“Is my idea any good?” “Is this idea good enough for a book?”
At the heart of the creative journey is a good idea. And we all want to know if our idea is good enough for a book. But we have a fear that our idea might not be. That our idea is unpublishable. So, how do you know if your idea is good enough for a book?
Take a look at three of our seven questions to begin determining if your idea is good enough for a book. To read all seven of our questions, click here for our free downloadable!
Do I write regularly (or semi-regularly)?
If you write regularly, then you already know what it takes to write 1,500 words or 5,000 words. You have an understanding for the time it takes to research a topic, write the first draft, and then enter into a series of editing cycles.
Because a book is longform writing, it’s tough to wrestle with the idea of a book without ever having written a blog, whitepaper, or article before. A book requires creating and sustaining an argument over the course of (at least) ten chapters.
To know if their ideas were good enough for a book, two of our Roadtrippers actively practiced their hand at longform writing through their blogs. Blog writing allows a writer to get a feel for the length of longform writing, what is needed to write a sufficient story in a couple thousand words, and how to write a story that has a beginning, middle, and end.
One of our Roadtrippers, Alysa, has been blogging for years and has finished the first draft of her book. While book writing is different than blogging, Alysa developed her idea thousands of words in a blog. Each blog post received feedback that deepened her thinking and provided stories for her book. You can’t just drop blog posts into a chapter, but you can use the rudimentary ideas to shape your book.
Experienced writers tend to have a better feel for the kind of idea that can be sustained for more than an article or blog post. So, if you’re not writing, start today!
Is my idea based on a deep expertise?
If you have a deep expertise from years of experience, then you have most likely been sharpening your ideas for years. This expertise can range from personal finance to personal fitness to personal hobbies! And it means you have material to write on. Material that will sustain your idea for the entirety of a book.
One of our Roadtrippers recently wrote a book based on his work in the family business sector. He has thought about his idea for almost 15 years (talk about passion!). Through his years of experience and the qualitative research he conducted, he was able to sustain material for a ten-chapter book.
As an expert, you’ve likely spoken or written on your subject multiple times. You think of fresh ways to apply your expertise and connect with your target audience. Your biggest struggle will be focusing your idea more narrowly. The best nonfiction books have a narrow, specific thesis. Does yours?
And if you have years...
There are a thousand clichés about how to take the first step of a long journey.
But they all have one thing in common: you have to start. In this episode, we offer up a series of tips on how to start writing a book, including fighting through and overcoming the so-called imposter syndrome.
At some point, no matter how insecure we feel, the only way to overcome our emotion is the physical act of writing something down. Here are some ideas of how to Start Writing a Book:
1. Give yourself permission to not be perfect--and just write something. I’m a perfectionist (Melissa). Or at least I’m really afraid of not doing something well. That means I often don’t start something. I just say I’ll do it.
When I’m not worried about performance, it’s easier to just write.
This release from the chokehold of perfection only comes with a mindset shift. You have to make the shift from thinking I can’t and that it won’t be great and that I am some kind of imposter to the mindset of I'm just going to do it--even if it isn't praiseworthy.
2. Start small. In one of our Roadtrippers calls, someone was challenged by the idea of writing a mere 50 words a day. That’s not overwhelming.
If you wrote 50 words a day for 365 days, that’s 18,250 words. If you wrote 100 words a day, you’d have 36,500 words. That’s almost a book.
Of course, there will be days you won’t have time to write, or are sick, or just need a break. But imagine if you began to discipline yourself by writing small? You’d make progress. And begin to find your voice.
I (Melissa) developed a discipline of writing when I started writing 50- to 100-word posts on Instagram every day. It was writing, but because of word count limitations, I never felt the pressure of writing something long. In the process, I figured out how to tell a story. I worked on my word choice. And I found my most natural writing voice.
If you’re struggling to write, maybe it’s because you have never really written before, and you need to just write more—and in smaller chunks.
You can’t become a writer without writing. Writer’s write. So maybe start like I did and tackle a few longer social media posts each week. Work on crafting the post.
3. Write about what you're interested in - not what you think you should write. When you're sincerely interested in a topic, you'll find it easier to write.
When I write about vintage, for instance, I have a lot of ideas on the topic. Lots of stories to share. Lots of tips and knowledge. Because I was interested in it, it was easy to write about.
Maybe your interested in fly fishing, like Dave who wrote the book "The Fly Fisher's Book of Lists." Maybe you're interested in leadership strategies. Or cooking. Or your family history. Whatever your area of interest is, start there. You'll have easy access...
By Melissa Parks and Dave Goetz
What is the starting point for writing a book? Do you just sit down one day and start to write?
That's not a bad idea. At least you create a bit of momentum.
But there are some strategic activities to help you make more progress more quickly.
Here are seven way ways to start writing a book:
1. Determine what type of book you're writing. It's the most basic place to start. Will you be writing fiction or non-fiction? If non-fiction, will it be a business book, a memoir, a guide, a coffee table book? Will it be academic or popular? Formal or informal? How you answer this question will determine how you structure the book as well as the type of research you will do.
2. Identify your ideal reader. Once you know the type of book you'll be writing, come up with ten qualities or descriptive phrases that capture the worldview of the person you’d like to reach with your book. What does he or she believe about the world? What does she read? What does she get angry about? What motivates him?
The answers to these questions will help you develop specific ideas for supporting your thesis. And it will be the benchmark for all of your writing: "Does my reader need to hear this?"
3. Ask, "What kind of research does this book need?" You might have an idea for a book, but if you haven't done much research, it likely is not a nuanced idea.
Research reveals what you don't know, supports hunches, and creates data (both qualitative and quantitative) to illustrate your points in a compelling way.
Some people's books begin with a formal research project: the data creates the thesis. Others have a thesis idea, but need research to validate it. Research can take on many. forms, including interviews, reading other books on the topic, studying data on the topic, and even social media polls. You'll likely need a variety of research for your project.
4. Evaluate your personal experience. Personal experience is most often where our passion originates. That's why many books include personal stories by the author. Consider moments in your life when you said "A-ha!" Or when your brow furrowed. Tap into the details of those experiences, and identify how they inform what you want to say to the world. These personal stories are what will make your book unique. Nobody else has your experience.
5. Go back to your presentations. We've said that you can't create a book from PPT presentations. Meaning, you can't just string together a bunch of talks and hope they hang together as a book. We stand by that. But it's beneficial to return to your presentations. Something from those presentations might remind you of an idea you had forgotten, or spark some fresh thinking as you begin to shape your book idea.
6. Start creating "car parts." A car doesn't run with just an engine. A book doesn't run with just a thesis. You need...
By Melissa Parks and Dave Goetz
It's everywhere. The personality test known as Enneagram has exploded in popularity. Coaches, consultants, HR departments, leadership gurus - many use the Enneagram to help with self-understanding - and thus everything from team building to bonding.
If you haven't yet heard of it, the Enneagram is a personality test comprised of 105 questions. It takes only ten minutes or so to complete. In fact, here's a quick link to an online version of the test: Enneagram Personality Test.
Your Writing Style
In this episode, we interview (again) Alysa Clark on how the Enneagram test and how our number (1 to 9) may shape not only what we write but how we write. Just so you know: Alysa is a 7 on the Enneagram, Melissa is a 4, and Dave is an 8.
One takeaway for Dave is that as an 8 on the Enneagram, he tends to write more provocatively; he likes to challenge his readers.
There are strengths and weaknesses with each Enneagram number. Alysa, for example, is a 7 on the Enneagram, so her writing tends to reflect her warm, inspirational personality. She makes a concerted effort to back her writing with more research, since she is not inclined to do tons of research.
The goal of this episode is to help you connect your Enneagram type with your writing style. The point is to be reflective about how you write. Sometimes your personality type may inform your writing; other times it may not or should not.
For more resources on the Enneagram, you may want to pick up The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. It's important to note that understanding your personality using the Enneagram is more than simply taking a quiz.
To identify your number accurately will require additional reading and conversations with others.
by Melissa Parks and Dave Goetz
Not all ideas are not book worthy. Some are just not substantive enough for 50,000 words. They are better packaged as a blog post, an article, or even a white paper. But not a book.
How do you know if your idea is meaty enough for an entire book?
In this episode, we interview Cathy Carroll, founder of Legacy Onward, a leadership coaching practice for family businesses. After years in corporate, Cathy was asked to run her father's business, and learned first-hand the stark differences between corporate leadership and family business leadership. Cathy's experience became the basis for a book idea that promises to reshape the conversation about leadership in a family business.
Cathy's journey from her leadership experience to a book idea to the actual writing of the book will encourage those just starting out. Listener's will gain insight on how she conducted research, structured her chapters, and restarted after completing the first draft.
by Melissa Parks and Dave Goetz
It's no snap turning a PhD dissertation into a book.
For starters, a dissertation is positioned for a micro-audience (your dissertation committee members). The bulk of the project is focused on the research methodology, And the cadence of a dissertation is constantly interrupted by references to dead authors.
Reading a dissertation is more effective than a CPAP machine for your sleep apnea.
The writing of a book, on the other hand, must appeal to a completely different mindset than that of a dissertation committee. And it's critical that the book is filled with stories and appeal to human emotion.
In this episode, Dr. Alan Amling, a former executive with UPS and teaching fellow at the University of Tennessee, discusses the road to translate his dissertation thesis into a book for a wider audience. Dr. Amling's book is nearing its publishing date, and his advice for book writers is priceless.
by Dave Goetz and Melissa Parks
There's the idea for a book.
And then there's the actual writing of the book.
Often, aspiring writers banter about an idea or set of ideas in their head for years before making the decision to start writing the book.
In this episode, we interview Alysa Clark, a storytelling photographer who recently made the decision to start writing her book. Founder of "Water Street Dreams" and a regular blogger, Alysa has wanted to write a book for years but now is doing the hard work of writing 20 minutes a day.
And she is making great progress.
Alysa describes the process of moving from idea to writing - and offers hope for those who haven't yet written a word. She discusses how she made the shift in mindset from "I want to do this" to "I will do this."
You'll also love her book idea as she tells some funny and warm stories about becoming a welcoming person.