Wrapping up a project can be difficult for any writer, not just the ones who focus on creative genres. What most working writers have that creative writers often miss out on, though, is a prompt from outside. When your goal is to connect a client to an audience, to make recommendations to your management, or to communicate policy clearly to employees, your knowledge about the people who depend on your communications helps shape your choices. Your goals do the same thing. When you tackle creative work, though, finding that way to latch onto the next project can be difficult.
This blog has previously provided some strategies that are useful during the brainstorming process, but they don’t always work if the goal is to generate enough material to give you traction on a major work like a novel. For that, it can often be worthwhile to have a large-scale goal or theme that you need to play out, and to find numerous ways into those through smaller artistic acts. It can also be worthwhile to begin writing from the point of view of multiple protagonists, to generate thoughts about a series of events from conflicting viewpoints.
But what about the core of the idea itself? How do you latch on to something big enough that it takes tens of thousands of words to map its insides? How do you find the conflict that is just that difficult to resolve?
The answer is that you don’t find that conflict, you just realize it’s time to write about it. The broad themes and complex social maps that novels explore are mirrors of the writer’s understanding and experience. Yes, they are invented, but they are invented to explore the boundaries of experience allegorically, to hold a space where a point-of-view (or several) can be explored without repercussions on the physical plane. To find your next topic, you need to look at the things in your life that you wish you were talking about, and then you need to make a choice: Are you going to invent someone who can talk about them? Or are you going to put someone through them?
That moment of choice makes all the difference.