Well over a year ago, I had a lovely Skype chat with one of my writer friends. We got to talking about book ideas and how we both have dozens squirreled away. Some of these ideas are floating around in our minds without an ounce of documentation. Others are a couple bullet points in a word doc. A few are just clever titles in need of characters and plot, while some might already have a handful of chapters captured. Which to focus on next?
I began speculating about the right “follow-up” for my career after the Taken series. My writer friend wondered which of her story ideas she should run with while her current novel was queried. She was even kind enough to pitch a few of these ideas to me.
I instantly knew which was most appealing to me as a reader. I knew which sounded the most similar in style/genre to the book she was querying. I knew which was best aligned with current trends. (It’s worth nothing that the story was different for each of these three scenarios.) But screw the trends, right? Never write to trends. And who cares how I react to my friend’s ideas, because guess what? She’s not writing solely for me.
At the end of the day, the only thing you can do is write the story you’re most excited about. The one you find most compelling. The idea that haunts you, keeps you up at night, refuses to be ignored. There’s one story kernel in every batch of ideas that always does this—sort of rises to the top and waves its arms like a madman—so pick that one out of the bunch, and start writing it.
I think we sometimes focus on this “Which book should I write next?” question because our end goal is to share that story with others (aka: Sell The Book). Naturally, if we’re going to face the blank page and spend several long months in WIP-land, we want to make sure we’re at least writing something sellable. Or something that appeals to a friend/agent/editor/teen and so on. We go looking for validation before we even begin.
But I’ve finally learned that this doesn’t matter. At least not as a be-all, end-all. Because here’s the hard truth:
- The novel you query might not get you an agent.
- The novel you put on sub might not get you a book deal.
- The second novel you put on sub might not get you a book deal.
- The novel you submit as your option under contract might get rejected.
- No matter how far into this game you are, there is never a guarantee that the next book you write will be published.
So why the heck wouldn’t you write the book that wants to be written? The one you care most about? The one that you want to tell more than anything in the word, regardless of trends or genre or audience or theme or style or length or similarity to your previous works?
Write the book that’s in your heart and write it exactly as you see it fit.
Do this and you will never regret telling that story, even if it doesn’t get picked up. Because if you’re proud of your novel—if it’s filled with characters you love and a world you created and a story you couldn’t not tell—it will always, always be worth it.