Friday 28th November 2014

Writing A Book
GETTING AN IDEA FOR A BOOK

by NICK DAWS

So you want to write a book, but can’t think of an idea? No problem!

Here are just a few suggestions to set you on the road to your first best-seller!

Start by thinking about your job (and if you’re a student, a carer, a home-maker, a full-time parent or an unpaid volunteer worker, that counts as well). Think about whether there are there aspects of this which would be of interest to ordinary people, or people who do similar jobs to you (or would like to).

Remember, you don’t have to be an ‘expert’ now – you can always research what you don’t know later. But clearly it helps if you already know something about your subject. And by the very fact of doing a certain job, you already know more than the great majority of the population about this subject.

Suppose though your job doesn’t suggest many ideas – or you simply don’t find it interesting or exciting enough to inspire you. Try thinking about jobs you have done in the past. Think about your hobbies and leisure interests – from baseball to gourmet cookery, astronomy to foreign travel. Could any of these provide the inspiration for a book?

And think about experiences you have gone through in your life. The topics below have formed the basis of many thousands of books already. How many of these could you write about from experience yourself?

  • Getting Married
  • Having a Baby
  • Bringing Up Children
  • Living With Teenagers
  • Dealing With Bereavement
  • Being A Student
  • Coping With Divorce
  • Buying/Selling a House
  • Learning to Drive
  • Buying a Car
  • Extending Your Home

Remember, the experience itself is just a starting point. From the list above, take ‘Being a Student’, for example. Here are just a few ideas for books which this might inspire:

  • Leaving home: a guide for young people
  • Study skills for students
  • Improve your memory
  • How to work your way through college
  • Cooking for cash-strapped students
  • The Internet for students
  • Making the most of student life

Hmm. I might have a go at some of these myself! Seriously, the point I’m making is that most people have the seeds for hundreds, probably thousands, of books within them already. All you need do is spend a little time thinking about your life – things you do now and things you have done in the past – and consider how your knowledge and experience might be of interest to others.

And here’s a further idea to make your idea even more attractive to potential readers and publishers:

develop your own technology round it! And no, I don’t mean you have to produce some clever gadget to accompany your book. By technology I mean a plan or system around which you can structure your book (or part of it).

An acronym is a good example of what I’m talking about here. For those who don’t know, an acronym is a word made up from the initial letters of other words or phrases. It acts as an aide memoire for the words concerned, and in many cases forms the basis for a set of guidelines or instructions. For example, advertising copywriters are often taught that any ad they write should meet the AIDA requirements. These are as follows:

1. ATTRACT the reader’s ATTENTION
2. Arouse INTEREST
3. Create DEMAND for the product or service
4. Prompt the reader to ACTION

So how could you apply this principle to your own project? Say you’re going to write a book about bringing up teenagers (a subject I know nothing about, by the way). A few moments’ thought gave me the acronym RAILS, made up as follows:

Set RULES
Make ALLOWANCE
Show INTEREST
Don’t LECTURE
Give SPACE (or SUPPORT)

An acronym can also help provide the title for your book. In the above example, one obvious possibility would be Keep Your Teenager on the RAILS. I can easily imagine this climbing high in Amazon.com’s Top Sellers list. I don’t think I’ll be writing it myself, even so – but if any reader wants to pick up the idea and run with it, I’ll be happy to settle for 10 per cent of your royalties!

Finally, suppose you want to write fiction rather than non-fiction. The same principle applies – use your own experience as a starting point, and build on it using your imagination and research. For example: a friend of mine writes detective novels from a police perspective; they’re called police procedurals by those in the know. He doesn’t have a police background himself and wrote his first novel entirely from his own imagination, aided by research from books. He particularly treasures one glowing review from a police magazine which congratulates him on the authenticity of his characters!

Of course, the real point is that people are the same the world over, whatever the occupation they happen to work in: some are conscientious, others slapdash; some are sociable, others solitary; some court trouble, others aim to avoid it. The same would doubtless be true in medieval times, the present day or the far future. All writers have to do is start from their own experience of the world and the people in it, and extend this.

Nick Daws is a best-selling British author, and creator of the popular “How to Write ANY Book in 28 Days” CD course. You can learn more about Nick Daws and purchase his writing philosophy at http://www.writequickly.com/

Write a book now