How to Decide Which Idea to Write Next

We writers usually have at least half a dozen different ideas floating around our heads at any given time – sometimes more. So how on earth do we decide which ONE idea we’re going to chose when we sit down to write the next book? And then how do we stick with that ONE idea and not jump from story to story to story?

You need to figure this out before you sit down to write, because if you can’t focus on just ONE story you’ll never finish any of them. I know you want to publish your novel and finishing it is the first step toward that dream.

If you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re going to write next, don’t worry! I’m here to help. The first thing I want you to do is choose 3 story ideas that currently appeal to you. It’s important to keep this list to 3 so you don’t get overwhelmed making the decision.

Once you have your 3 ideas, see if any one of them jumps out at you more than the others. If so, great! You can stop here and start writing.

But if not, that’s ok! Write a short summary for each of the ideas. Which one is the most fleshed out? Which one is most exciting to you? Which one does your gut tell you will make the best novel?

If you still can’t decide, take a poll! Post a very brief description¬†(no more than 2-3 sentences) of each of the 3 ideas on your social media platform of choice and ask readers which one they’d most like to read next.

Now that you know what you’re going to write you need to prepare to keep the other ideas at bay, because they will inevitably rear their colorfully viscious heads, each vying for your precious attention. Stay strong! Don’t be tempted by these wayward mistresses. They are fickle and will abandon you as surely as they came. Or worse, tear you from your true story love forever.

As unrelated ideas come to you, pause to write them down in the notebook or file where you keep new ideas, and then immediately go back to writing your original idea. This may be difficult in the beginning. There’s this little thing called FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. Or worse, FOBS – Fear Of Being Successful. (OK, I admit, I just made that one up. But it’s a real thing…if you never finish a story you’ll never have to face the trappings of success. Or failure.)

“But this idea is really great, too. What if, when I finally do go to write it, it’s faded and doesn’t excite me anymore?”

“NYT Best Selling Author Jane Doe just hit #1 with an idea in this vein. I should write that instead because obviously that’s what’s hot right now.”

STOP

Trust your instincts. They’re smarter than you give them credit for. You chose the original idea for a reason so have a little faith in yourself. Whatever your excuse, I promise you I can debunk it.

In the first example, if the second idea is as exciting as it seems to be, it will still be exciting when you finish the current one and start writing it. And if it isn’t, well, chances are you would have quickly grown bored with it if you’d chosen to write that one first.

For the second, trying to follow the market can be dangerous. Readers are fickle and their tastes change almost daily it seems. Just because that idea is hot now doesn’t mean it will be 9 months down the road when you publish your version of it.

I know it can be hard to stick with just a single idea when writing a novel. But if you do you’ll get this one finished much more quickly, and it will be a stronger book for it.

XO,
Jen

p.s. If you need more help choosing a story and sticking with it to completion, click here to grab your spot in Dream to Draft, a 5 month 1-1 coaching service that helps you outline, create characters, and complete the first draft of your book.

WRITING MYTH: Professional Writers Can Quit Their Day Job

Quitting your day job and making a fantastic living off your books. Isn’t that almost every writer’s dream? The Greats make it look so easy. Stephen King. Neil Gaiman. Laurell K. Hamilton. J.K. Rowling. But scratch the surface, and you’ll find out they all came from modest pasts, and fought hard to get where they are today.

Even those who are mid-list authors, those who don’t make a million dollars a year, and maybe make less than you do in your corporate job, make it look easier than it is. “They’re doing it, why can’t I?” Dig deeper. Sometimes they struggle to make ends meet. It isn’t all fun and games, even when you do work for yourself. There are no paid sick days for authors.

Still, that’s what most of us yearn for. I hate to break the bad news to you, but that’s not likely to happen. Many, many professional writers – even those with traditional publishing deals – still have a day job. Even those you may be familiar with. Chances are, they’re still working in a cubicle or retail store somewhere, and writing in their time off from the “day job.”

Making enough money from your books to quit your day job is HARD. That doesn’t mean you’re not really fantastic at it. You might have written one of the best books of this century, but there’s no guarantee it will become a best seller.

There are tens of thousands of books in the world. Think about your own “to read” list. Be honest; is it likely that you will make it all the way through that list (which likely grows almost daily as you discover new books that pique your interest) before you die? Probably not. There are a lot of great books on that list, and the fact that you may never get around to reading it is not a dig on said book.

When my own “to read” list grows too large, I take a break from looking for new and exciting books for a month or two. How many great books made their way to the top of Amazon lists in that time, but fell back down before I noticed them?

And in this never-ending sea of books, how do you make yours stand out? You can’t just click “Publish” and wait around twiddling your thumbs. You have to work hard to market your book. The vast majority of authors are far more creative than they are business-minded, so this effort falls flat.

But every once in a while, a book will come out of nowhere, and not even the author expected what was coming. Look at Andy Weir, author of The Martian. He was originally a self published author, who sold enough books on his own to catch the attention of a literary agent. The stars then aligned for his book to make its way to Ridley Scott, who eventually turned it into a movie.

It is possible. And I don’t say all this to discourage you. I want you to be BIG, but realistic with your goals. That way, if you aren’t able to quit your day job in three years, you won’t be as devastated. Yes, it will still be disappointing, but when you have a healthy dose of realism, it’s much easier to dust yourself off and say, “Well, self, we’ll do better and make it next time.”

As long as you never give up, the dream is still alive.

Happy Writing,
Jen