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.

6 Things to Plan for Your Writing in the New Year

You’re recovering from the holiday food binge, preparing your liver for the NYE booze binge, and wondering what to do about your writing in the new year. It’s time to sit down and figure out a plan, because we both know that nothing will ever get done unless you make a plan and give yourself deadlines.

It took me nearly 4 years to get my first book, Divided, published. I wrote the draft for National Novel Writing Month in November of 2008. I reworked it and reworked it and put it away for a while and reworked it some more and put it away again….you get the point. I wanted to publish it, but it wasn’t until I finally told myself, “Jen, you are going to publish this book on March 11, 2013 OR ELSE.” Once I had that date in my head it became real. And being real meant that I actually had to do the work to finish it.

And guess what? I published it on March 11, 2013!

To help you reach your writing goal, here’s a list of things to plan for the new year.

Decide what your goals for the year will be

I recommend having a maximum of 2 big goals each year. As an example, my 2 goals for 2018 are to publish my next book and get booked out with Dream. Write. Sell. Once you know what your goals are, follow these steps:

  • Break it down into tiny chunks
  • Write each step down, with deadlines, where you’ll see it every day
  • Find an accountability partner

Plan your social media posting

This doesn’t have to be super intense or detailed, but it is an important piece of your writing business. To start you can just figure out what you want to post, which platforms you want to use (where do your readers spend the most time?) and how often you want to post. Write this down to remind you of it every day.

Make a reading list for the year

Include a book or 2 on the craft of writing, but read for enjoyment. Great writers are voracious readers. Read widely so you can see what works for other authors and what doesn’t work in their stories. Read fiction, read non-fiction, read biographies and memoirs, read sci-fi and epic fantasy and chick lit and mysteries. The more varied your reading, the better a writer you will become, and the more ideas you’ll get for your own stories.

Revamp your writing space

Whether you have a dedicated writing space or a spot on the couch, now’s a great time to spruce it up. Start the year with a clean, inviting, distraction-free workspace to help you get the most out of your writing time.

Feed your creativity

If all we ever did was hide behind our computers and tap away at the keyboard we’d quickly run out of ideas for new stories. We need to get out into the world and have new experiences! I try to do something different once a month. Examples range from a day at the zoo or art museum to a few hours sitting in a coffee shop or park with my notebook while people watching and free-writing. I don’t use this time to work on any current work in progress. It is solely for creative flights of fancy.

All the “fun” money stuff

I’ll admit this made the bottom of the list because it’s something I tend to forget about until the last minute, but I’m going to change that this year. You may have heard about the new tax bill that passed recently, so it’s a really good time to talk to your accountant and figure out how the changes are going to affect you and your writing business. I also suggest figuring out what your expenses will be for the year – cover design, editing costs, marketing, etc. – so you can budget for it.

Most of these things are fairly simple to plan and I’d love to help you with them. Sign up for Stop Dreaming. Start Writing 1-1 coaching package to create a fool-proof writing plan for the year!

XO,
Jen

Top 6 Tips to Start Writing Your Book Today

I see you sitting at your desk, staring at the blank page of your word processor, trying to figure out how to turn the wisp of an idea in your head into a full-length novel. You know you have a masterpiece in you, if only you could figure out where to start.

Well, the simplest answer is to just start already! Just start typing. But you and I both know it’s not that easy. We writers are finicky folk who fool ourselves into thinking we can’t start if conditions aren’t absolutely perfect.

I hate to break it to you, but if that’s what you’re waiting for then you’ll never start writing your novel. You will never find the perfect conditions or the perfect time. So you may as well just give up now.

But you’re still here. You’re reading this post. That’s a good start. It shows me you really want to do this. And I’m here to help.

Read on for the top 6 tips to get started on your book today.

  1. Plan Your Story

    If you don’t have at least a loose plan for your novel, it will be 100 times harder to finish it. You don’t have to have an uber-detailed outline, but you do need to have a general idea of where the story is going to go. I like to free-write with pen and paper to figure this out, and then I come up with a loose outline of key events that need to happen in the story. The smaller details work themselves out as I write.

  2. Plan Your Characters

    Again, this doesn’t have to be super detailed. Characters will evolve with your story. No matter how fleshed out your character dossiers may be, there’s a good chance that they will change as you write and you’ll have to make tweaks during your edits. This is okay, but if you have no idea who your characters are, they will turn out completely 2-dimensional and boring. (Trust me, that’s what happened with the draft I just finished 2 weeks ago.)

  3. Set REASONABLE Goals

    Give yourself daily writing goals. This could be a set amount of time you will write (30 minutes per day), a word-count goal (500 words per day), or a page count goal (2 pages per day). Start low so you don’t get discouraged. If you find that 30 minutes is the absolute most time you get get each day to write, then go with that. Don’t force yourself to write more than is realistic – that’s the best way to burn out and never finish. You can always adjust your goals later if you want – and I mean adjust them up OR down, to fit your needs.

  4. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

    If you miss a day of writing, or just can’t manage to make your goal for the day no matter how long you sit or how hard you bang your head on the keyboard, walk away. There is no law that says if you miss 1 day you have to stop. In fact, if you miss a day, the most important thing is to KEEP GOING. Come back tomorrow and try again. Whatever you do, don’t quite just because you missed a day (or 5.)

  5. Schedule Writing Time

    Once you figure out what your daily goals are, write it on your calendar in pen. This time is now sacred to you. Do not skip your writing time for happy hour or a coffee date with your besties. Explain to people what you’re doing and why it’s important to you. BONUS: This also helps you determine who truly supports you and who are your fair-weather friends.

  6. Get Help

    The best way to get started is to have an accountability partner, someone to help you along the way, encourage you, and talk you through plot points that have you stuck. I’ve found that most people in my personal life aren’t exactly committed to this, and even if they want to help, they often don’t know how because they’re not writers themselves. That’s where Dream. Write. Sell. Author Coaching comes in. Sign up to get personal, 1-1 help and accountability every week.

Join the Dream. Write. Sell. Badass Writers, and be the first to get notified when new services are available. It’s almost January, and this will be the perfect holiday gift to yourself to help you make sure you actually write that book in 2018!

XO,
Jen

Don’t Write What You Know

 It’s one of the biggest cliches you’ll hear related to writing fiction – write what you know.

STOP IT

Please. For the love of books. Please stop writing what you know. Nobody wants to read about your daily life sitting in a cubicle all day, or the trials and tribulations of being a stay-at-home parent, or whatever mundane thing you know about. Nobody cares. I’m sorry to be the one who breaks it to you, but writing what you know will not sell books. Look at Tom Clancy – he worked in the insurance industry. (Then again, some suspect he had insider ties to the CIA, and no one knows where he got his military information, so maybe he really was writing about what he knew…but I digress.)

Anyway, if authors only wrote about what they know, why are there so many vampire and werewolf books, so many science fiction novels, so many books about elves and dwarves and wizards? (We can argue whether or not these things really exist till we’re blue in the face, but for the purpose of this post, let’s assume they don’t.)

I’m here to shatter this cliche. I’m here to tell you to write whatever the heck you want. Alright?

I want you to let your imagination run wild. Don’t limit yourself by only brainstorming ideas about things you’re familiar with. Go crazy! Want to write about a mermaid living in the clouds? Do it! Are you a female suburban office worker, but want to write about a teenage boy in the middle ages? Do it!

Here’s a secret THEY don’t want you to know – you can write anything you want, whether you know it or not.

Now, I’m not saying you CAN’T write what you know. Just make it interesting. Office life is boring. But add a healthy dose of corporate intrigue, the threat of prison, and a bit of romance, you just might have a bestseller on your hands. (Have you read Paranoia by Joseph Finder? I never knew it was possible to make corporate life so interesting to read about.)

On the other hand, look at John Grisham. (If you’re still a fan, I apologize – this is only my opinion.) His first several books were really good. He took courtroom drama and made it fascinating! But then, he started writing the same story over and over again, with a different cast of characters. Writing what he knew only took him so far before it got stale.

So dare to write something totally foreign to you. Yes, you still need to make the story authentic and believable. But get the story out. You can make it real in revisions. The important thing is to let your imagination run wild. Don’t trap it in a cage called The Daily Grind.

Now go write that fantastical story about pixies on a spaceship you’ve been thinking about all these years!

Happy writing,
Jen