Eeny Meany . . . What to Work On Now?

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Recently I returned from a road trip to my home state. I don’t know if it was the eight straight days without working or the time spent among my story telling cousins, but I came home with ideas galore. This led me to an interesting problem. 

I’m working on three, big projects (a mystery, a middle grade science fiction novel, and an early grade nonfiction series). They won’t be done any time soon. Two of my new ideas are especially persistent and emerged almost fully formed. I had to decide what to work on first. 

I asked myself these questions: 

1. How does each idea fit into my long-term goals? Thanks to Renee, "Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Gig," we all know to evaluate an idea or a job according to how it fits with our goals. My two pushiest ideas won’t further my three big projects, but they could help me find an agent. Of course, each of my three big projects would also do this. For me, this question was a draw. 

2. What project is most likely to sell? The joys of being a freelance writer include trying to determine which idea is right for the market right now. Middle grade novels are in demand as is series nonfiction. In fact, a publisher has a call out which my series idea fits to a T. My two new ideas are both picture books which are especially difficult to sell if you aren’t an illustrator. That’s a point for working on the series idea and the middle grade novel. 

3. Which project am I most enthusiastic about? This is a trick question for me and for a lot of other writers, because the answer is almost always, “The new project!” After all, the new project is shiny and new and perfect. If I was close to finishing one of the others my answer might be different, but the point goes to the two new ideas. 

4. What answer will help me accomplish something? Hmm. This sounds like the kind of question my mother would have asked me. Staying on track and getting something done means that the point for this question should go to whichever of the three big projects is nearest completion, the nonfiction series idea. 

5. Do you need an easy win? While no writing project is really an easy win, sometimes you need to go with the project you can finish in the least amount of time. That is why a lot of writers work on something long and something short, rotating between the two. Me? I’ve been working on both the series and the new ideas. 

How you prioritize each of these questions will depend on where you are in your writing journey and what you are working on. The answer that is right for you today, may not be the right answer a month from now. Still, asking yourself questions like these can help you make up your mind before you sit down to write.


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on July 10, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 10, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 10, 2022). 


Cathy C. Hall said...

Like you, Sue, I work on a long project but have smaller projects along the way. But unlike you, I will grab for that shiny new ring of an idea without so much as a "So long, sucker!" to my other stuff.

HOWEVER, lots of shiny new rings lay scattered in dusty Word files. It seems like I need a week or two of writing up a new idea(sometimes hours, sometimes months) before I'm pulled back to where my writing heart is calling. Regrets (I've had a few...:-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Generally, I can just jot an idea down and move on. But some of them still won't leave me alone. They're like Donkey - Pick me! Pick me!

I think we all have loads of "story starts," ideas that just didn't hold together for more than a couple of chapters or pages. Some day we may revisit them . . . maybe . . .

Angela Mackintosh said...

Sue, whenever I go on a trip I return with so many ideas, too! There's something about the change of location that inspires a fresh perspective and creative ideas.

I tend to go with what won't leave me alone, which is mostly something new, even when I have a bunch of half finished essays. I return to them later, but sometimes it's years later, which is not the best for maintaining flow. I like the idea of the easy win. I'm in a spot right now where I have a few pieces that only need minor rewrites to take them to the finish line, but I can't seem to get motivated. Then I'm working on an essay in tiny little fragments that will probably take me years to write, because I'm not making good progress but it's helping my soul.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I really do think that different criteria are essential at different times. If something is helping your soul, that's a win!

Sometimes I want to work on something but need to put it on hold because I don't have a skill or I'm missing some bit of knowledge and need to gain whichever it is to move forward. This would be me and fiction.

You accomplish so much that something is bound to get left aside for a while.

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