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How to Choose a Book Idea

by Rochelle Melander

How do you choose which book idea to write?

In the past week, I’ve talked to three people about their book projects. Each person had multiple book ideas to choose from. For each of them, the question was, “Which book do I write first?”

I know how challenging it can be to choose a single project to work on. I have two books I need to revise, a novel and a nonfiction book. I also have several picture books that I need to polish. Then there are the books I want to draft.

If you’ve got multiple book ideas, you know how challenging that can be. Maybe you don’t get around to researching or writing, because you don’t know what to focus on. You don’t have the mental space to focus on all the projects, so you end up hopping between them. Or perhaps, when you do write, you feel unfocused and torn, “Which project should I tackle today?”

Over the years, I’ve learned to work on a single project at a time. For each week or month, I choose a single project to work on. Then when I show up to write, I know exactly what I am doing.

The following questions will help you evaluate your book ideas and choose one. Grab a big piece of paper. Write the titles of each of your potential projects across the top. Draw lines from the top to the bottom of your paper, creating a column for each book topic. Review each of the following questions and jot down your answers in the appropriate column.

1. How will this project help me in my life and work?

Our writing projects can support our careers in different ways. Some projects will help us earn money now and others have the potential to support us in the future. Some projects sharpen our skill set while others expand our reach. Look at each of your projects and ask:

  • How will this writing project support me and my work now? In the future?
  • What will this project enable me to do in my life or work?
  • What are the benefits of writing this book?

2. What purpose will this project serve?

Your projects don’t just help you, they support your readers. Your book might encourage, educate, or delight your reader. Look at each project you’re considering and ask, “How will this project engage and serve the reader?” Note the purpose of each project.

3. Is the project worthy of a book?

Not all great ideas are big enough for a book. Some make better blog posts, speeches, or workshops. I’m sure you’ve read books that made you think, “That topic could have been covered in a few paragraphs!”Look at each project and consider the topics you would cover for each book. Does it seem like there’s enough information for a book? Can you list ten to fifteen topics?

4. What project fits my life right now?

If you’re going through a major life change, attending school, or working on a big venture at work, this might not be the time to take on a huge research project. But that doesn’t mean you can’t write a book. Look at the projects you have listed along with the purpose each will serve. Consider the shape of your daily life—the time and energy you have available to write.

  • Is there any project that does not fit your life right now? Write “no” or “later” in the column under the project.
  • What projects and purposes do fit your life right now? Write “yes” or “maybe” under the ones that are still contenders.

5. What does my gut say?

Some people make decisions after collecting data, making lists or consulting experts. Some people check their guts. And some do both! After working through these questions, you no doubt still have several worthy projects to choose from. Answer the following questions quickly. Do not overthink your answer. For each question, mark a star by the project that gets your yes!

  • Which project am I passionate about writing right now?
  • If I could have completed one project by next year at this time, it would be this one.
  • Which project energizes me?
  • Which project would I write even if no one read it?
  • Which project can I talk about even when I’m tired?
  • Which project would be most fun for me?

And the winner is!

After doing this process, usually one or two projects emerge as contenders. If not, put aside the decision for a few days. Pay attention to your thoughts, conversations, and dreams. Notice what ideas, articles, blog posts and books come your way. No doubt, by the end of the week you’ll know exactly which project you need to work on.

If you still can’t decide

You might need help. Talk to a colleague or a coach. It helps to verbalize your answers to the questions above. When you talk through it, you’ll often feel the right decision in your bones! If you need to talk through your big book idea and don’t have a friend who’s interested, book a consultation.

Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an ADHD-trained professional certified coach who has helped hundreds of people write and publish books. She’s available to help you create a plan for your writing project, overcome distraction and procrastination to start and finish your writing, and navigate publishing and marketing your book. Book a private consultation.

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