After finishing my YA Thriller, I couldn’t help but wonder what book project I was going to write next. Like so many writers, I have a million ideas floating around in my head. Some are small snippets of dialogue, others are entire scenes, or characters. But with so many ideas, it can be difficult to choose which book project to actually tackle next.
What if this one idea isn’t good enough?
What if I’m not a good enough writer to tackle this project?
What if one turns out to be a lot harder to write than I thought?
What if I hate everything I write?
What if I get bored halfway through and want to work on this other idea?
The self-doubt can be crippling, but there comes a point where you have to make a decision and stick to it. So how do you do it? How do you choose which project to work on next?
Step #1: Write Them All Down
Write down every idea, small or large. Seeing it written down can give you a clearer picture of what exactly you’re working with. You’ll be able to see what ideas are more fleshed out, versus the ones that still need time to marinate. Sometimes, an idea just needs a little while longer to sit in your brain and develop.
For me, when I’m ready to tackle a new project, this is the first thing I do. It gives me a clear view of every idea currently in my head, no matter how simple or complex it is.
A few examples of what I have right now:
1.) Beauty and the Beast Retelling – with a twist
2.) Vampire Huntress Idea
3.) Beauty Guru Thriller Idea
4.) YA Fantasy Thief Idea
5.) YA Secret Project Idea
6.) Adult Sci-Fi Idea
These are examples of exactly what I have written in the notes app on my phone. They might not say a lot, but to me, there’s a premise to each idea. I currently have nine story ideas written down, and each one has a different premise. But likewise, each one is in a different stage of development.
Step #2: Think About Them
Once you have your ideas written down, take a step back and just think on them. Which ones are you finding yourself more excited to write? Which ones do you have more ideas for? Which ones are you clearly seeing the characters, the world, the stakes, etc.?
The more you really sit back and look at each idea, the easier it’ll be to tell which ones are actually ready to be written. Like I said before, sometimes an idea needs more time to develop in your mind before it’s ready to be written. Really taking the time to step back and think about each idea, and how ready it is, is incredibly beneficial.
Step #3: Check the Market
Like everything in this world, trends in publishing come and go. Knowing the market – and what is selling and what isn’t – can help you decide which project to work on next. For example, vampires made their big splash with the release of Twilight, the House of Night series, and Vampire Academy over a decade ago. Since then, vampires and werewolves have had a hard time selling. Knowing this, my Vampire Huntress idea – as passionate as I am to work on it – isn’t the best project to pursue right now.
The same can be said for a lot of other ideas. YA Dystopia came and went with books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, and has been struggling to make a comeback. Knowing the market is incredibly beneficial to every author, and can really help you make certain choices on what to write next.
Step #4: Narrow it Down
After you’ve taken the time to reflect on all of your ideas, and pay attention to the market, it should become clear which ones are more developed than others. For some, everything will jump out at you: the characters, the conflict, the stakes, while other ideas may not jump out at all. This is where it’s time to narrow down your ideas into which ones are more ready.
Going back to my previous example above, I have six ideas I’ve pulled out to show you. Out of all of them, only three ideas are more developed, and some aren’t worth pursuing right now, due to market trends.
1.) YA Fantasy Thief Idea
2.) YA Secret Project Idea
3.) Adult Sci-Fi Idea
These three ideas have all had time to develop in my brain. The Adult sci-fi idea I actually got over a year ago and began actively working on, before I decided to tackle another project. The thief idea I’ve had in my brain for over six months. The secret project idea came to me out of the blue, and has been actively picking at my brain to be worked on. The point is – with all three of these ideas, I know the bare bones for the start of the story: The who, what, when, where, and why.
The other three ideas? I still have hardly any clue about the conflicts, stakes, or characters, and that lets me know that they still need time to rest and develop.
Step #5: Daydream
Once you’ve narrowed down your ideas, let your mind wander. Think about the ideas and your brain will do the rest. Over time, more ideas will begin to form. A more concrete plot will take shape. Subplots will begin to fill themselves in. Your characters will begin to take on lives of their own. And one idea will really begin to stand out amongst the rest.
This one idea – or maybe two or three – will start to call to you, to tell you it’s ready.
Step #6: Ask Yourself the Hard Questions
From the initial developing of an idea, to the writing, revising, and editing of a new project, we may be with it for months, or even years. As writers, we spend countless hours with our ideas, plots, and characters, and sometimes when choosing your next project, you’ll have to ask yourself the hard questions.
Do I feel confident in my writing abilities to tackle this project?
Do I feel passionate about this project?
Is this the novel I would want to debut with?
Am I willing to put the time and effort into this project?
Is there anything holding me back from writing this project?
Do I feel emotionally ready to tackle the themes of this project?
If you find yourself hesitating on any of these – you or your idea may not be ready yet. And that’s okay. Sometimes we need to be in the right headspace, or emotional state, to really tackle something we’re trying to say.
Step #7: Listen to your Heart – but Don’t Wait For Your Muse
Once you’ve completed the previous steps, one idea, or several, may be screaming at you that it’s time to be written. It’s time to sit down and plot that idea out, or just begin pantsing your way through it. I’m sure all of us writers have experienced this – when one idea is just screaming at you, and has its grip on your soul, and you know there’s nothing you can do but sit down and write it.
But the most important thing: Don’t wait for your muse.
I recently learned this the hard way. I was giving myself a break from writing, and actively thinking about my next projects, when I realized I had been sitting around waiting for ideas to spring into my head. I was waiting for plots to write themselves. I realized I had to get up and actively develop my plots and tackle my ideas. It can be fun for a while to sit around and daydream, and think of all your ideas, but there comes a point when you have to choose one, sit down, and work on it until it becomes a novel.
Whether it’s one project you’re working on, or three (like me!), the most important thing to do is start something and stick to it. Find an idea you’re passionate about, and keep working on it, no matter how hard it gets.
Choosing a new idea is never easy. But it’s important to choose a project you’ll feel passionate about working on. By finding that one idea and sticking to it, you’ll not only improve as a writer and creator, but you’ll fall in love with a brand new story you’ve created, and there’s nothing quite like it.
Do you have a different method for choosing your next book project? Let me know!
XOXO – Devon