For me, one of the hardest things about writing is figuring out which direction to take. In fiction, the possibilities are endless. When the hero or heroine can be any age, have any conceivable occupation, and any imaginable background, it’s hard to nail down just one.
Then there’s how they meet. Sometimes I have a clear idea of exactly how I want my characters to meet and what their backstory will be, but sometimes not. In my novel ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID, I drove myself, and probably my critique group, crazy with different scenarios of how Dani and Zack got together. First I had them as best friends, because I love friends-to-lovers stories, but it just didn’t work. Then I had them meet when Zack buys the house next door to Dani. Again, it didn’t feel right. After much soul searching, not to mention rewriting, I came up with the backstory that Dani and Zack had known each other for years, since university, because they were both connected to Chantal, Zack’s girlfriend and Dani’s friend at the time. But it wasn’t much more than a nodding acquaintance, and when the story opens they haven’t seen each other in years. Finally, the relationship felt right. But not without a lot of hair-pulling.
At times, I have the same trouble deciding which book, or series, to work on next. As I write this, I have four different contemporary manuscripts, or series, in various stages of completion. In addition, I’ve been dying to write another romantic suspense for a while. And I’ve had this idea for a novel set during World War Two that I’d love to tackle. But I don’t know which direction to take. In fact, I feel so confused that I’ve come to a crashing halt.
There are several things to consider. A few years ago when faced with the decision of what to write next, I would simply go with what appealed to me. But at this point in my career I have to think about what is publishable, and marketable. It has to be something that catches the attention of editors, and eventually readers. I’m thinking about seeking an agent, so I need to consider which project I’d like to pitch. Series are popular, since they have a built in audience – assuming readers are hooked on book one. That means writing not one book, but a minimum of three. There’s so much more at stake now. I don’t want to make the wrong decision.
When I have a problem figuring out which direction to turn in the actual writing of a book, I’ve got a couple of choices. I can consult with writing friends and my critique group and get their thoughts. Or I can actually write a couple of different scenes and see which one works best.
Perhaps I can employ the same method to decide what to write next. I plan to talk to friends and get their input. Maybe I’ll do some writing on a couple of projects and see what speaks to me. No matter what is marketable, I still need to feel excited about what I’m working on.
So fellow writers, how do you decide what to work on next? Do you go with your heart or your head? And readers, if you had your choice between a contemporary romance, a romance set in World War Two, a romantic suspense, or a time travel series, what would you want to read?