How Do You Know Which Story To Work On (Cheryl Renée Herbsman)

I've heard aspiring writers and published authors pose this question: How do you decide which story to go with if more than one is poking its way into your thoughts? For me, the answer is
always whichever one has the most energy behind it. Sometimes that means the voice of the main character is constantly talking at me and insists upon being heard. Other times it's the story that is unfolding in my mind so quickly I almost can't keep up.

That doesn't mean I don't question my choice sometimes. I'll ask myself, is this really the story I want to tell next? Is this the right story? Does it have enough punch or meaning or suspense or romance or whatever? But the truth is I don't know the answer to any of those questions. Because for me, a first draft is me telling the story to myself. I don' t know it until it's been told. There's so much I learn in that first telling. I may not know what the themes will be or who the characters are or how the story will end the first time through. So I can't decide based on any of that. I just have to see which story feels alive and ready to roll. And trust that the character or the story itself will guide me.

So much of writing for me is intuitive. The story can change directions in any moment. And sometimes I stop myself, asking, really? That's where the story is going? But then I just shut myself up and go with it. Because if there's one thing I've learned about writing it's that my intuition tells a much better story than my rational mind. So when intuition speaks, I listen. And the same holds true for choosing the next tale to tell. Which one is making you feel it? Which one is whispering in your ear when you can' t fall asleep at night? Which one is grabbing you by the throat and won't let go?

Listen to that one. It's bound to lead you on a wild and glorious


  1. I had this experience while my first book (the one that wasn't) was on submission with editors. I was working on what I thought was going to be my next project, but started kicking around ideas. One of them became THE NEW NORMAL. I still have that other project going, but again it's been pushed back in favor of something else. I figure when the time is right, I'll finish it.

  2. I agree, Cheryl. Trying to force the story to move in a predetermined direction isn't nearly as effective as listening to those little voices inside our heads.

  3. Cheryl, THANK YOU for writing this post - it's exactly what I've been struggling with for a while now! And I've come to the conclusion that I need to choose one novel and focus on it, or else I'll never get deep enough into the book to finish. Thank you for sharing that you doubt your decision sometimes, too. It's so difficult and feels so random. I have some ideas that I really love, but an idea is a long way from a book...:)Alisa


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