Where Do I Go From Here?

sampd60c52d916a7029bFor 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.

alwaysab_epubAt 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?


Where Do I Go From Here? — 8 Comments

  1. I’m the worst person in the world to ask this question, Jana. I have so many books in various stages of completion and I’m working on books in three different series. Ugh! I’m notorious for starting a new project when what I really should be doing is completing one of the one’s I’m already working on. Maybe we’ll both get some answers. :-)

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I need to decide which project is the best to move my career forward, while still being exciting for me to work on. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do!

  2. You’re not alone. I have lots of books in various stages of completion, too. Right now it’s easy for me to decide what to work on because I have some contract deadlines looming.

    One things I can suggest is that if you have a <3 project you're dying to work on, but feel you shouldn't because of career or deadline issues, try setting aside one hour or one day a week to work on it. I've done this and found it not only made a refreshing change of pace, but also enabled me to complete a novel I didn't 'have time' for.

    • I really like your idea, Nicole. Holly Jacobs spoke of a similar thing on this blog a while back. She called her side projects her “Sunday Projects” because she mainly worked on them on Sundays after all her contracted work was done, and she wrote them because they were fun and different. I usually immerse myself in a novel and have a hard time writing two novels at the same time, so I’m not sure if this will work for me, but I’m intrigued enough to give it a try!

  3. I’m with Reese. I have two series begging to be written. One is an historical western, not as marketable but something different and I want to do something different. I’ve written some on that one. The other is a sexy contemporary series, which came to me during a recent vacation with my dh. I’ve practically written the first book doe that series in my head. Currently more marketable. But for the time being I have to finish the book I’m working on!

    • So when you’re finished with the book you’re writing now, will you go with what is marketable, or will you write the books of your heart? That’s what I’m struggling with at the moment. Let me know what you decide to do.

  4. As old as I am, I feel like a new kid now. For the first time, I’m actively trying to work up a series. Even though I’m excited about it, I’m also–God, I hate to admit this–scared. Because I don’t know how to write the proposal, don’t know if I’ll get bored halfway through book two, don’t know if I can sell the whole idea. Etc., etc., etc….

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone in uncertainty as to what’s next! Great post, Jana.

    • I hear you, Liz. Believe it or not, it took me seven years to finish my first series because I let doubt stand in my way. I’m determined not to let that happen again! Hang in there!

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