Monday, July 09, 2018

How a New Kitten Is Like a New Story Idea

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

On Saturday, my husband and I got a new kitten. He’s eight weeks old, not quite two pounds, and has the playful energy of seventeen toddlers who just ate a case of white sugar. Oh, and he has razor-sharp claws, which he uses to climb everything—including us.

He is also the most adorable little thing.


He’s in “new kitten quarantine” in my office until he gets acclimated to his new home and the all-clear from the vet that it’s safe to let him mingle with the other cat. Which means all that PLAY ME WITH NOW!!! energy is directed at me while I’m trying to work (include writing this, and I’ve had to stop at least six times so far, because he is quite irresistible).

Not much is getting done.

But it did hit me, that he is a tiny, bouncing simile for a new story idea. And here’s why:

1. It demands your attention.

A new idea hits you and it’s exciting. You get a rush of brainstorming and think about all the things you can do with it. And it wants you to think about it, it gets in your face, meows at you, climbs up your leg and winds up on your shoulder with its head in your face and you cannot NOT stop everything to focus on it.

2. It’s so much fun to play with.

A new idea bounces, going from cool moment to cool moment. It spins and goes everywhere full tilt, there’s no rhyme or reason to it’s trajectory yet, but just sitting down with it is a blast. What if you do this? What if you do that? What if it attacks the keyboard while Mama’s trying to type?

3. It keeps you from doing the things you should be doing.

You know you ought to be working on that other manuscript, but that one doesn’t make you smile, or laugh, and it doesn’t disappear into a TINY space under your desk that you didn’t think for one instant was big enough for it to fit under, and just when you start to worry it reappears and tears off across the room.

4. Ignoring it can be painful.

It calls to you. Runs around by your feet. Wants you to stop everything for it, and if you don’t, it claws its way up to your brain until you have no choice but to embrace it. Or chews on your ankles. With its tiny needle-sharp teeth and deadly yet adorable little feet.

5. It comes at you out of the blue.

After you’ve given it some attention, and think it’s finally quiet, and you’re back to work, it leaps on you from behind. It reminds you it’s still there, and it really does want ALL YOUR ATTENTION.

6. You’d rather focus on it than what you’re supposed to be doing.

A new idea rocks. It’s not bogged down by the problems that every story goes through, and it’s easier to play with it instead of working. AND IT’S SO CUTE!

7. It looks at you with giant eyes and squeaks and wiggles its little butt and you have absolutely no ability to resist it.

Okay, maybe that’s just the kitten, but some ideas can metaphorically do the same thing.

New ideas can be great, and there’s nothing wrong with spending a little time playing with them. Just keep in mind that they can and will distract you from what you really ought to be doing. Be strong. You can do it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a kitten on my shoulder who wants me to play with him again.

Have you ever been distracted by a shiny new idea (or kitten)?

For more help on plotting or writing a novel check out my Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure.

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Available in paperback and ebook formats.

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book.

She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

When she's not writing novels, she's teaching other writers how to improve their craft. She's the founder of Fiction University and has written multiple books on writing.
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  1. Every time I hit a bump in my WIP. LOL

  2. Yep. All the time. I've had to be really disciplined about not starting a new project until this one is really done (or nearly there). I try to write down the ideas I have (broad strokes only, so I can remember them when I do get back to developing them) or characters that pop in my head, or whatever, but I try to put them in a separate notebook, and not keep them in the front of my mental space. But yeah. New kitten fun is way better than old cat grumpy. (she says as she is stalled yet again on writing one of three scenes that Must.Be.Written.This.Summer)

    1. That's what I do as well. At least I get the ideas out. Hehe, old grumpy cat. I just finished one of those, so sending you some good writing vibes.

  3. My kittens usually fall into two categories, lately:

    * short story kittens
    * the lioness kitten of my fan fic Susan Pevensie

    1. LOL, at least short story kittens can be done quickly. Usually.

  4. yes, and yes. You're absolutely right, you SHOULD be doing something else, but my advice in writing and in kitten-motherhood is don't forget to enjoy this precious feeling while it lasts. Thanks for an article which made me smile.

    1. I'm enjoying it :) Today was better, and we're going to look for a second today. Hopefully we'll get him a sibling to distract him. Or distract me more--two kittens are twice as dangerous.

  5. This post made me super happy. Because kittens. Thanks for that! Also it made me want to come up with more writing analogies to other enjoyable but not particularly writing-related things. For example: free writing is like drinking a nice glass of wine. When done in moderation it can loose your inhibitions and whet your appetite for the more meaty writing you're actually trying to do. But if overindulged in without substantive writing to balance it, free writing may leave you feeling lightheaded and not quite sure where you are or where you want to go.

  6. Congratulations on your new kitten, Janice!

    1. Thanks! He's a ball of sweetness and energy

  7. Thank you. Metaphorical kittens and real kittens just made me smile. It's exactly what I needed as a kitten idea begs to be played with promising to be straight forward and endearing in a way my difficult grown up WIP is not!