“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where —“ said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“— so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
For any particular piece of writing—novel, short story, poem, play—there is any amount of comment, response, and reflection both positive and negative. It is rare however for the question to be raised, “WHY did the writer choose to write that?” Because the fact is at some point the writer did decide what to write.
Over the years I’ve met a number of good writers, and we have this exchange:
Me: Are you working on anything now?
Author: I’m trying to come up with an idea.
In that regard, I’ve been very lucky insofar as I rarely lack ideas. The hard part for me is choosing which idea I should commit to. Let it be admitted, a few times I’ve made the wrong choice, that is I’ve started a book, and then abandoned it because it wasn’t working.
There are so many reasons (or emotions) for choosing what to write. It’s a vital choice. Speaking for myself, if I embark on a new novel, I am about to engage in a project that will consume my thoughts and energy for at least two years, the average time from first words on paper, to published book in hand.
[That said, I worked on Bright Shadow, on and off for fourteen years. S.O.R. Losers was written in one day. The shortest time from the first word on paper to the bound book in hand was Encounter at Easton. Eleven months.]
But when I choose what to write means I’m inviting a mental roommate to move into my head for a long period. It’s hard to work on a book—it has happened—when you stop enjoying writing it. But when you enjoy it, I look forward to working on it each day.
There are many, many reasons for choosing a particular project: It seems exciting. It has great possibilities. It would be fun. It would be a fascinating challenge. It would be highly commercial. It’s what my readers have been asking for. My readers have liked this kind of book before. Nobody has written about this before. It would make a great sequel. It’s what my publisher has asked for. My editor suggested it. It just feels right.
I’m sure you could add to the list.
There is another fundamental consideration: I make my living by writing, supporting myself and my family. So, you may add to the questions above, “If I write the book can I sell it to a publisher?”
I’m writing this now because I am trying to decide upon which project, I shall embark on next. Right now, I have two ideas, ideas that are radically different from the other.
Knowing myself the choice I make will be an emotional one. What do I want to write?
I need to decide soon.