Coming up with the right book idea can be a serious challenge regardless of how experienced you are as a writer.
Whether you’re a brand new writer or a seasoned author ready for a new writing project, it can be incredibly difficult to find the inspiration you need, in order to commit to an endeavor as arduous as writing a book. I’m a firm believer that the best book ideas must come from within.
However, the ways in which you find and cultivate the story ideas that have the potential to turn into a book idea (or best seller) you’re passionate about writing, are plentiful.
As a writer myself, I’ve gone through a lot of creative ups and downs. For this exhaustive list of potential book ideas, I’m pulling straight from my personal list of ways to find inspiration for my own writing process, when I’m lacking motivation.
Over the years, this list has grown with ideas and inspiration I’ve gleaned from a handful of my favorite experimental storytellers like Tim Ferriss, Dan Carlin, Alex Blumberg and others who’ve created some of my favorite dynamic podcasts.
These techniques to finding inspiration as a writer, come from pushing myself outside of my comfort zone with trying new experiences, conducting massive amounts of research on topics I’m interested in, running massive lifestyle experiments, taking a deeper dive into my thoughts and dreams, and so much more. Let’s dive in.
Here are my a dozen ways to come up with the best book ideas that’ll help you hit the ground running as a new writer.
1. Write About What Bothers You Off Most.
I could write endlessly about the mistakes entrepreneurs tend to make with their first businesses. It doesn’t quite piss me off, but I care so much about this topic and want to help others avoid the most painful mistakes I’ve made myself, that it fuels my ability to write ad nauseam on the complexities of how to start a business. What gets you most heated?
Take that topic and write about it without any creative restraints whatsoever. Let the words meet the page, don’t judge your ideas, and then structure the content later. This approach has fueled many of my best blog posts that could easily turn into book ideas in the future.
2. Do Something Remarkable, Then Write About It.
Imagine the story you could tell if you made a trip like Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman did on their 20,000 mile bike crossing 12 counties and 19 time zones in 2004. Of course, these were celebrities taking time off to raise money for charity. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not in a position to travel unpaid for 115 days. However, there are still many smaller-scale remarkable endeavors that you could do, that’d be worth writing about.
3. Start a Blog and Write Chapters One Post at a Time.
This works particularly well for niche topics. Gain a loyal following writing a series of blog posts on something you’re interested in. Once you have built up a quality library of posts, you can repackage them into a book.
4. Create a Podcast and Write a Book Based on What You’ve Learned from Guests.
Did you know that one in four Americans ages 12-54 listened to a podcast last month? In fact, according to Jay Baer of Convince and Convert with an assist from Edison Research, the same number of Americans listen to podcasts each month, as use Twitter. One of the most popular podcast formats is to invite an interesting guest onto your show and interview them for your audience. Entrepreneur and CreativeLive instructor, Lewis Howestook this exact approach when he wrote his New York Times best-selling book, The School of Greatness, which shares everything he’s learned from interviewing hundreds of the world’s top creatives.
5. Write a Book and Publish One Chapter at a Time with Amazon Kindle Singles.
If the thought of writing a full-length novel is too intimidating, then one very real option is to break your book into smaller chunks that you publish one at a time. You would be in good company if you did, Charles Dickens wrote The Pickwick Papers, his very first novel, as a series of short stories in the 19th century. With easy-to-use blogging platforms, the Internet now makes this a very easy task. As an added benefit beyond publishing all of the stories at once, you’ll have the opportunity to adjust your writing style for the later chapters in response to feedback you get early on.
6. Ask Your Friends What They Like Reading Most, Write Something for Them.
Your friends are already a captive audience. Ask them what they like reading about, chances are there are more people out there who have similar tastes. Write your book imagining that your friends are your target readers. Of course, your friends are unlikely to be fierce critics if the first draft of your book isn’t up to snuff, so make sure you elicit honest (sometimes brutal) feedback on the first versions of your book, in order to avoid them just telling you what they think you want to hear.
7. Write About What Makes You Laugh Hardest.
This could easily tie in with the activity above, but I’ve found that it’s often more fun to expand upon just one instance when you laughed hysterically in the past. To me, laughter is a sign of a truly great story, and it’s usually highly contagious. Of course, you might be embarrassed about what makes you laugh most, and it may not be politically correct. However, the more outlandish or embarrassing the story, the more likely you are to attract an engaged audience for your book idea.
8. Write About the Most Upsetting Experience You’ve Ever Had.
One of the stranger quirks of the human state I’ve come to observe, is that we’re drawn in to read, watch and consume traumatic stories that highlight the difficulties others have triumphed over in life. While you may struggle to tell the world about your most upsetting experiences, it’s likely that people would benefit tremendously from hearing how you’ve gone through unfortunate circumstances or failures, and what you’ve learned on the other side.
9. Write About the Person who’s Had the Most Impact on Your Life.
Have you had a mentor that’s left a lasting impression in your personal life or within your career? Maybe it was your best school teacher, youth leader, business advisor, or simply an older friend or family member. Think about how they’ve impacted your life, pull out specific lessons they imprinted on you and dedicate the book to them as the ultimate thank you. Gratitude is contagious, and this format makes for an incredibly empowering book idea.
10. Take Inspiration From Your Favorite Songs and Musicians.
You could choose to write about your favorite musician from a fan’s perspective. Perhaps you’ve been to one their concerts and could write about the experience. If you have a good music collection, perhaps you could choose to write about the songs they have released, possibly looking at the messages behind them. Alternatively, you could examine some song lyrics, and see if these can inspire you to tell a tale. Here’s an example: a few years ago we took a girls trip to Vegas for my sister’s 40th birthday and went to the Michael Jackson show. After the show, I tasked each lady (there were four of us) to write a short story using the title to one of Michael Jackson’s hits and I’d publish it in a collective book about what Michael Jackson songs meant to each of us in our life. Uncovering a correlation between positive social changes in that time period and the positive music that rose in popularity would undoubtedly stir up a readership. Needless to say, we didn’t do it but it was still a good idea and one you could use when thinking about writing your book.
11. Write About Your Career Experience Within Your Industry.
Most of us have built up a wealth of life experiences. Many books have been written by people telling tales from within the industry in which they work. Have you been working in a job long enough to build up a series of anecdotes that might interest or amuse potential readers? How about teaching them something that’ll accelerate their path to becoming an expert within your space? I’ve done exactly this by chronicling my own personal journey of becoming a subject matter expert within the content marketing world, and have written a series of posts about how to start a freelance business, that have attracted a large readership.
12. Write About the Biggest Problem Facing Your Industry (and Potential Solutions).
Discuss any major problems or issues that you can identify within your industry and thoughtfully propose new solutions. If you’ve tested these solutions yourself, even better! This will be particularly useful if you can come up with practical and cost-effective solutions to the challenges other businesses in your space are facing, and will help you position yourself as an expert, one of the major reasons people decide to write a book in the first place.
Try at least one,