by Renea Guenther @ReneaGuenther
If you’re anything like me, at this point you may have turned several ideas into strong premises.
They all seem interesting, or you wouldn’t have taken the time to write them down. So, which one should you spend the next several weeks (or months) writing?
You don’t want to be halfway through the novel, only to lose interest and set it aside for something else. After all, if you’re not interested, your readers won’t be either.
I can’t tell you how many novels I have stopped writing and set aside because I lost interest or gave up because I didn’t know what came next.
This usually happens because I skip part of the planning process and don’t want to start over.
With each story I set aside, I learn a new question to ask before starting a new one.
For each premise I write, I ask myself these questions. Whichever story ranks the highest is the story I choose to write.
Feel free to tailor these to your own situation or come up with new ones.
1. Does the story excite you?
If the story doesn’t hold your interest, how can you expect it to keep your readers’?
You must be excited to see how each part of the story unfolds.
If you aren’t, then more than likely you’ll end up moving on to something more interesting, leaving the book unfinished and wasting time that should have been put toward a project you could finish.
2. Is the concept big enough to write a story?
You must have plenty of conflict to carry your story through to the end. If you don’t, your story will be over in a matter of pages.
Readers expect things to get in the way of your characters reaching their goals.
Every time it looks like they might succeed, something should stand in their way. They should watch the goal slip through their fingers time and time again.
For every step forward, they should be forced to take two steps back, until it feels as if all hope is lost.
Then, and only then, should they find the courage to do the impossible (or something they’ve been trying to avoid), reaching their goal and ending the story.
The better the conflict and stakes are interwoven, the better the story, and the more fulfilling for your readers.
3. Is it unique in some way?
It’s been said there are no new ideas. All the old movies being remade lately is evidence of that.
But that doesn’t mean every story is the same. If they were, there wouldn’t be any point in writing.
With the majority of the world exposed to the same ideas, you’ll find authors with books similar to yours.
Don’t worry. They didn’t steal your idea. We’re all exposed to same movies, books, and Internet. So, it’s bound to happen.
So, with so many similar stories out there, how do we make ours stand out?
Give your idea a unique spin. What hasn’t already been done with this idea?
Perhaps you can work it into a different genre or world. Maybe your magic might work differently than expected. The sky’s the limit.
Example: Instead of a hero prophesied to save the world, perhaps he’s meant to destroy it instead. Or a science fiction story is modified to fit within the fantasy genre.
4. Will it grab readers’ interest?
There are no guarantees on how a book might perform, but we can try to gauge interest.
We can look at the rankings of similar books on Amazon. The lower the number, the bigger the audience.
And we can write books we would buy if we were the reader. If it interests us, there’ll be others it will interest as well.
A combination of the two will help you decide whether to go forward with the idea or not.
5. Does it have enough conflict to satisfy the plot?
It should never be easy for your characters to reach their goals. If it is, then you need to look at your story and see what obstacles you can put in their way for them to overcome.
You should make them work for it. The harder it is to reach the goal, the more satisfying it will be for your characters and readers once they finally succeed.
So, throw as much at them as you can. But keep it realistic to the story.
6. Do the stakes keep your readers invested in your character(s)?
Your readers should be able to picture what it would feel like to be in your characters’ shoes.
The best way to ensure this is to use things common to human existence—the loss of a loved one, theft of belongings, death.
Anything your reader can picture happening to themselves can provide an emotional connection to your characters.
7. Are your characters interesting and relatable?
Even if your character has the most boring occupation in the world, they should still do interesting things, whether they chase every woman they meet, tell jokes, find themselves in trouble every time they turn around, or whatever you want to use.
Just be sure to choose something the readers can picture and will grab their attention.
8. Is it capable of being a series?
Not every book is capable of being a series. But those that are have a better chance of gaining a readership that might carry over to other books or series.
Dedicated readers lead to more money in the long run.
9. How much demand is there for this idea?
Demand ebbs and flows. Readers might like werewolves and vampires now, and in ten years might prefer epic space wars.
There will always be readers, no matter the story, but knowing what is popular can determine how well your book will sell now.
10. Have you already written something similar?
If you’ve published, you already have readers who expect the next book to be as good as the last one, and if you write something completely different than what they expect, they’ll be disappointed.
Writing in the same genre and subgenre will lead to dedicated readers who read every book you write.
You can choose to write in multiple genres or subgenres, but understand if you do, your readership might be divided.
11. Will it share similarities with future books?
If you’re planning on moving on to a new genre or subgenre sometime in the future and your heart is not fully invested in this story, you might as well move on now.
Having your mind elsewhere leads to poor writing and a possible loss of readers. Give your readers the quality they deserve.
12. Is this something you want to be known for writing?
If you know you’ll be embarrassed by the story and unwilling to promote it, there is no purpose to writing it.
The same goes for writing a science fiction story when you want to be known for fantasy.
If you don’t plan on writing anything else in the genre, it only serves as a distraction. It will not only waste your time but also divide your readership.
13. Will you give your best while writing this idea?
Quality books aren’t written in a day or a week. You must be willing to put in the time and effort it will take to write the best story you can give.
14. If you’ve published similar books, is there something new and different about this one?
Even if you have written similar stories, each one should be different in some way.
Readers don’t want to read the same story over and over with different characters.
Each book should bring something new and unique to the table.
15. If the story follows the same characters as other books, do they face new challenges?
Your characters might be the same, but if you use the same conflicts or situations, your readers will notice and likely point it out to others.
No new obstacles mean no point to the story and a loss of readers.
Finding the happy medium between what’s best for you and your readers will allow you to write a story both will love.
Hopefully answering these questions has allowed you to decide which story you want to write.
What questions do you ask before choosing a story to write?