I don't want to take a break from writing my novel, but this other idea for a zombie apocalypse short story keeps invading my brain.
The questions is, should I halt my book progress to write this short story or keep the novel top priority?
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I'm going to answer your question by telling you about a nearly identical experience I had.
I get myself fired up to write by going to YouTube and searching for 'epic music mix'. There are several channels which compile truly epic music and use awesome artwork as a background. The result rarely fails to disappoint.
When the music and artwork coincide just right, I get moments of inspiration for stories. I usually pause what I'm doing when this happens, open up a Word document, and write down that inspiration, along with the source. I have a whole document of these 'ten second inspirations' as I call them.
That's my first piece of advice when you're interested in something:
I know Stephen King says the good ideas will stick around. I haven't found that to be true, so I write everything down. If I've forgotten it in a month, that's a sign it wasn't that much of a good idea.
Usually those bits of inspiration don't have any story to them. I did once find a bit of inspiration however, which did. The idea behind it was so simple and yet so powerful that the story practically wrote itself. Indeed, that's what it started to do inside my head.
Unfortunately, I was deep into writing my first novel at the time. This other idea was taking over, and I had to make a decision: which idea should I write first?
I decided that I needed to go where my interest was. I learned long ago that forcing yourself to write something generally yields forced writing. So that's my second piece of advice:
So I switched to the new idea. I can tell you now that it never worked out, but that I am glad I switched. Why? Because I got it out of my system.
I needed to write what I was interested in, otherwise it would be bugging me to this day. By switching to it, I was able to identify the problems it had and what I would need to do to actually write it.
Knowing that it needed additional work was a good thing. First, it satisfied my urge to write it until I knew how to overcome the problems. And second, it revealed some flaws in my writing method. I was able to pause the development of my first novel in time to go back and refine and test out my technique.
In short, pausing my first novel to write something else ultimately made it a lot better.
As it so happens, this answer is a great example of that. I was originally going to address your question directly, applying logic and reasoning. While I was getting the point across, I didn't feel like the answer was coming together as a whole. I felt like I needed to just tell you the above example. That's where my interest was.
So I opened up Notepad and wrote this answer. And (to me at least) it is far better than my first feeble attempt.
Write where your interest is. Doing so can only help your writing; not doing so will only harm your writing. The first thing I would do is jot down the idea(s) and set them aside for a few days. If the story is still popping up in your head, then it's time to pay more attention to it.
Best of luck in your writing!
I would tell someone about the story.
Tell your partner or friend or your writing group. Just be sure to do it in writing. Or record your voice if you prefer that. Email, text message, handwriting, whatever works. It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes.
Get it down then make a promise that you will get back to it.
It's fine for some people to say they wouldn't forget a really good idea, but I doubt that's true for the majority. At least not the details. If it's intruding on your brain, it's doing that for a reason. Put it aside in a way where you can get back to it later. Just the same as you might add an entry to your calendar so you could allow yourself to stop thinking about a task you need to complete by the end of the week.
Then keep your promise. Dig out that email (etc) and do it justice.