What To Do Next?

This is a post from my writing/producing partner William Rabkin. He asked me to share it with you so he could get your advice:

I’m facing a big question, and I’d like some advice from others who have
found themselves in this position. I’ve just finished my first novel — aside
from implementing whatever brilliant suggestions my esteemed partner will
inevitably have — and am ready to move on. But I am torn between two projects.
My question is: How do you decide what to start next?
The one I just finished was a no-brainer. It was based on a completed
script that had been optioned by a Major Producer, who had then been unable to
set it up anywhere. I knew the story worked and would work even better in book
But now the decision is nowhere near as clear cut. I’ve got one sort of
Elmore-Leonard-Meets-PT-Anderson thriller based on a partial script I abandoned
when I realized that what I wanted to accomplish with it could only be done in a
book, not a script. (Not a salable script, anyway, not unless I just finished
writing and directing Boogie Nights.) The other is also a thriller, but more
personal and emotional.
I’ve been planning on jumping into the first idea for months. But now that
I’m actually there, my heart and mind keep drifting to the other one. Downside
is, it’s going to be a lot harder. It’s not plotted — the other one is about
half-plotted, and I have a pretty good idea about the final trajectory — and
frankly, there are things in it I’m kind of scared to dive into for personal
reasons. But at the same time, it’s exciting me in a way the other one isn’t.
Sometimes scary is good.
As for commercial potential, I’d say they’re about the same. As in, who
My intellect is telling me to do the first one first, knock it out and move
on to the other one as my third novel. But my heart is pulling me in the other
direction. One way or another, I’ve got to commit.
If you’re not Lee Goldberg, with deadlines rushing at you every month and a
new book coming out every other week, how do you guys choose your next

14 thoughts on “What To Do Next?”

  1. Scary heart-and-mind projects first. Always. Always. Always. You’re going to die at some unforeseen moment, so do it now.
    Note that I still have a day job.

  2. Definitely go with your instinct, no matter how treacherous the road might be or how scary the prospect is. For the longest time I resisted writing an idea I had for all sorts of reasons — didn’t want to screw it up/didn’t want it to be the novel in the drawer/didn’t know if I was ready. Then I realized if I didn’t try to at least make sense of it in draft form, I’d kick myself. So I wrote it.
    Of course, now I have to revise the sucker, but that’s a whole other set of problems and fears…
    But novel #2 is looking to be along similar treacherous lines. Goody. But really, it is.

  3. Bill, as someone who’s been right where you are and made the MISTAKE of trying to write the “right” one (i.e. going with the mind) I have to tell you…
    An artist must always go with the heart. It’s the only way to ensure you’ll do your best work.

  4. Always go with the one that grabs you the most. Since both are equal in commercial potential, your only downside is working on one at a time.
    Though one can always multitask. And when you become big like James Patterson, outsource.

  5. This is the kind of question that makes me glad I concentrate on writing short stuff.
    If I make a “wrong” decision, I only lose a couple of days, and I still usually wind up with a saleable ms.


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