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After reading last week's post about how to come up with story ideas, maybe you've written down scraps of conversations between characters, pinned potential settings, have lists upon lists of book ideas, or perhaps you even have the bones of a story down on paper.
Now what? How do you decide which story is THE story?
Although there's no right or wrong answer, our crew put our heads together to come up with some tips to help you out.
Read on for three questions to ask yourself before you jump into writing your next SNI (Shiny New Idea):
1. Do I have a plot?
Look critically at your story idea. Beyond great characters, or the creepiest setting ever, do you have a plot? Does your story have a beginning and an end, and juicy conflicts for your main characters?
A great exercise is to write out the synopsis of your story. A synopsis is a brief summary of the plot of your book.
Want to learn more about how to write a synopsis? Here are a few resources to check out:
- YA Author Elana Johnson's synopsis-writing tips (great for newbies!)
- How to Write a Synopsis by Glen C. Strathy
- Susan Dennard on how to write a 1-page synopsis (with a Star Wars example - you're welcome)
Curly McGee (a.k.a. G. Myrthil)
If after letting an idea simmer, I can't get it out of my head, I know it's worth pursuing. I've also started writing query pitches for every story before I start writing it. It's essentially a few paragraphs about the plot, like what you'd see in a query or on the back of a book. If I can't get it to sound compelling and hook-y, I know that means the concept needs more work. I also prefer to plot, so getting that plot down before starting is a must.
If you can write a synopsis for your SNI, then it passes the first test. But wait, there's more!
2. Is the story idea compelling to me?
You've written the synopsis for your story idea - or even just the plot basics - but does that mean you should start writing? Um, no.
Starting a new book-length project is a commitment. You have to plot and plan, draft, then revise, revise, revise. Not only do you want to pick a story that stands up to the plot test, but you also want to pick the stories you find compelling.
Jas Ketch, Siren of the Seychelles (a.k.a Kris F. Oliver)
That’s a really tough one for me. I want to write EVERYTHING. Choosing is hard. Usually, I end up going with the project that I can’t get out of my head. The one that keeps me up at night thinking about it. The one that will interfere with everything else until I start writing it. Often, it’s not the project I “should” be working on. It’s just the one that speaks to me the loudest.
Guppy Guts Skullcracker (a.k.a. Heidi Sinnett)
Usually, my next project picks me, something I've been thinking about for a while. My brain needs a long time to process a new story, but it starts working out the idea while I'm working on the end of something else. I usually know I'm finished when I just can't wait any longer to start the new project.
Do you get excited when you think about this story? Does it make you itch to start writing? Or are you already a little ... bored by the idea? It's okay. We've all been there.
That initial sparkle-filled enthusiasm may wear off, but if you're not even a little excited when you start, then this SNI might not be so shiny. Skip it, and look for a story idea you *can't wait* to write.
3. Am I ready to write it?
At a writing workshop, I chatted with a writer who wrote Contemporary YA, but was thinking about a new idea for a Fantasy. Something she said stuck with me. It was something like, "I am so freaking excited to write this book, but I know I'm not ready."
Up to that conversation, I'd never thought about being ready to write a story, but I'm familiar with it now. VERY familiar. ;)
I've written a couple of drafts I simply wasn't ready to write, and I would have saved myself a lot of time (and painful writing/not writing sessions) had I waited, given the story more time to develop, and done a little more planning and preparation.
Bonny Kitty Cutlass (a.k.a Kathryn Holmes)
Oh, sigh. I *wish* I had a horde of beautiful ideas waiting in the wings at all times! But I have discovered that I'm pretty much a one-book-at-a-time writer. I tend to mull over an idea for a LONG time (usually while editing the previous book) before sitting down to first-draft. What this leads to is me constantly thinking I've run out of ideas—and then finally coming up with that next "germ."
Dread Pirate B. (a.k.a. Bridgid Gallagher)
When I first started writing, I got burned a number of times because I jumped into writing stories I simply wasn't ready to write. If I'm not ready to write the story - either there aren't enough bits and pieces or I don't have the skill or ability to do the idea justice - then writing WON'T happen. It'll feel like pulling teeth, and really, it means that idea needs to return to my mental back burner. The faster you can see and accept that a story isn't ready (or that you're not ready to write it), the better - you'll waste less time and avoid burnout. (P.S. I'm still working on this!)
So, before you jump into your plot-test approved, compelling story idea, ask yourself if you're ready to write it.
Now it's your turn: How do you decide which story idea to work on next? Is there another question you'd add to this list?