by Lillian Csernica on August 28, 2017
You’ve got two or more ideas in your head, fighting for your attention, demanding to be written.
What do you do? How do you prioritize them? Maybe you really can write more than one story at once, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Everybody’s got a process. It’s good to know and respect your own. If you’re still somewhat new to writing narrative fiction, you might want to concentrate on one story at a time.
But again, which one?
The answer depends on knowing exactly what you want.
Are you after the money? Go with the idea that’s most marketable.
Are you out to make a statement or address an issue? Go with the idea that really sets your heart on fire, be it with anger, grief, or joy.
Do you have what seems like a really cool idea but you’re all caught up in the worldbuilding and you can’t seem to make the characters behave and there’s all this research? Let that one sit. It sounds like it might be a novel. If you don’t have enough experience yet from writing short stories, writing a novel might be biting off more than you can chew. Do I know this from personal experience? Oh yes.
When you get to the stage where you see ideas everywhere, that’s when you have to adjust your own settings as a writer. By doing so, you’ll be able to concentrate on the ideas that show up most strongly on the radar of your imagination.
How do you adjust those settings? Ask yourself these questions:
Do you have a deadline to meet? If there’s a submission window open and it has a firm deadline, that movies it up the priority list.
Is the idea time-sensitive? Seasonal themes often require submitting the story several months in advance, so keep an eye on guideline updates.
Do you have a particular word limit in mind? It might seem obvious to think flash fiction can be written in a shorter time frame than a novella. Shorter is often harder, because every word has to do that much more work. If you have more than one work-in-progress, the time factor is an important consideration.
Will Idea A yield benefits that outweigh the costs of time, effort, marketing, etc.?
What else could you be doing instead of developing Idea A into a story? Maybe Idea B would yield more in the way of benefits long term.
If you want your writing to be more than a few random thoughts jotted in a personal journal while sipping a latte in the local coffeehouse, then this kind of analysis is very important. It may seem too cold and clinical to evaluate a creative effort in these terms, but hey, life is short. Make hay while the sun shines or the storms will come and all that hay will rot in the field. All that opportunity will be lost.
Regardless of which priority you choose, once you have settled on a project, there is one ironclad rule: