sucked, but that's more indicative of my mood last week than the actual plot. But I wasn't thrilled about it for a very good reason:
Something is still missing.
I don't know how I know this, I just do. There's a feeling that comes when a plot is working out well, when it's coming together as it should. There's a different feeling when things aren't the way they're supposed to be. This feeling is what kept me from writing STARWIND for almost two years, and it only went away when I swapped the main characters' genders.
So, since I really want to write this new book someday, I've been trying to figure out what's missing from the new plot. (No, I can't swap the main characters' genders in this one. Trust me.) I've been going in a bunch of different directions for this, ranging from adjusting the magic system to changing what's happening in the world to swapping out nearly everything about the story and turning it into a novel version of a giant robot fighting anime, but with magic.
...okay, I totally want to write the giant magical robot battle book, but that's not this one.
To be fair to myself (for once), it's hard to come up with new ideas and make them work when I'm in the middle of editing. STARWIND is taking up most of my writing time these days, and I'm glad to say it's going well. But my brain's still tagging along on the crew's multiversal travels. Switching gears to something completely different isn't easy.
I am glad that I finally have a reason to not beat myself up over not being able to get a plot to work, and the reason is that I'm editing a book that does work. As writer problems go, this isn't bad.
The plan is to let this plot sit and simmer for a while. I still haven't even transcribed the notes from last week; they're sitting here on my desk, just another small pile of yellow paper covered with scribbles. I'll get to it when I'm done editing STARWIND and have sent that one off to beta readers. And hopefully by then, I'll find or figure out whatever's missing.
So, what about the rest of you? How do you know if something's missing from what you're working on? How do you deal with new ideas when you're neck-deep in working with something else? And if you haven't listened to the new Garbage album, why not?