Aspiring authors have asked me how I decide what to work on next when new ideas keep popping into my head. Because I’m always working on something, new ideas end up on the back burner. This is good, because it gives me time to think about them. Some ideas come and go. Others stick around, reminding me that they are a story waiting to be told. Only, they do have to wait until I finish whatever it is I’m writing, be it a first draft or the revisions to another story. I use this time to get to know the characters who are merely a spark waiting to be explored. When I finally sit down and start writing this now familiar idea I have at least one scene pretty well played out in my mind. It ends up being my starting point to the journey into new lives and worlds, even if it’s not the first chapter of the book.
But what happens when more than one idea is speaking to me? Which story gets my attention?
The first thing I do is take out a few sheets of loose-leaf paper and I give each one a title. This is usually the basic plot point for an idea summed up in a word or two. When I’m done I have a separate sheet of paper for each potential story.
Next I write what I know about each of these ideas: genre, characters, what they are facing, what they must overcome, who their friends are, and as much about the MC as I can. Then I start to ask what if. I follow the guidelines I talked about in my previous post, Kick Start an Idea.
Sometimes I find my stories overlap and I can combine them. Other times I realize that Story A is more developed in my mind and the best story to work on. And then there are the times I discover which story I’m most passionate about. How do I know? It’s the story that had me grabbing more paper because one sheet just wasn't enough. I know that it’s the story that is begging to be told now.
If you have any tips on how you decide what to work on, I’d love to hear them.