I feel lucky to be blessed with quite a few story ideas for creative writing projects as a writer. If you're like me and have a bunch of screenplay or book ideas rattling around in your brain, how do you go about choosing which one you actually want to pursue? This is an overlooked but very important part of the writing process. Keep reading to discover how I decide which story to write!
Don't be tempted by trends
It might be tempting to hop on the latest storytelling trend, but the thing about trends is by the time you know about them, they're usually either over or played out. Trying to hit the latest popular screenwriting or book topic is like playing an endless game of catchup. So rarely can you write something based on the trend and then get it out in the world timely enough for it to still be relevant to readers and viewers. When deciding what story to tell, I prefer to go with a subject matter that interests me the most rather than what's popular at the given moment. Trends are fleeting, just like your passion for writing that trendy project will probably be.
Weigh the factors
When choosing between ideas for stories, you need to consider various elements. What are your dreams for this story? Where do you hope it will go? For every idea I have, I ask myself the following questions:
What's a rough budget estimate to make this movie or publish this book?
Is this something I can or would want to make myself?
What kind of competitions or opportunities would this be appropriate for?
I am, by no means, the type of writer who heavily factors things like budget, marketability, or international appeal into my stories. Some writers do let these things weigh heavily in their decision to pursue a story, and that's great! I base my story choice decisions more on emotion. Which story do I connect with more? While I don't get in deep with detailed budget or marketability concerns, I do, however, ascertain a rudimentary understanding of these factors whenever I pursue a story idea.
Score the idea
How good is the story idea, really? Before you move ahead, run your story through a few checkpoints.
Look past the premise and make sure there's more to the story, including compelling characters, a worthy opponent, and an exciting world or setting. Is it a complete story, or at the very least, can development help it get there?
Make sure you love ALL of the story, not just a single part that you've imagined in your head.
Is there a larger theme to your story idea? Choose something that will resonate with a broader audience, and know what type of person would be interested in hearing it.
Think about where you are now
Throughout your career, you'll find yourself at different places in life and you'll want different things. You might start out wanting to enter screenplays into competitions, but then down the road, you might want to make a film yourself or write a book. A story you'd pitch to someone else might be different than the one you'd want to create on your own, primarily for practical reasons like budget! So, when considering your next writing project, sometimes you need to think about where you are in life and what you want to do next.
Take a quiet afternoon
If I'm torn between a couple of story ideas that I really love, I like to take some time to daydream about them. I take an afternoon and imagine the story playing out, whether that's as a book idea or a television series. I might take notes; I might not. This isn't about getting the story down on paper. This is an exercise in seeing which idea I connect with more. I find this a constructive approach because I inevitably keep returning to one story over the others. One story idea will stand out, continuously snagging my interest, bringing me back to it.
There's no one way to go about figuring which story to tell. Some people base their decisions on practicality, some base it on emotion, and others do a mixture of both. Whatever works for you! Ultimately, I do think that you should connect strongly with whatever story you're telling. It should be something that you're passionate about, feel eager to tell, and resonates deeply with you. Like I said above, chasing trends is a losing game. Pursuing a story idea that you're not entirely sold on can make it challenging to do the work for it. And you know what? You might choose a story, get started on the project, and realize you made the wrong choice. That's fine, too. That's writing life!
What's the saying? "Choose a job you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life." Pursuing a story idea is just like that! Good luck in whatever approach you choose to take. Happy writing!