How Do You Decide What to Write?

Writers decide what to write in one of 2 ways:
With their head – due to commissions/research/money/etc.
With their heart – writing for themselves

If you are writing due to a contract or book advance – good for you! You probably already know what needs to be done, and can get started right away.

If instead, you are writing due to a burning desire in your heart, it can sometimes be difficult to discern our truest thoughts amid the plethora of ideas bouncing around our heads. Consider drawing a mind map to expand your thoughts and see where things may lead. A mind map is a diagram drawn on paper—preferably something large—or on a whiteboard/blackboard. In a mind map, a central theme or focus in put into the middle, with different ideas or subsections broken out like branches around it. One branch may lead to another—or even several other branches.

As you are drawing your mind map, let your pen and your thoughts go wherever they will. Don’t worry that others will see this map, or that you need to be “symmetrical” in writing the same amount of information on all branches of the map. In fact—that’s kind of the point! Let your mind wander, and add branches, words or other information wherever you like. You may find that certain areas are getting you excited and that you have lots to add to your mind map. In other areas, you may find yourself struggling to add even a few words.

Which branch or area did you find the most difficult to write about?

Was there someplace where you were struggling—or even forcing yourself—to come up with ideas or words because you felt that you “had to?”

Why did you feel you “have to” address that particular area—or branch—in your mind map?

Fortunately, writing a book isn’t a school assignment where you must follow a predetermined outline or even address certain questions or issues. It is YOUR book, and if you find that you can’t even think up a few things in a particular area to fill in the branch of a mind map, you have no requirement to delve any further in that area.

Subsequently, you may discover that certain subjects are inspiring or invigorating your thoughts, and you are running out of room all on one side or area of your mind map. Many books are quite different at their completion than their authors ever envisioned at the outset. You may find that the book you originally set out to write is actually just one chapter of your original plan—expanded to an entire book. Or perhaps something that may have been intended as just a sidebar not in your book is that which really excites you, and instead you’ve decided to put your focus there. Go with your heart, and your pen (or computer) will soon follow!