Today’s Ask Inkitt Question: I’ve just finished writing my first book. What should I write next?
First off, congratulations! You wrote a book. Say it again. You wrote a book! Take a minute to celebrate first, and then you can start thinking about your next project.
Often, by the time I’ve finished a project, I have several new ones swirling in my head. When I’m writing, the creative juices are flowing, so ideas for the next story are never in short supply. It’s an exciting time, but I still have to choose which story idea to invest in next. Here are a few criteria I use to help me decide.
The new project idea is big enough for a whole book.
I don’t know about you, but my brain is constantly creating scenes. Sometimes they’re just random bits of action, but sometimes a scene feels like, if I fleshed it out, there’d be a bigger story. If I give the seed of an idea some time and energy, I know I’m on to something if the story arc continues to expand. My advice, take time to draft a quick outline. See if you have enough to take the idea run with it.
The characters are colorful and interesting.
We writers aren’t afraid of the voices in our heads! In fact, we count on them to keep talking to us. Sometimes a character is so compelling that I just know they’re going to feature in my book. For me, an interesting character is the first step to a viable story. Any character who you can’t shake is probably worth featuring in your next work.
You can imagine how it will end.
While you don’t have to know exactly how a story will end, you should feel like you can complete the arc in a satisfying manner. You don’t have to work out all the subplots, but do figure out the main conflict, and the general direction you want to take to resolve it.
You’re really excited about it.
This may actually be the most important thing. If you can’t stop thinking about your new story idea, and it’s following you into your dreams, it’s probably a keeper. At some point during the writing process, it may feel a bit stale and you may hit some roadblocks – perfectly normal – but when you’re just getting started, you should be really excited.
Okay, so you’ve chosen the next idea. What’s next? It may have been a while since you’ve had to stare at a blank page if you’ve been working on your previous book for a while. Here are my top tips on how to proceed…
1. Create a loose outline.
Consider this your roadmap. There will still be plenty of room for creativity and unexpected ‘a-ha’ moments, but your outline can provide infrastructure to get you started and help keep you moving when you’re past the initial thrill of working on something new. Here’s more on how to plot out your novel and why I think it’s helpful to do so: The Case for Plotters.
2. Flesh out the main cast of characters.
Remember those characters we were talking about, the ones you couldn’t get out of your head? Now is the time to add some depth to them. Give them some history, background, and personality. Think about your protagonist and what they want. Who stands in their way? Why? Again, you don’t need to go deep into their psyche yet, but you need enough to become connected to them.
3. Immerse yourself in this new world.
As a science fiction writer, this is pretty important for my work. I have to start imagining this new world, the rules of magic or technology, etc. But even if you’re setting something on planet earth, in the present, you’ll still have to get into your character’s world. What’s the weather like? Do they live in a city, near the beach, in the sticks? You get the idea.
4. Remember the lessons you’ve learned from previous projects.
In some ways, working on a subsequent project is more daunting than the first one. You now know a good bit about the writing process and the stumbling blocks you’ll encounter. Let this knowledge guide you if you can. Take what you’ve learned about yourself and your writing habits and apply this intel to the next project.
Remember, the beginning is always exciting, but the middle can be tough. Here’s more on getting through the sticky middle: Stuck in the Middle.
Count on self-doubt at some point in the process. Somewhere during the writing process, I have at least one moment of crippling doubt. I can’t imagine why I thought this story was any good. The ending I’ve worked out suddenly seems stupid. Nothing works! Experience has shown me that I will get through this, and further, every other writer I know understands exactly what I’m feeling.
Okay, I think you’re ready to get started on your next great story!
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