Choosing Your Topic

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Well, well, well. You’ve decided you will do NaNoWriMo this year, have you? …Oh you’re reading this post in January 2021, and you haven’t yet decided 10 months in advance? Totally understandable. Tell me, how’s the other side of 2020 treating us all so far?

As you might have already guessed from the title, this week’s post is all about choosing something to write about.

Whether you’re currently stretching the three joints of every finger (and two joints of each thumb!) in preparation for 12:01 AM on November 1st, or you’ve told NaNoWriMo to take his garbage bag full of belongings and get the hell off your front lawn, in favor of pursuing relationships with other, more dependable writing projects this year—Wait, why do I think of NaNo as a loser ex-boyfriend?—we all need to select a subject to write about! And once we’ve chosen it, we need to stick to it, my friends. No shiny new object syndrome. Huh-uh. Uh-huh? Huh-uh. (Why are sounds so hard to spell?!)

And before you say it (because you know you were gonna say it), I know last week’s topic was about character sheets and “Aren’t we back tracking, Aly?” Why, yes. Yes, we absolutely are. I’m a linear writer, but I ain’t a linear blogger, folks. Plus, I happened to notice, this past week, that my virtual writing group buddies were having a difficult time deciding what they were writing this NaNoWriMo. Cue the lightbulb moment, and there was suddenly no other option for blog post topic this week.

I might let the whims of fate decide my blog post topic, but you, my friends, do not have to.

Here are a few routes you may find useful for choosing a writing topic. These are avenues either myself or writing buddies have used in the past or are some of the many ways commonly touted as “The Best Ways to Choose Your Topic”. (I see your eye roll, and I raise you a head scratch.)

Get your pen and paper ready, folks!

  1. Start big, go small. – So you want to write a space opera that’s heavy on the romance. Good on you. Let’s start there. Now, what point-of-view do you write best from? Ask yourself, will your characters be citizens of Mother Earth or will they hail from another planet? If they’re traveling via spaceship, where are they headed and how long do you expect their journey will be? Will you follow this novel up with another in a series? What ideas do you have percolating for your plot and any subplots? (Remember, we want to keep the readers interested.) By starting with a broader idea of what you want to write, you can ask yourself questions to further narrow your topic from there.
  2. Start small, go big. – All you know for sure is that the main character is a retired detective named Mike. Sure, we can work with that. Was Mike’s choice to retire his own? Was he forced into it? Something else? Common knowledge and curmudgeonly elders tell us that retirement can make a lot of people bored. Then again, retirement can also free up a lot of time for other projects/hobbies you couldn’t accomplish while you were working the daily grind. One answer to a question might lead you down the whodunit genre path, another might lead you down that of noir crime fiction, yet another might lead you to something entirely different (Erotica, anyone? Anyone?). By starting with a narrow idea of what you want to write, you can then ask yourself some broader questions to further define the direction you want to go and the larger story you want to tell.
  3. Troll the web for writing prompts. – October is filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly writing prompts. Prompts are a dime a dozen. Buy one, get one free, as they say. The writing community has a lot of ideas, all of which we’ll probably never be able to tackle in our lifetimes. Rather than let that poor little idea lead the worst death possible–i.e. that of never seeing the written page–we’ll give ‘em up to ya for free. Step right up and take your pick!
  4. Identify what’s missing from your favorite go-to reading material. – Like to read holiday romance this time of year, but disappointed that most of the material is all “Valentine’s Day this and Christmastime that?” Would you like to read a Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day, or Election Day romance, and you’re just not seeing many options, if any at all?! Well you go right ahead, and you write your own Labor Day-themed romance! Who knows, maybe you’ll start a trend, and other writers will also write Labor Day romances. Soon there will be so many Labor Day-themed romances that you’ll never possibly be able to read them all, and you can move on to identifying the next shortage in romantic literature.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of ways you might choose a topic for your next book. My method for choosing a topic for this November does not fall into any of the above categories. Instead, my plans for NaNoWriMo this year are completely dictated by what I’m writing now. My current WIP is going to need a sequel, and I’ve determined there’s no better time to focus on it than right after I finish book number one.

Often, my book ideas come to me at the most random of times in only the smallest semblance of an idea or scene. The idea for my current WIP came to me in a dream (one that I actually had the foresight to write down before I forgot entirely, as it usually happens). It was an idea for a single scene, but it grew to so much more and now I’m 45,000 words in.

By the way, that great idea that you’re saving for the future when you have more time or when your writing skills are improved…yeah, don’t. If there’s anything you should’ve learned from this crazy year (unless you didn’t live it at all, you time-traveling swine!), it’s that anything can happen at any time. So really, truly right now’s the best time to write that masterpiece.

Take care of yourselves this week and don’t Preptober too hard.


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