Sandra Ardoin @sandraardoin
Author Jennifer Hallmark’s debut novel releases in June, but don’t let the word “debut” fool you. She has plenty of writing credits and knows how to “Finish Strong.” Welcome, Jennifer!
What Should I Write About Next?
When You’re Out of Ideas
by Jennifer Hallmark
I sit at my desk and ask myself, “What’s next?”
You might imagine writers making a beautifully written list of projects they’d like to complete. Whether articles for blogs, interview questions to answer, a short story, or a novel, we should have our priorities figured out. Calendars and notecards are filled and a writer sits at his or her desk with fingers flowing over the keyboard. The writer only pauses to check off the next thing on their list.
You would imagine wrong. I’m sure there are creative minds out there who do all the above and still have a life. I haven’t met any and honestly wouldn’t want to for it would be intimidating. I mean, look at my desk as I type this article.
I do make lists. What you see at said desk are scattered notes of things to do, projects to tackle, and novel and short story thoughts. I have so many novel ideas that I made a file on the computer to hold them. Each time one comes to mind, I jot down notes, type them into the computer, and file it. If I didn’t, I’d have twenty ideas started and my desk would break under the weight of the paper.
I used to sit for days and wonder which project to tackle. I felt overwhelmed and discouraged (I mean, shouldn’t I have my act together as a writer by now?) At least I did become an expert at solitaire.
So, what did I do?
Divide and conquer.
I use different sides of my brain to write articles and fiction so why was I trying to mesh them together? For articles and such, I found a solution: Bullet journaling. Edie Melson has a wonderful step-by-step video on her site, The Write Conversation. In my bullet journal, I take a month at a time and make my schedule. I have a calendar to track my exercise and fiction writing but the rest is made up of month at a glance and week at a glance. I have sections in the month at a glance for my blogs, Inspired Prompt and Alabama Inspired Fiction. Another section is what I write for other blogs, magazines, or newsletters. My most marked up page is the one for my personal life with doctor appointments, picking up the grandchildren from school, and coffee breaks away from home. ?
I make a note of all the articles and interviews and due dates. If I don’t finish the project that day, I insert > by the bullet and reschedule it, usually for the next day. I used far too many greater than signs when I started but I’m slowly adjusting to the system.
Writing fiction is a little harder. I can schedule days to write but when it came to selecting projects, especially in my early days of writing, I vacillated back and forth. First, I’d work on my fantasy novel, then on the southern fiction one. I loved them both but lost many days of writing because of indecision.
I prayed and fretted and prayed some more. Which one, God? He didn’t seem to provide any direction, no stone tablet dropped in my yard with an answer. So, I kept blogging and working back and forth on my projects.
Maybe you have this problem also. If so, here are four questions to ask yourself:
- What genre do I want to write in most?
- When I look at my list of novel ideas, which genre stands out?
- Do one of my novel ideas have a theme that I’m ready to tackle?
- For the traditionally published, is there a publisher I’d like to work with?
I asked myself these questions. The majority of my ideas fit into southern fiction and I enjoy writing about my part of the world. I’d met Eva Marie Everson, managing editor for Firefly Southern Fiction at a writer’s conference, studied the imprint, and thought I’d like to work with them.
So, I set my fantasy book aside and concentrated on Jessie’s Hope, my debut novel which will release on June 17th.
Once completed, I asked myself again, “What’s next?” I’ve written the second book in the series and am daydreaming the third. I joined a fantasy critique group with Word Weavers, and once a month, allow myself to work on that project. I’ve also started a stand-alone Southern fiction set in 1978.
I guess my desk and files will always be a little messy and a tad unorganized. But this works for me. Ask yourself the above questions and see if this method works for you.
And as always, just write. It’s a decision you won’t regret …
Years ago, an accident robbed Jessie Smith’s mobility. It also stole her mom and alienated her from her father. When Jessie’s high school sweetheart Matt Jansen proposes, her parents’ absence intensifies her worry that she cannot hold on to those she loves.
With a wedding fast approaching, Jessie’s grandfather Homer Smith, has a goal to find the perfect dress for “his Jessie,” one that would allow her to forget, even if for a moment, the boundaries of her wheelchair. But financial setbacks and unexpected sabotage hinder his plans. Determined to heal from her past, Jessie initiates a search for her father. Can a sliver of hope lead to everlasting love when additional obstacles–including a spurned woman and unpredictable weather–highjack Jessie’s dream wedding?
Pre-order Jessie’s Hope at these retailers:
Barnes and Noble or Amazon
Jennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction and fantasy, an interesting combination that keep the creative juices flowing. She’s published 200+ internet articles and interviews, short stories in several magazines, and has co-authored three book compilations. She’s just published her debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, with Firefly Southern Fiction. When she isn’t babysitting grandkids or gardening, you can find her at her desk writing fiction or working on one of her two blogs. Or even watching American Ninja Warrior.