I recently sold my beautiful Andalusian/Morgan mare, Belle. She and I had been together for eight years, and we learned a lot from each other. Now she’s off to a new home, helping another rider learn the fine points of dressage.
So I’m horse shopping. I have a clear idea of what I want in a new horse: not too young, not too old. Not located too far away (not going to check out that great horse in Vermont). I definitely want an easy-going gelding. Size matters–neither a 13H pony nor an 18H draft horse will do. And there’s only so much I can spend (sadly, I’m not independently wealthy yet). Which means it might take a while to find the perfect partner. But here are some of my current options:
This is Bentley, a 6-year-old, 15.3H Quarter Horse Paint. I don’t jump like you see Bentley doing in the picture, but I’ve seen videos of him ridden dressage too. He seems to have a decent amount of training under his belt.
There are a few others I have my eye on, but you get the idea.
So what does this have to do with choosing writing projects? Well, imagine that you’ve just finished a book (let’s call it THE BEST BOOK EVER). Finished as in, TBBE is completely polished to a quality where your agent is now shopping it around, or you’ve submitted to your editor. Or if you’re an indie-pubbed author, TBBE is completely vetted and ready to be uploaded to the various online booksellers.
Now what do you do? All those story ideas that have been shoved to the back burner while you were getting TBBE to a publishable stage are now competing for your attention. Do you work on that hysterically funny romantic comedy you’ve been dying to start? The young adult paranormal that wakes you up in the middle of the night, the scenes so clear they’re begging to be written? Or that thriller that’s so powerful you can visualize it as not only a novel, but a film?
How do you decide? One way is to do it the way I will probably choose amongst those horses I told you about. I will probably use something like the following checklist:
- Which one do you feel the strongest about, with which one do you have the strongest connection? Just as it will be easier for me to work with a horse I really like, it will be much easier for you to spend the months it takes to write a novel if the concept is one you feel connected to and excited about.
- Which one is the most developed? With a horse, I’ll consider how many months or years of training or under-saddle work he’s done. With a story idea, you have to think about how well fleshed out the plot is, how developed the characters are, and how comprehensively you’ve imagined the settings or world of the characters.
- Which one is most likely to get you where you want to go? With a horse, the one that’s best trained and has the conformation and movement for dressage would be my best choice. When it comes to story ideas, you really have to look at the reality of your career and the marketplace. Have you got two books of a thriller series out that’s just begging for a third, but you’re considering detouring into a romantic fantasy novel? Maybe not the best choice, career-wise. Better to write that third thriller, and get back to the romantic fantasy later.
It’s possible to fall in love with the wrong horse, and quite possible to become enamored with a story idea that’s not to your advantage to pursue. Go into both transactions with a level head, a clear eye, and you’re sure to make the right choice. And remember, with story ideas (unlike horses), the one you set aside will always be waiting for you to explore later.
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