How to Figure Out Which Project to Work On.

It’s a brand new year, and for many, that means starting on a new project to match.  But if you’ve got a lot of ideas to choose from, it’s easy to get paralyzed by the wealth of options.  Stay paralyzed long enough, though, and you’ll get trapped in inertia… if you don’t choose, you don’t write.  No writing, no novels.

You get the picture.

So, how do you decide which project to work on?

Here are a few handy tips to help you figure that out.

1.  Make sure that you have a premise, not just a cool idea.

This is important.

A premise has a character who wants something, for important reasons, but faces sizable opposition to that desire.

A cool idea is just… well, a cool idea.

Look at your list of ideas.  Do you have characters that you feel strongly about?  Do you have a strong GMC for each?  GMC — Goal, Motivation, Conflict — is the key to creating a solid novel.

That said, if your list is just a bunch of “what if?” seedlings, see if they have the potential for characters with GMC.  If they’re just concepts — like “what if the Pope was actually a vampire?” or “what if you could time travel through your fridge?”– then you may want to keep them simmering.

2.  Does the idea match what you want from your writing career?

If you have several options with GMCs,  then you’ll move on to the second set of criteria: what do you want, and why. 

There are three different basic motives for writers:  recognition, income, and artistic control.  Granted, a lot of writers think that they’d like all three, and sure, that’d be awesome.  But at heart, one motive tends to overshadow the others.  (If you read Jump-Start Your Writing Career, the class you get when you sign up for the newsletter, I go into this in a bit more detail.)

If you want recognition, then you’ll probably want to choose the project that is the most remarkable — as in, most likely to be shared, remarked upon, etc.  Choose the most original and daring of your projects.  You don’t want something that’s only a little different from what’s out there already.  For example, if you’ve got a YA paranormal involving vampires and a YA involving a kid who burns up and is reborn on a monthly basis — go for the phoenix.

Of course, if you’re looking for recognition for audience building, with an eye towards making more sales, then your basic motive is probably income.  Income is different.  If that’s the case, you’re going to choose the project with an eye towards marketing.   That doesn’t mean jump on the safest thing, or the latest bandwagon.  This means that you’re looking at the long term. Pick the project in the genre you enjoy the most, one you can see yourself writing for a good long time.  If one of the projects is the start of a series, go for that.  If there’s something with a shorter word-count, something you’re sure you can finish relatively quickly, or something that agents and editors are clamoring for that fits in your wheelhouse and isn’t just a passing trend… that’s your huckleberry.

If artistic control is your touchstone, then look for the thing that scares the hell out of you.  That’s where the power is.  That’s the one with the juice.  And that’s the one that you absolutely ought to go for.

3.  What does your heart say?

If you’ve done all the logical decision making, and you’re still not sure, it’s time to shift over to intuition and the right brain.  Go with your gut.  In a meditative state, see which one feels the best to you.  do you have a certain excitement when you think of one over the others?  Are you drawn to one?

If all else fails, you can always flip a coin.  Not out of sheer randomness, though. If you flip a coin, odds are good you’re going to hope for one over the other when the coin is in mid-air.  Try it.  If you aren’t happy with the decision, or you find yourself saying “hmmmm, how about two out of three,” then go with the one you were hoping would win.

4.  Try “and” rather than “or.”

I have a particularly linear process — I don’t like to work on more than one project at a time.  That said, there’s no reason why you can’t work on both if your process allows it.  Or, you can set a time frame: say that you’ll work on project A, but only for two months.  At the end of two months, if you’re not done, you’ll shift to Project B.  That will give you good motivation to get some momentum going, and possibly get both ideas done.

What do you think?  Is there a process that you use to determine which project to work on next? 

Please re-tweet or share this on Facebook.  I’d love to hear feedback on people trying to pick a writing project!

7 Replies to “How to Figure Out Which Project to Work On.”

  1. Terrific checklist! I find myself going through a similar one at least once a year: too many ideas, too little time. But you are absolutely right about #3 – ultimately, you must go with your heart because only passion and a strong interest in your characters and the story will keep you going.

    I would also add my #1 question to myself when I have a new idea: is this a scene or a story? Sometimes a new idea/character seems like a story but it’s really just a scene.

    Thanks for the reminders~
    Leigh

  2. I enjoyed the coin-flipping method of “tricking” ourselves into knowing what we really want. 🙂

    and,

    I lo-ove this: “look for the thing that scares the hell out of you. That’s where the power is. That’s the one with the juice. And that’s the one that you absolutely ought to go for.”

    That’s what I want! (shivers) So you taught me something I didn’t know about myself, artistic control is my priority.

    Thanks for a great post.

    1. I think that, as deeply as we can delve into our characters’ motivations, so few of us really look at why we’re doing what we’re doing, you know? I’m glad that you liked the post… and I love that you’re writing! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *