How do I choose between great ideas for writing?

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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How can you choose between great ideas for writing? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.


How can you choose between great ideas for writing? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode.

I have a question from Mark Baskin, a writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Here’s what he’s asked by email….

“I have a job but I want to write fiction in my spare time. I have at least three different ideas for novels and they all seem really good to me. So my question is: How do I choose between equally great ideas?”

Thanks for your query, Mark. You’re lucky to have such an embarrassment of riches. I know many other writers who would very much like to be in your shoes!

There are a couple of ways to approach your conundrum. One is to think about — and research — what agents and publishers are seeking right now. If your major goal is to get a publishing deal, you’ll need to give them something they want. 

In the show notes below I’m including a link to a Writer’s Digest piece on literary agents who are seeking new clients. It will only give you broad genres — like adult science fiction or literary fiction — but it may help you a little.

As well, try attending some writer’s workshops where you can interview —briefly — a few agents and gain more of an understanding of their needs. I have a client who landed a book deal this way.

That said, be aware it’s always difficult to predict the future — based on the past. Before J.K. Rowling introduced Harry Potter to the world in 1997, I don’t think anyone would have told you that wizards would be a hot commodity.

Ditto for vampires when Stephanie Meyer unleashed her first Twilight book in 2005. 

For these reasons, I’d actually suggest taking a different approach. Instead of trying to time the market, choose the idea that seems most appealing and fun to you

Why would this concept work?

Starting anything is hard enough. Without strong motivation, you’re probably going to find it difficult to keep going in view of the obstacles you’re likely to face.

Be aware that writing a book is going to take several years. Plural. A book needs to be at least 65,000 words and more like 70,000 to 80,000 if you’re hoping to see it published. Make sure you love your idea so much that you’re prepared to live with it for several years.

And once you’ve written it, you’re going to need to edit it, which will add on another couple of years of work. See? You REALLY need to love your idea.

But let’s say you have three ideas and you love them all equally. Then put them in a hat and draw one of them. Yes, that’s entirely arbitrary but if you really like all three ideas equally, you shouldn’t be wasting any more time!

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the entertainer Sammy Davis Jr

You always have two choices: commitment or fear.”

Mark, while it’s great to have more ideas than you really need, it’s possible that you’re using this situation as an excuse to avoid writing. Give yourself a time limit for thinking about which idea appeals the most to you. And if you don’t get an answer, choose arbitrarily. Then, start writing!


If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes. 


 20 literary agents actively seeking writers (Writer’s Digest) 

 Your Happy First Draft 

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