I've been super busy recently, so I haven't had the chance to blog in a while. But now it's time to start on a new WIP (yay!), so I thought I'd explain how I choose between ideas.
Like all writers, I have lots of little plot bunnies bouncing around inside my head. At the moment, I have pitches jotted down for fifteen different YA fantasies. FIFTEEN. How do I decide which one to focus on first?
I try not to worry too much about market viability at this stage. I'm aware of trends and what else is out there, but now isn't the time for limiting my creativity. If an idea really speaks to me, I can always work on making it stand out before I start drafting.
I build everything around character. So, at this point, I look at those pitches and consider which characters appeal to me the most. Do I have a sense of who they are? Do I understand the challenges they face, and what burdens they carry? Can I visualise the main character and/or supporting characters, and maybe even the opening scene? Sometimes I'll come up with a cool concept, world or magic system first. But unless I can answer those questions, I can't get excited about the project and it always stalls.
Then, I get a notebook and start jotting things down to see if I can identify the heart of the story, or the story question. I know I'm on the right track when I understand how the story ends (and why it ends the way it does). At this point, I'll actually draft another pitch and possibly even the query. When I have the right character, the core conflict and stakes come pretty naturally to me, and I'm now VERY enthusiastic about the project. There's a good chance I'll dance at my desk. With all these feelings, I know this project is The One to work on.
Once I have a main character (and possibly even other characters) I consider how to make my project more original if marketability is an issue. Otherwise, I'll work on getting to know my characters better. I'm going to spend a lot of time with them, so I need to know their quirks and understand their personalities. I thought of an awesome concept recently, but I just couldn't visualise the MC and I didn't feel passionate about her journey. I stalled. But when I returned to my pitch list, another character and her dilemma called to me - and I can't wait to get started!
Everyone has a different process, and every project has its own unique challenges, but if you're struggling to pick an idea, I recommend starting from character. I wrote my Pitch Wars manuscript because I fell in love with the characters and their issues, so I'd say this process works pretty well! :)
This also applies if you're struggling to come up with an idea in the first place. Think of someone you'd love to write about, and what kind of challenges they face. You never know what you'll end up with!
I'll be talking about how I maintain passion for a story next year! :)