You may (or may not) have noticed that my blogging has been slightly spasmodic lately. The reason for this is I’ve been a bit stuck for what to write about. So, in the end, I threw it open to you fellow writers on social media- what can I help you with? Pictured above is a screenshot of the first response I got.
Most writers struggle with the same problem- they have too many ideas. (This writer also mentions whether she should merge her two books or not. I’ll try to deal with that in a separate blog post.) Serious writers, the ones who finish things, know that they cannot drop their current project to go haring after each new idea. That’s why most of us have a notebook or file of ideas for books and stories, whether meticulously outlined or just a few scrawled pages. But what about when you’ve finished your work in progress and you’re ready to move on? For some of us, this can throw up an issue.
You can now choose one of your other ideas to work on. But which one? If you’re like me you could have as many as eight in your file. Or more! Sometimes they involve writing in different genres. And, even though we know we’ve done the right thing in putting it aside until we’ve finished our current project, the sad fact is that the frenzied excitement that often accompanies a new idea has usually evaporated. What’s left is a pretty much equal liking for all of them. Let’s face it, each idea is precious to us. So where do we start? Well, no one can tell you what to write next, but here are a few things to think about:
Firstly, does one of your ideas make more commercial sense than others?
For example, after the release of my first book, Victoria’s Victorian Victory, most of the reviews mentioned they would love a sequel. Well, in my file was a brief outline for a sequel, and it seemed sensible to keep the momentum going. So I started writing the sequel. I’m still writing it, and I’m feeding my newsletter subscribers a little information about it at a time, to whet their appetites. I feel that this will help grow my fan base more than branching out to something completely different right now.
What if your book is a standalone, though? There could still be some helpful pointers in reviews and sales as to what your audience wants from you next. Maybe your book is a thick, weighty volume. Or perhaps the nature of it means it’s quite expensive. You could think about producing a smaller, lighter read or a cheaper book, in order to entice more readers and create fans who will then be willing to commit to your other book. Even a small collection of short stories can help people decide if they enjoy your writing.
Or perhaps it’s the other way round. Maybe you’ve written a small, light book. With that book done, you may feel more confident and decide you want to expand into a more literary style. Maybe challenge your readers a bit more. Well, prepare your fans for that and give it a go.
Another thing to ask yourself is what type of book do you really want to be known for?
It’s all very well choosing a book with the commercial market in mind, but it also has to be something you really want to write. After all, chances are that you’re going to be spending quite a lot of the immediate future on this project. So yes, consider what your readers want from you, but don’t make that the only criteria.
Think back to when you first started writing. Did you see yourself as a prolific thriller writer, keeping your reader up at night, eyes popping as they feverishly turn the pages? Or did you imagine an armchair-reclining, brandy-sipping, slipper-wearing reader, enjoying your cosy murder mysteries and shaking their head over how clever you are? Or perhaps you wanted to be the sort of writer who wins literary accolades, that everyone reads because they should, but only a discerning few really understand? Or did you want to be a more active writer, giving lectures and demonstrations? Does that dream still awake a chord of desire in you? Then go for it! Write what will help you reach that destination.
Finally, if you really can’t choose between your ideas, try this simple exercise-
Come up with a first sentence for all your ideas. If you still don’t have a favourite, write the first paragraph. You should at least have been able to narrow it down by now. Keep going, first page, first chapter etc until you find the one which is flowing the best. Then write that!
Well, that’s how I choose what to write next. I hope you found it helpful. What do you do when you can’t decide which project to write?
Do you have a writing question I could help with? Leave a comment!