The Perils of Saving for Later*

My collection of cute cupcake wrappers - all just waiting for the perfect occasion to be used.
  My collection of cute cupcake wrappers – all just waiting for the perfect occasion to be used.

I have a confession to make: I’m a saver. Not quite a hoarder (although my husband might have a different opinion), but I have a definite tendency to hold onto things for just the right occasion. That gorgeous new shirt I bought? Save it for a special night out. Those super-cute cupcake wrappers? Have to be kept for the perfect party treat. Those fancy stickers? One day, I’ll need a card for them to decorate.

Only eventually, that gorgeous shirt doesn’t fit anymore, those cupcake wrappers have faded, and those stickers have lost their stick. All my saving resulted in me losing out.

The same applies to writing. It’s easy to hold onto the perfect idea for the sequel to your book. I’ve done it myself. But if your first book doesn’t sell, that perfect idea may never make it onto the page.

And maybe that perfect idea is what your first book was missing. What would have pushed your not-quite-publishable idea over into the can’t-put-it-down category.

I understand that as a writer, you have to leave yourself room to expand the story and the world. Every book should go just a bit farther. I mean, if J.K. Rowling had introduced Horcruxes in The Philosopher’s Stone it wouldn’t have made sense – we needed the other books to build up to that point.

But what if she’d held off introducing Voldemort until later? Or Hermione? Or Harry’s dead parents? Would we have been as engrossed in the story?

The point is, you should strive to make your first story as strong as it can be, even if it means using up your good ideas – because if that book never gets published, your amazing ideas will just go to waste. And if you use your idea and your book does get published, well, you’ll have the incentive to come up with an even better idea!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go bake some cupcakes, while wearing my new shirt.

What about you? Are you an idea hoarder or do you make sure to use up all the good ideas you get? Tell me about it in the comments.

*PS This does not apply to money (which I also obsessively save), because I really think everyone should have a rainy day fund for if/when things go wrong.

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