Writing a book – Part 2 – The idea

December 13th, 2005

This is the second installment in a series of posts on writing a book (first post here).  It's not so much a "how to get published" but rather one author's experience of the entire writing process, starting with the idea and taking that to a finished book. 

Same disclaimers as last time - I'm writing from a technical author's viewpoint and ideas may not translate to other kind of writing, I can't guarantee that you'll make millions or that you'll even get published but I'm pretty sure that the information here isn't going to harm your chances!

The Idea

Coming up with the idea for a book seems of the face of it like the easiest part of the process but it can be the hardest.  Either way I think of this stage as being the most important.

If you are a new author then your ideas have to come from your head or the head of someone around you.  If you are an established author then you may be lucky and have an editor come to you with an idea.

Coming up with an idea suitable for a book is a single-step process.  Find a need.  Sounds simple, and in effect it is. 

The idea stage is the hardest to explain and I'm not too sure if I'm going to make a good job of getting this part across, partly because it's hard to document the thought process and partly because we don't think alike.

I'm going to assume here that you are actually able to write on the subject that your idea revolves around.   This is rather a daft point but it needs to be said!

Finding that need for a new book from a new author usually begins with a passing thought along the lines of "... hey, I could write a book on ..." or "there's not many books on XYZ ... maybe I could write one?" or "this information could be useful to a lot of people ... I wonder if there's a book in it?".  Simple thoughts.  It's from these seeds that big things will grow.  Maybe these thoughts arise because you are exposed to new technology or maybe because you are frustrated by the lack of reference materials and you've had to draw up your own (frustration is a great idea generator - never fear frustration!).

The key is catching the idea.  Some people are always brimming over with ideas whereas others generate the odd idea at random intervals.  Whichever one you are, be ready to catch the idea (this is where always having a pen and paper or a voice recorder within 3 feet of you is handy).  If you don't, there's a chance (a very good one if you're like me or most people I know) of losing it.

There are times when an idea has come to me fleetingly and I've had to catch it carefully and foster it while at other times (this is much rarer) the idea has been solid and crystal clear and perfectly formed and it feels like the book's already written!

At the early stages treat the idea carefully - don't hammer at it or smother it.  Write it down and add to it as you get more ideas.  Don't rush the process, it's not a race or a competition! 

Take your time ... think calming thoughts.  Inside each of us is an idea machine but it's a slow, thoughtful process, not a sausage machine!

Over the course of a few hours or days your initial ember of an idea will grow.  A sentence will grow into a few sentences and that will grow into a few paragraphs.  When you have written down your idea, the scope of your idea (that is, what areas you've cover) and the audience (who'd read it), you're then ready to move onto the next stage - the proposal stage!  This is where you do some research, find out if your ideas will work, figure out what the competition is and lay the groundwork for the writing.

Stay tuned!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2005 at 17:35 and is filed under Book Talk!. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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