How to Choose Your Next Story Idea

Any writer will experience creative ups and downs, but a passion-focused writer understands that to write their next book, they need to first choose which story idea to pick. These questions will help you decide which of the hundreds of story ideas you have bouncing around in your head you should choose.

As a writer, I have a very rough-looking folder filled with inspired story ideas, and I always have a backlog of fiction—and nonfiction, let’s be honest—projects on the back-burner. While I focus on one or two main ideas at any given time, there’s always a hundred ideas swirling around my brain.

Maybe inspiration strikes while you’re driving to work, or something you dreamed about that you just had to write down. However you got your book ideas, you now have a blank Word document and an itch to start writing something new.

First, Pick Up Your Next Amazing Story Idea…

When I sit down and mull over all the story ideas I have in my “book ideas” folder, there are a handful of questions I ask myself to help determine which idea suits me at this point in my writing journey. Which will I truly enjoy writing, and which will best serve my readers?

This is not a light decision. Especially if you are trying to make a name for yourself in the indie publishing world, which book you decide to write next is a huge decision as you will likely spend the next few months or years working on it.

So, how do you decide which story idea to work on next?

The first question I ask myself is: Was the last book part of a series?

If the last book I wrote or published was part of a series, it might be prudent to work on the next book in that series. It’s no secret that readers love book series, which is why so many standalone stories turn in to trilogies and book sagas.

After you’ve decided whether the previous book was part of a series, or if you just want to work on something completely new, perhaps to get your mind out of that world, then ask yourself these questions:

Why am I getting so excited about this new story idea?

Being excited about a story idea is the first step to choosing that idea. To stick with a book idea, you need commitment and dedication, and loving the project you’re working on makes that so much easier.

Are you excited about the premise or the genre, or the dynamics you’ve envisioned for the characters and world? Or perhaps you see this book spanning an entire book series, with multiple installments and spin-offs.

All of these are greats reasons to choose a story idea, but just make sure you’re choosing the story because you love the story and not a single part of the story or theme. You can write a theme into almost every genre, so it doesn’t have to be this idea to use that specific concept.

Does this new idea align with my passion and dream life?

When you envision yourself in your dream writing life, what type of writer are you? I love writing in several genres, but maybe your passion only has room for young adult epic fantasies.

Now, if the book idea you have in your hand is an adult romance, that doesn’t mean you have to throw it out. It only means you have to truly think about the type of writer you want to be.

There are many writers who span several genres, but other writers who only dive in to one. You can be successful in both, but it might be more difficult to find lasting success if you are writing one young adult fantasy this year, and one adult romance next year.

With two years between same-genre books, your readership may drop off without continued marketing tactics in place.

Do I have the time, energy, and resources to work on this story idea?

It’s no secret that some ideas take longer than others to develop. Perhaps your idea is for an epic fantasy, and you’ve envisioned each installment being in the six-figure word count range.

Now, that is a lot of commitment!

Or, maybe the book idea branches into a new genre you’ve never explored before. Being in unknown territory sometimes means additional research and editing to ensure you’re hitting genre norms and reader expectations.

Take a step back from your idea and really consider if this is something you have time for right now. For some people, it will be a resounding yes! while others will choose to stick to what they’re more familiar with.

Does this idea fit into my current projects?

The best thing about a moment of inspiration is that it usually only has one sparkling of an idea, one little moment in a stream of moments with will eventually become a novel.

One of the first things I do when I am looking through all my story ideas, is ask myself if I can lump any of them together. Are there some ideas that would be perfect in an epic fantasy, or science fiction, or dystopian novel? Or maybe one that would be the perfect focal point for a future romance story?

The great thing about an idea is that you can usually mold it into whatever you want or need it to be. There’s no one on your shoulder saying your idea has to progress this way or make this right-hand turn, and there’s no other way for a decent story to come out of it.

No matter what story idea we end up choosing, there’s no way to foreshadow if it will be a raging success or complete trash. The best way to start your next book is to start with a premise you love, turn that in to a great outline, and write until the sun comes up—or the sun goes down, depending on the type of writer you are.

Story ideas are a dime a dozen. If we remember to write them down fast enough, many writers have a ton of them. At the end of the day, it’s what you do with those book ideas that truly matters to both the betterment of your writing craft and to your future readers.