What’s the best problem a writer can have? Too Many Ideas Syndrome (TMIS).
TMIS is the opposite of writer’s block. It’s that sensation when you have so much inspiration, you feel overwhelmed. What story should I write next? Which would be the most fun? Which would my readers like?
I can’t answer those questions for you … but I can give you strategies to make your own decisions. Read on for methods to help you choose which idea to pursue and how to stay loyal to that idea when more inspiration comes calling.
5 Ways to Choose a Story Idea
First things first, start by writing all of your ideas down. You don’t have to use detail, just create a simple list so you can see exactly what you’re working with. You might have more (or fewer) separate ideas than you thought.
1. Go with your passion
When you look through your list, there will probably be an idea that calls out to you more strongly than the others. If you’re writing for a hobby or aren’t married to a particular genre or series, pursue this idea. (Let’s be honest: it’s what you want to do anyway.)
2. Go with your business
If you are writing for your career (and have an established series or genre), then the most logical decision is to write the project that fits with your other books. Your audience will be most comfortable reading a similar story, and you’ve already proven to yourself that you can write that style. Confidence and business win!
3. Combine ideas
More than likely, there will be two ideas or concepts on your list that could go together. Consider which ideas fit in similar genres or have connecting themes. How could you take the best elements from both and make them into one story?
4. Leave it to chance
Seriously, get out a coin or put all your ideas in a hat and see what happens. When the moment to reveal the winning idea comes, you might just realize which one you were actually hoping would win (hint: pick this idea!). If you are 100% indifferent or torn, then accept the verdict and get writing!
5. Talk through your ideas
Sometimes, explaining your ideas aloud can show you which ones are strong and which have less potential. You could do this with yourself, a friend, or (ideally) someone who represents your target audience. Word of warning: make sure you tell your listener whether you want feedback and/or what type of feedback to give. Too much criticism at this early stage can crush your enthusiasm for a great idea.
5 Strategies to Prevent Distraction From New Ideas
Once you have finally settled on an idea, you need to stick with it. Unless you have the time and creative energy to write multiple books at once (lucky duck!), you must avoid the siren call of tempting new projects. How do you do this?
1. Write down your idea
Again, record your shiny new idea wherever you gather inspiration. Sometimes, just acknowledging the idea and promising to return to it later is enough to quiet your mind.
2. Put it on the calendar
If you have a production schedule (even a tentative one) and you think your new idea has potential, give it a slot on your calendar. Knowing that you can explore it after you finish other projects will be great motivation to finish your current works-in-progress.
3. Start researching
While you might not want to write two stories at once, there’s no reason you can’t start researching or outlining your new idea. This allows you to play with the idea, without letting it distract from your creative work. Just don’t let this take away from your writing time!
4. Work on it in your “off” time
Whatever writing project is top of your list should say there. However, if you meet your word count goal for the day, there’s no harm in starting your new idea in your “free” time. Again, though, do not let this new story derail your current work-in-project.
5. Use it in a different form
If you make art in another media (painting, music, etc.), could you incorporate an aspect of your idea in that facet of your creative life? By doing this, you’ll explore the idea and give into your passion without taking away from your writing time.
Though these strategies can help you choose a story idea and prevent distraction from new ideas, ultimately, you have to trust your gut. You are the writer. You are the artist. And only you know what stories are best for your creative life and your audience. Trust yourself, work hard, and no matter which idea you choose, you’ll rock it!
How do you choose which writing projects to pursue? Have you ever felt torn between story ideas? Share your tips and experiences in the comments!