It happens to all of us.
A brilliant story idea takes root in your heart, soul, and mind. We spend day and night thinking about it, making up characters and dreaming up the setting. We imagine the magic system, the monsters, the battles. We frivolously scribble down the plot and create backstories for our characters. Then, depending on our creation process, we sit down, ready to write.
We write. And write, and write.
We make it a good distance until another idea comes.
We set the first story aside to work on the second one. The same cycle applies. We then find ourselves with a third idea, perhaps a fourth. All of them are good, all of them seem like they would be good fun to write. However, it’s tricky to write all of them at once.
I mean, we could technically do that. But for those writers (like me) who can only focus on one story at a time, how do you select the right story that you can manage to push to the end? How do you set the others aside for the time being and not let the overwhelming urge to explore those get to you? How do you keep all of those ideas from driving you crazy while you draft just one?
The too-many-ideas syndrome keeps many writers from getting ahead in their work and finishing a book. Below, I discuss some tactics that have worked for me in quieting the voices on the stories in my lineup that are not currently being written.
Write the story that feels the most right to where you are in your writing journey.
Whether you are publishing or writing just for yourself, there will probably be one idea that seems the right fit for your creative goals. If you are publishing, consider the traction you’ve gained with your audience, readership expectations, and the continuation of a series if you’re deep into writing one. If you’re able to play around some, then choosing an idea that seems off the cuff might be the right fit for where you are in your goals.
As an indie author, I consider my readership first and foremost. I’m still pretty new at this publishing gig and trying to gain traction in my genre. Therefore, it’s a bit more challenging for me to write books outside of it since I tend to reach readers that are not normally part of my audience. I love to write fantasy and paranormal romance but do so infrequently (for now) because I aim to reach my historical romance readers first.
But let’s say that you’re still new to writing and you have a million ideas swimming in your head. Narrowing it down to one or two stories that seem appropriate to your skill level and understanding of storytelling would be the most helpful. Only you can decide which those would be.
Write the story idea that most moves you.
And, I would argue, is also challenging. We need to grow in order to feel fulfilled in our craft. The way we do this is by writing stories with characters and plots that intrigue us. Theme and setting are also elements to consider. Often, I sift through my story ideas by connecting with the time period I want to write next in, which theme to focus on that matches well with the characters and the era. This part is great fun and it helps to sit down with meaningful focus to figure out what your creative self desires.
Far as the difficulty level goes, a story that will push you to be a better writer is always a good idea. If you’re weak on endings, perhaps select a story idea that will challenge you on that front. If the middle parts of your books need some rescue, a story with a strong plot can help alleviate that point of weakness in your craft. Either way, choosing the idea that seems the most exciting will come via your intuition. This leads me to the following point below.
Write the story that you can finish.
There are some story ideas that are never meant to be books. Some are just fancies of the imagination or inspiration from other works, which is a good thing but attempting to write a story that you are not crazy about might guarantee that you never finish the manuscript.
Books are hard to write. A lot has to happen all at once to keep the reader entertained. If you’re writing a story that is…meh…then powering through to the finish, which is a crucial part of the process, may not occur. Select the idea that feels the strongest intuitively and creatively; the one that you know you can finish with some effort. If it doesn’t feel exciting (yet) then set it aside for now.
While you are drafting your main idea, you can always plot another, or create the characters, world, and magic systems. Just because you are focusing on writing one book doesn’t mean that you can’t dive into another idea that you are also curious about. I do this often and it helps me decide what to write next, plus it’s a good way of stimulating the creative juices on days that I don’t want to write.
Working on another idea outside of the writing stage also helps with productivity for when the time to write comes. By then, you’ll have explored that second idea enough to know whether it can become a book or not, the length of that book and whether it’ll add to your brand.
Line ‘em up.
I have a file on my computer with a list of ideas that I want to write for the next year. I make a new list every December. This helps to keep me organized and assures that I’ll never run out of ideas.
Having a list or notebook where you keep your story ideas will go a long way into helping you not only stay organized but look back to see how far you’ve come along on your writing journey. How many of those ideas have you written? Which ones fizzled out and which ones made it to the end? It’s fun referring back to see your progress and how strong you have become as a writer.
So, how have you managed to organize several ideas and select the right one to write? What tactics or process do you use to remain productive? I would love to read your comments below!