So Many Ideas, So Little Time

Are you the kind of writer who has several book ideas (or even written several books), possibly in different genres? If so, you may be wondering where to start. Which book should be the first one you write, or pitch to agents and editors?

It’s a question worth asking, and you’d do well to put some serious thought into it. Here are my thoughts:

offering a book



Spend some time on each idea, one by one. First work on a rough outline of what the book would be. List the themes and topics you’d want to cover. Ask yourself: is there enough material here for a whole book? Consider whether you’ll be able to gather the information needed to fill a book on this topic. Is there enough to say?

Marketplace: Are there other books on this topic? Too many? Is there room or need for another one? Can you identify a hole in the market that needs to be filled? If there are no books on this topic, consider why. Is there a need but no one has filled it yet? Or is this something that people don’t want to read a book about?

You: Consider whether you’re the right person to write this book. Do you have any qualifications that would cause book buyers to trust you? Do you have a platform with which to sell this book?

The idea itself: Try to be honest. Is it unique, or derivative of many other books you’ve seen? When you talk with people about it, do they seem to get it? Do they respond with excitement, curiosity, inquisitiveness?

Put all your information together and a picture should emerge of each idea’s viability and chances of selling.


Where is your heart? Others might have different advice, but I think you need to write the novel that is most on your heart and mind right now. Always save your book ideas in a file, and add to them when the muse strikes. But write the one that’s speaking to you.

Get some input. You could carefully craft a one-sentence hook for each of your book ideas, then show them to a group of friends or fellow writers, asking them to rank the ideas in order of interest. This might help, if there is some similarity in their answers. Perhaps a clear winner will emerge. But you might get a variety of responses. So again, you’ll need to choose the book you are ready to write. With fiction, the idea is important, yet secondary to the writing.

What about market trends? You do need to know what’s going on in the marketplace, but be aware it can change at any moment. What editors are looking for today might not be what they’re seeking eight months from now when you finish your novel. So don’t chase trends.

The first book sets you up. If you haven’t sold any books yet, be aware that branding is important, so the first book you sell will set you up to begin creating your brand. Make sure that first book is something you want to write, and make sure it begins establishing a brand identity that you’ll continue.

Do you have a variety of book ideas or entirely written books? How will you decide where to start?


If you should decide to invest in some personalized counsel, I offer coaching for unpublished authors here: My Coaching Services


Image copyright: petro / 123RF Stock Photo

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  2. Georgiana Daniels on March 23, 2016 at 1:36 PM

    My biggest issue is not rushing to complete one book so I can get to the next “great” idea. Usually I can “idea dump” on paper so I don’t lose the gist while finishing the first project.I’ve done the market chasing thing and that does not. end. well.

  3. vidzem on March 20, 2016 at 12:52 PM

    What if we’re passionately interested in two different fiction genres?

  4. […] At the beginning of your project? James R. Tuck discusses how to start your book and Rachelle Gardner considers that all-important first line, while Leona Hilton presents 11 amazing tools to boost your writing productivity and Rachelle Gardner has suggestions for writers with so many ideas and so little time. […]

  5. Trace L Hentz on March 17, 2016 at 10:00 AM

    I’d like to share your post Rachel with our Collective of Native writers. Can I post a link?

  6. Clare on March 17, 2016 at 8:10 AM

    These ideas are really helpful – and there’s good crossover here as well between fiction and non-fiction. I think “the first book sets you up” point is also especially valid for non-fiction.

  7. Monday Must-Reads [03.14.16] on March 14, 2016 at 3:53 AM

    […] So Many Ideas, So Little Time – Rachelle Gardner […]

  8. John Wells on March 12, 2016 at 7:09 AM

    Sage advice, as always, Rachelle. I would add only that one’s interest should be passionate about the story. Also, while progress is different, all that is different is not progress.

  9. Karen Sargent on March 11, 2016 at 10:44 PM

    So many ideas, so little time, and so little room left in my brain as I’m writing three in my head and one on my laptop! Mom finally has a little time for herself now that the girls are getting older. Loving it, loving writing. 🙂

  10. Marilyn Luce Robertson on March 11, 2016 at 4:02 PM

    What if we’re passionately interested in two different fiction genres?

  11. R. Lee Tipton on March 11, 2016 at 3:14 PM

    Thanks for this. Working on the fourth in a speculative fiction series. Following the heart, keeping the mind busy.

  12. Chery Barker on March 11, 2016 at 8:27 AM

    Thanks for some great questions to consider, Rachelle, when we’re considering book ideas. Am going to keep the non-fiction list handy. Thanks!