Even though we've committed ourselves to this particular Work-In-Progress, the siren song of that new idea can be irresistible. It sounds so perfect. It's fresh and flawless, and it promises to spill forth onto the page without needing any editing or revision. It flat out adores us, and understands our writerly needs, unlike that cranky WIP we've been struggling with.
No wonder we can't resist when this sweet thing beckons.
So we set the WIP aside, promising we'll be right back, believing ourselves when we say we're not serious about this new idea all dressed up in its most seductive manner.
Before we know it, we're sucked in, unable to return to the WIP waiting patiently on the hard drive for us to come to our senses. Even worse, the temptress idea reveals its true self, transforming into pure evil right in front of our disbelieving eyes. Scenes fall apart before they're even half-formed. Words that once crooned to us in such a melodic fashion now screech and clank and deride us for our lack of skill.
This WIP-on-the-side acts worse than the one we left it for.
Now we're caught between two manuscripts, both of them vying for our attention while we struggle to ignore yet another beguiling story idea crooking its finger at us.
What to do, what to do.
Some writers absolutely refuse to acknowledge a new story's presence. They block off their brain to anything new while steadfastly finishing the current work. I respect that philosophy. It does not work so well for me, however. The more I ignore a potential WIP-on-the-side, the more it will keep poking me, like a little kid that keeps yelling "Mommy" until Mommy gives him her attention. I just scribble notes about the new idea in its own Word doc and that usually quiets it down, allowing me to remain faithful to the work-in-progress.
Other writers choose to devote themselves to the new idea, leaving the pesky WIP stranded on the roadside. Again, I can understand that choice. I've even advocated it in order to get the WIP to cooperate. Nothing like a little healthy competition to get the characters to start working as a team again.
But it can also be a slippery slope. Chasing after the shiny new idea, while blaming the old WIP for your tendency to stray, can leave you with a string of half-finished projects.
Sometimes it's best to remember you and the WIP are in it "for better or for worse". It can keep you going during the tough writing and revising times, and it allows you to celebrate when you finally make it together to "The End".
That's when you can give your undivided attention to the WIP-on-the-side, free of guilt, and filled with the promise of a happily-ever-after ending.