When I was doing short stories years back, I’d get an idea and pounce on it immediately to try to write it. Really no thought went into whether the idea was something that I ought to write or if I should write it now. Then, I quite literally started with the idea, and it decided what I was going to write.
Now, with novels, I do it differently. For me, it starts with the story, not the characters. I might have two or three ideas that seem like possibilities, and then I have to figure out what’s going to take the lead. I start with a couple of ideas and play around with them for a while. I do various summaries for them, trying to get a feel for what direction a story might go. At this point, the characters aren’t all that important; most will have placeholder names like AUNT or MC (main character). Eventually one of the ideas starts to gel into something more, and maybe I name the main character. All of the other characters will still have placeholder names until the story settles in more. I’ve been looking over my notes for SAND DOLLAR MAGIC (which is going to get a new name), and I can see how the story started out and where it began to break out of the original idea.
How do you decide what to write?