Very often writers will contact me asking how to choose ideas to write. They will say they have so many ideas, it feels impossible to pick one.
I can relate to this problem. Back when I first started writing, I found it SO DIFFICULT to choose. I had notebooks and files full to the brim with ideas.
I also loved all kinds of stories … from dramas and biopics and literary fiction, through to high octane thrillers and super-scary horrors. I also loved genre fiction, from crime through to feelgood women’s fiction.
How did I begin?? What did I choose???
Then I came across this graphic, years ago …
How To Choose
When I saw this, it was like a million lightbulbs came ON in my head. I knew what I needed to choose, right away.
To start with, I felt like I needed the validation of selling something and feeling it in my hands, after almost ten years of near-misses writing screenplays. This meant a novel seemed a good bet for me.
In my case, I knew crime fiction sold very well. I also loved to read it, especially the ‘domestic noir’ subgenre. (I still do!).
I also suspected I would enjoy writing such a book, especially as I also felt that need to hold my own book in my hands.
So I followed the graphic.
Sure enough, I discovered …
What sells well + what I love to write = SUCCESS.
Whoa, Slow Down
I should stress this realisation is NOT a short cut. Obviously we still need to ‘break story’ and think about target audience, storyworld, theme, etc. The graphic is not a short cut for all of that.
Also, some writers have no interest in selling their work. Maybe it is a hobby to them, something they do in their spare time. They write for themselves. There is nothing wrong with this and it’s obviously a valid path.
However, if writers DO want to ultimately sell their work, then this graphic can help them.
Lots of writers feel thinking about what sells is ultimately ‘selling out’. I disagree. I think savvy writers consider what sells well versus what does not. This enables them to make informed choices. Also, if we want to be professional writers, we NEED to sell. That is a prerequisite.
It also helps keep disappointment at bay. This formed the foundation of my non fiction book, Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays.
Knowing drama (and also literary fiction) is a ‘hard sell’ means we can stay realistic. We understand that some stories are more popular than others and that’s okay.
As a result, when we get rejected, we know it’s NOT because our drama or literary fiction is necessarily ‘bad’. It’s just harder to sell.
This peace of mind is priceless and means we can keep going … Until we find the place that’s JUST RIGHT for it. Sometimes, it means we take fate into our own hands and produce or publish it ourselves. That’s still success.
But DON’T Do This …
Never write a story simply because it sells well. That’s what industry pros mean when they say ‘don’t write for the market‘.
This is crucial. Understanding the marketplace is key to selling, but you need to LOVE your story too, or you’re a hack. Hacks are the ones ‘selling out’. No one likes hacks.
Thinking about what sells well AND what you love to write does not make you a hack. It makes you a savvy writer who want to sell your work. There is nothing wrong with selling … if we want to be professional writers? Then it’s what we have to do.