Choosing Projects

Hi all!

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Sorry for the radio silence over here. I’ve been utterly drowning in academic busy work but I am pleased to report some set goals being met. I am particularly proud to have gotten through that stack of essays I had to mark over the course of three weeks.

Yes, three weeks.

Not only because I’m the only marking TA for an entire third year class, but because there was just no way I’d be able to feasibly get through marking dozens of essays at a time. It takes at least half an hour to mark one thoroughly enough to not only diagnose the problems but give feedback as to how they can improve the argument and the writing. Now, I probably don’t have to go that far, but I figure it’s my job as a TA to help them: and it’s all in my computer archives so when marking the second essay, I’ll know what they needed to work and whether or not they put it any effort.

I’ve been submitting papers and abstract and all kinds of mumbo-jumbo. And in the meantime, I’ve been wracking my brain figuring out what to do about this next writing project. See, my problem is and has always been figuring out how to choose what to write next. For me, it’s never been easy. Like, the perfect idea doesn’t just pop into your head one day.

Okay, yes sometimes it does.

But then after a flurry of brainstorming you go – wait, no, I don’t want to do that anymore. Or wait, no, that won’t work. I bounce between ideas and ideas and ideas until I get so frustrated I literally don’t want to write anything. You should see me ‘Story Ideas’ Folder. LOOOTS of SNIs and half-brainstormed ideas.

But now, friends. Now I have the perfect idea to work on. Problem is, I’ve already been dabbling on another story. Luckily, I can salvage that story and transpose/transform parts of it for this new story idea. This one, kids, feels like a winner.

But how do you choose a story idea? How do you know which one’s the one?

My brother asks me this all the time. Literally, all the time, because he’s got the same problem as I do – too many ideas, too little time to write them.

I think I can boil it down to a simple litmus test of 3 points:

1) Is it in a genre that’s viable in the current market for your work, but still something you love and are exhilarated by? 

2) Do you find it hard to stop brainstorming and generating ideas for the story, the world, the characters, etc.? Is the story basically writing itself?

3) Are you still excited by the story 2 weeks after that initial spark?

And of course, you need to consider your personal time table. Some story ideas would take a lot of research and research takes time. Do you have the time and patience to learn a whole new time period, for example? If it’s something that requires extensive research, it may be a project to take on when you have the time to really devote to it.

Most importantly, you need to feel it in your heart. I think there are times when story ideas feel a bit forced. Like, on paper, they are amazing! Like, the market is totally looking for this kind of story, right? It’ll totally be a huge bestseller, all the pieces are in place! But…something just doesn’t feel right. It’s okay to set a story aside if you find that your enthusiasm for the story has just literally dissipated after a few days.

However, you also need to realize that writing is hard, and you will go through those ‘I hate this story/I don’t want to do it anymore’ phases. Story ideas always feel so shiny at the beginning because the sky’s the limit. You’re excited by the possibilities. But once you start nailing down specifics, the framework for the story gets narrower and narrower and suddenly it starts to feel like work – the brainstorming, the character building. Don’t let that stop you. If you do, you’ll never get a book done.

So…I guess all in all, you just got to feel it – that this is the right project for you to take on at this present moment. You got to have the drive. It’s gonna be work, of course, but it’s gotta still feel like fun work. And trust me, when you really get going writing you’ll have those OMGZ I LOVE THIS BOOK moments as much as the more pessimistic ones – that’s a sign that you’re on the right track.

The most important thing is to pick something and write. You wanna get published, gotta put the words to paper, or nothing will ever come out of those endless dreams.

Happy Friday!

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