This advice comes from Elizabeth S. Craig, and it is twofold:
1. For folks who aren't sure what to write about, here are a few points to mull over ...
Your own interests, as a reader: What do you naturally lean toward when writing or reading? Which genre? What do you think you’d most enjoy writing? We have to spend a long time with a book—we need to enjoy the process and pour that love of writing into the book. Which story would you enjoy telling the most?2. Let's say you have ideas, lots of ideas! How do you decide which one to work on?
Analytics of the genre: In that genre, what are some of the factors that make it a good read? Humor, action, strong characters, magical powers, three murder victims, etc.? As a reader, what do you enjoy most about the genre?
Market saturation: Is there an area or subgenre that is currently saturated? Or does it seem like the readers are avidly buying the books as fast as they are written, even if it IS saturated? (Vampires and zombies come to mind.)
Book length: What is the length of most of these books? Have you got an idea that you can develop into that length? Is your idea too broad and can’t fit into one book? Book length, of course, is also going through a change with the digital trend—but you still want to shoot for the right ballpark. Editing a trilogy out of a single book can be a bear.
What are publishers of this genre looking for currently? If you’re going traditional, who represents and publishes this genre? Go online and see what kinds of things they might be asking for on their submissions page.
Protagonist: Which protagonist can carry my story better? Which is better-developed? Does one have more opportunity for internal conflict? Does one have ample growth potential?Elizabeth concludes:
Characters: Which project has secondary characters that are more appealing? Which create depth for my protagonist by interacting with him/her? Which may be a villain that readers will love to hate?
Plot: Which storyline can I easily picture? Which one has more conflict and more depth?
Time: Is there a story that requires more research than another? How much time do I have for the project? How long would I, ideally, prefer to spend on a single project?
Market: Which story will appeal to a greater number of readers? Which has more of a hook to sell to a publisher? Or…which has the better hook for a direct-to-reader/self pubbed book?
Series potential: This may be genre-book specific---but is there a story that lends itself to more than one novel?
Again, y’all, this is all in the for-what-it’s-worth category. And…another important thing to remember is that we shouldn’t have our whole writing career riding on one book. The fear of failure has got to be a huge factor in this writer hesitation when choosing an idea. The important thing about failure is dusting ourselves off, learning what it was that we did poorly, and writing another—better—book. Better because we failed or didn’t meet our own expectations. It’s killed me when a couple of great writers that I know have completely given up writing when their books didn’t do as well as they hoped. We’ve got to keep on going.Elizabeth's entire article can be read here: Writing for an Audience/ the Marketplace. A list of her books is here.
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Photo credit: Johan Doe