Writing: Which Book to Write Next?

Which Book to Write Next?

Choosing which book to write next has to be one of the hardest decisions to make as an author. At least it is for me. I’ve written a few posts on the subject and I always seem to have a plan in place, but I’ve found those plans rarely come to fruition.

Write What You Know

Lord of the Rings - blu rayWe hear this all the time. Writers are supposed to write what they know, or at least something they’re quite familiar with. I’m not sure, but I bet Tolkien didn’t have any hobbit friends running around, or elves for that matter. We can write what we do not know as long as we do the research and keep it plausible.

I Started With Something I Knew

The first two books in the John Reeves series were a mix of the adventure genre and a police procedural. With my psychological background and a love of (learning about) criminal behavior, those stories came easy to me. But what if I try the fantasy genre?

Another piece of advice we don’t see as often is to write what we read. If you’re an avid romance reader who has never picked up a science fiction book in his or her life, I wouldn’t suggest trying to write the next Star Wars. I wouldn’t suggest it, but if that’s what you want, then go for it, but think of the advantages of writing what you read.

Advantages of Writing What You Read

1. You know the genre. It’s a simple truth, but you have experience in the genre, you know what to expect, you know what the reader expects.

2. You know what has been done before; you know what has been successful. You can build off these facts to create a unique story that hasn’t been done before.

3. The most important advantage? If you love to read it, you’ll probably love writing it! Writing in a genre you love is similar to reading. You can’t wait to find out what will happen next. Even if you have an idea of how the story will play out, you never know exactly how those characters will get there, or if they will get there.

Crazy Writer’s Brain

Financially speaking, and to please any of those who enjoy reading about John Reeves, it makes the most sense to write the third book in the series. I wrote the first chapter a few weeks ago and have been plotting out the rest of the story since.

I’ve also had an epic fantasy brewing in my mind for the past year or so. I began world building and wrote the first chapter of that book as well. Yet my plan was to keep focusing on the John Reeves series while working on the fantasy when I felt the need.

Then my crazy writer’s brain had its own plan. Last week I was at the dinner table with my kiddos coloring and working on the alphabet when the urge hit me. It’s similar to the urge we writers feel the first time we need to sit down and write. We may not know that’s what it is at first, but I’ve felt it before and I knew that’s what I was feeling.

I pulled out the laptop, prepared my word processor, and sat with my fingers poised over the keyboard. I didn’t have a plan or an outline. I had no idea what I would write, or if I would write at all, but I knew my brain was ready for it.

Thirty minutes later, I checked the word counter and saw that I’d written the first 1700 words in a new fantasy novel. Now I can’t get it out of my head. As with the other stories I’ve written, it lingers in the back of my mind at all times, collecting ideas and facts to add to the story. The difference this time is that the story isn’t just lingering, it’s LOOMING over me, like it’s something I MUST do, or have to do soon.

I’m reading way too much into this, I’m sure, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing it’s that I should go with the flow. That being said, book three in the John Reeves series was just placed on the backburner. Not for long, but it’s there nonetheless. If you’ve read any of my past blog posts, you also know I have a tendency to work on multiple manuscripts at a time.

What Book Should You Write Next?

The one you want to. The one that consumes your waking thoughts and your dreaming mind.

writeBut shouldn’t you write the next book you promised everybody? Shouldn’t you write in a certain genre because that’s what is popular right now? Shouldn’t you write the book that makes financial sense?

Maybe, but I’m willing to bet you won’t do your best work. Your mind will still be on the other story, the one you’d rather be working on. It will probably slow you down as well. My advice is to write the one that you want and come back to the other ones in due time. I wouldn’t be surprised if you finished them both faster this way. It’s good to focus on what your crazy writer brains need.

How do you decide what book to write (or read) next? Is it the one that makes the most financial sense? The one that you can’t get your mind off of? The one everybody else thinks you should?

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Writing: Which Book to Write Next? — 5 Comments

  1. Luckily, I’ve only got two stories vying for attention right now – a sequel to my first novel, and a prequel involving the villain and another character. However, I’ve also got an idea for a web/startup project, I’m trying to build up a new writers’ group, AND I haven’t finished the first novel yet! So… might be time for less ideating, and more nose-to-the-grindstone :)

  2. I have an idea to write the third book in a series. It’s just sort of brewing right now. And I have three unfinished books that I should work on plotting out and getting finished. But when NaNo comes in November, I usually look at my story clips file for ideas, and something gels that may be totally new and different…

  3. That’s tough. I definitely write the fastest and the best when I’m excited. I started pounding one out and consciously told myself to stop because it would get in the way of the one I had “scheduled”.

    I like your advice, but don’t you get to those places that don’t excite you, until you work at them to find the exciting part? I do so at least at the moment I write a bit of what excites me to get out of my head and then do the one I’d “promised”, counting on effort to bring out the excitement. After the one promised, I write the one that I’m most excited about. I just don’t want to flake out on something I’ve told my fans (all dozen of them =) was coming. Then again . . . I’m already late!

  4. Great post, Kirkus! Great advice to write the one we want to write. I often think I should be writing a thriller series, or epic fantasy series because they are are more popular and have higher sales, but… that’s not what I want to write. Actually, I tend to have about 5 books that I want to write next, so I just pick the one I am most excited about.

    • Thanks, Graeme. :) Great to see you over here. Sorry it’s taken me a bit to get back with you. Been a crazy year so far. I think you have the right idea. Writing is too time consuming to write something just because you think you should. Writing a book should be as fun, if not more so, than reading a book.

      I have an example. I’m on the final book in an epic fantasy series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. The first book in the series is what made me into a bibliophile 15 years ago. My wife asked how I would deal with the series ending. I was sad for a moment, then I said, “It’ll be fine. I have my own epic fantasy to write.” I think she thought I was a little crazy, but what’s new. :)

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