How to Decide Which Story to Write

The new year is a great time to begin a new project, but which one?  If you’re lucky, you’ll have a lot of ideas. But you can’t write them all. Nor should you.

Writing a story that stands the test of time has never been so important.


First, anyone can publish today. That means you are competing with an unprecedented number of books.

Second, you need a story strong enough to provide content for multiple platforms. That’s right, you are now a content creator. And content is everywhere. You need to write a story that can shapeshift from book to audiobook to screenplay to podcast. The new buzzword is: transmedia.

Third, You want a story compelling enough to prompt memes on Instagram, discussions on Facebook, recommendations on BookTok, and essays on Substack. And of course, you need reader reviews and ratings on Amazon, where the majority of books are sold.

Fourth, your name and every word you wrote will be in the Library of Congress. Make your mom proud.

Finally, there are plenty of authors out there who excel in marketing far more than writing. But do we remember their books? Do they make readers laugh, cry or change the way we think about the world? Rarely. Could they have been written by AI? Probably.

If you want your story to stand out from the rest, quality counts.

So choose your idea carefully. Here’s how:

  1. Find the gold in your story. In other words, why do you want to write it? What’s your favorite part? Is it the hero? The situation? The theme? Focus on that gold so that you don’t lose it when you revise. In fact, make it shine even more.  Knowing why you care about this story will help you maintain the passion needed to perfect it through multiple drafts.
  2. Develop the idea into a plan. So many writers begin with a high concept idea then fizzle out after fifty pages. Start with a list of ten events that happen in the story. If they all take place at the beginning, then you have a lot of work to do developing your plot. Creating complex characters will help you do that. But why choose this story if you have one that’s easier to flesh out? Most novels have 100-150 events. Which story has the most potential for events?
  3. Examine your main character’s desire line. This the premise of your book, so it needs to matter. What does she want? Is it a strong enough desire to drive the entire story? Who is trying to stop her? What does she stand to win or lose by achieving this difficult goal? And what will she learn about herself in the process? No matter the genre, the desire line is key to building plot.
  4. Commit to one story. If you are working on an entire novel (or memoir) and you have a choice, keep it simple. This means you can devote all of your writing time to this one idea. This benefit also applies to your brain. When all of your creative focus is on the same idea, even random thoughts can enhance it. Anything you see and everyone you talk to could provide valuable insight into a particular detail of your story. Sometimes your subconscious will do the heavy lifting for you. With one story in mind, you may find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with the kind of eureka moment that makes writing magic.

Writers often come to me with several stories partly written. By pulling them back to the premise, truly honing down the desire line and sketching out a few events, it’s easier to see which has the most potential. Especially if you have a glimmer of that gold.

Writing is the fun part, I get it. Thinking is hard. But a good story is worth the effort. When it comes to writing,  the most important desire line is yours.

Leave a Comment