Before writing a book, you need to know what kind of story you want to create. This is true for beginning, experienced, and published authors. Whether this is the year you start your pursuit of publication, or want to branch out into a new genre or publishing house, you need to decide what you want to write.
It's a Keeper
Start your quest by examining the books on your keeper shelf. Do you notice any patterns in genre, setting, publishers, or the type of characters such as alpha heroes?
List common elements from those stories and then examine what you've written down.
There is more to a package than a fancy box under your tree or in the hero's trous--…well…never mind. But you do need to consider the length of book you want to write and realistically believe you can achieve.
Look at your previous fiction writing. For the medium, whether poetry or short stories, how did yours compare in length? Does the idea of 90,000 words make you panic with the thought of filling endless pages, or are you wondering how you can squeeze a whole story into such a limited space? This is a key factor in determining what markets are available and "right" for your story.
Come on-a my House
While you're picking up those gifts, hit the bookstore and check out what types of books are being bought by publishers and heavily promoted with displays and which are selling well.
If you can't bear hordes of holiday shoppers, hop on the internet super highway. Start with RWA's list of recognized publishers and start checking out their websites. What type of books have been released in the past three months and what's on deck for the coming year? Do any have elements in common with what you want to write? Make a note of any editors or publishers you think might like your work.
Don't forget to check out smaller houses and e-publishers. Even if your ultimate goal is to hit number one on the NYT list, everyone has to start somewhere. For some, this maybe the perfect place to begin building a readership.
Tell My Why
Whatever sub-genre you choose, really examine what specifically appeals to you. This is not easy, and most times not at all obvious. In fact, it may take you a while to discover the answer.
For example, I like to write paranormals and vampires. The process of constructing a workshop proposal made me realize why I like vampires. Unlike humans, when a vampire makes a commitment it's for "unlife". There's no out clause for them with "till death do us part". It really is forever, and ever when they fall in love.
The second factor drawing me to paranormal is knowing I can be as creative as I want to be. As long as I set it up right, and give good reasons clouds aren't limited to vaporous moisture. The white puffs could be the breath of giant, sleeping dragons. And those socks that disappear from the laundry are actually kidnapped by small gremlins with a fetish for textiles and a need to collect one of every shade of every color.
Don't forget to have fun while you're conducting your research by strolling down memory lane with favorite characters from your keeper shelf, and the exciting search for new ones at bookstores and publishing houses.