Knowing which ideas to write: How-to

I always get far more ideas than I will ever have time to write. In the last year alone I’ve had the ideas for an epic fantasy series (the Winter series I’ve already begun), the plots for the second and third book in the Sherdan series, two more sci-fi ideas, a modern romance/mystery idea, an idea for how I can work a true story in the Mountifield history into a novel, and three fantasy ideas on top of the series. That’s twelve books worth of ideas.

In the same time (a year), I’ve finished writing sherdan’s Prophecy, written two fantasy shorts, begun the Winter series, the trafficking novel idea I already had and the sequel to Sherdan’s Prophecy, Sherdan’s Legacy. So I’ve added eleven ideas and only actually fully crossed off two, although I’ve got another three in the stage of ‘in progress’. So in total, sitting in my notebook I have: Seven fantasy books, five historical, three modern romances, and four sci-fi waiting for me to consider them and three started. For a total of at least another twenty-two stories! That’s about ten years worth of writing at my current rate, if I don’t get any more ideas in that time!

The biggest problem I have when I reach the end of a book is figuring out which one of these many ideas I should start next. Admittedly some are better than others. Some of the historical ones will probably never get written, but the charge still falls to me to pick the right one. My husband says I get so many ideas because I get the privilege of choosing the ones to actually create. There are days when this can feel like more of a burden than a privilege, however.

I also know I’m not the only one. Other writers share this problem. So I thought I’d share some things I do and use to figure out what to write next.

Which one is easiest to write? Some ideas sound amazing until you actually think about the logistics of the plot or the motivations of the character or where you wish to begin and suddenly the idea’s not quite well formed enough to actually begin yet, and it might never be. I prefer to leave these ideas in the melting pot. Sometimes the best bits pop up again later in other ideas anyway. So I tend to look through and think over which ones I could start without too much effort. That eliminates some from the next pile.

Which ones are going to sell best? Let’s face it, some of our ideas are just right to jump on a bandwagon and this can be a good thing sometimes. I will admit. It’s rare for me to pick a book because of this factor, but it can play a part. I prioritise the sequels of a series already on the go over other ideas simply because it keeps the fans happy and does tend to sell better. It’s important to keep fans happy, especially the ones from early on in a career, who gobbel up the books and eagerly ask for more.

Which ones are the most original? Some ideas are pretty much a rehash of old ideas in a new setting and while these can be great easy books to write to bulk up the backlist they aren’t always rewarding and can feel a little like a cop out. Something that feels original and fresh can be very rewarding to both author and readers alike. While occasionally a risk they can suddenly take a career in a brand new unthought of direction.

Which ones are the most exciting? It can take a long time to write a novel and writing the ones that give us the maximum excitement can help get through the tougher moments in the process. If our heart is most passionate about a particular few ideas then they are likeliest to be well written and to be loved through the full journey from plotting to publishing.

Which ones feel right? After I’ve gone through the above set of questions I often find I still have two or three on my list of books to possibly write. At that point I let them circulate in my brain for a few days and try to ‘feel out’ which one would be right to write next. Usually I’m led to one over the rest.

But since I’m in a sharing mood. Here’s a few ideas that might get written in the next little while or might not.

Sci-Fi – A female is woken from a coma to find her business partner has used all her companies and wealth to get their business holdings and houses into the sky, as that’s what everyone left on earth is trying to do. Dwellings are built that are added to and eventually turned into spaceships. But her business partner stuffed things up and not long after getting into space he gets captured by a space pirate who turns him into a cat and keeps him as a pet. She wakes up to find her companies in a mess and has to sort them out, get on a spaceship’s crew and go rescue him. She quickly works her way up to captain of a trading vessel and uses it to go fetch him, making a deal with the pirate for him.

Modern Romance/Mystery – A widow is applying for a new job and is hired by a wealthy bureaucrat who is trying to gain his inheritance from his rich father. He needs to move the historical and grade listed family home. She is hired as an office junior to help get his companies and his house through the move but the current office employees take a dislike to her and blame her for all the mistakes they make. She manages to find all sorts out about the house and even finds forgotten secret passages. She ends up dating him and finds him a fortune and they take over the world, sorta!

Fantasy – Choose your own adventure Dragon Steampunk. Young man works as a servant in a large household. He feeds and looks after the two adolescent dragons in the cellar. Dragons power the steam powered technology of an otherwise Victorian era civilisation. A bit like how to train your own dragon but steampunk.

And yes I do really want the box on the right. So pretty!

Well there’s three of the nineteen ideas still waiting for me to decide to write them. Maybe one day I’ll write them. Of course I fully believe in keeping the fans happy so if anyone preferes one of them over the others, feel free to say and let me know what you’d like me to write.

A female is woken from a coma to find her business partner has used all her companies to get their patch of earth into the sky as that’s what everyone left on earth is trying to do. Dwellings are built that are added to and eventually turned into spaceships but her business partner stuffed things up and not long after getting into space he gets captured by a space pirate who turns him into a cat and keeps him as a pet. She wakes up to find her companies in a mess and has to sort them out, get on a crew and go rescue him. She quickly works her way up to captain of a trading vessel and uses it to go fetch him, making a deal with the pirate for him. She then quite literally tries to take over everything and help the people back on earth.

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