You Have an Idea for a Book. Now What?

Oh, so you’ve got an idea for a book? Congratulations. Permission to be an absolute tool about it.

By having an idea for a book, you’ve now joined the other 7+ billion of us capable of independent thought. An idea, unfortunately, is worth absolutely zilch until it’s acted upon. The bigger question? Do you have the gumption, the cojones, the white-hot fire in the belly to get that brain nugget onto paper?

Go over to your shelf and pick up a book. Any book. How many pages has it got? A few hundred? If anything it’s conservative to say that the amount of pages in the book might equate to the amount of hours spent on it. 500 pages? Well, 10 hours a week for 50-odd weeks of a year is on the lower end of the workload scale for that length of text.

So you’ve got an idea for a book. But ideas are a dime a dozen. Do you have 300, 500, 1000 hours of blood, sweat and tears to spend forming that brain fart into your magnum opus? If you answered that with a stern and resolute nod of the head, read on.

Planning Your Book

Do you think man reached the moon by making it up as he went along? Whether we’re talking interplanetary spaceflight or you penning a novel, great feats require great planning.

Step 1 is research. Published novels, particularly those that are produced by traditional publishing houses, have been painstakingly sculpted, moulded, torn down and rebuilt prior to being released. The final product will usually provide an excellent example of what to do when writing a novel. Read texts similar to the one you hope to write, taking notes all the while. If you run into an issue, check back to see how another author dealt with a similar situation. If the solution involves throwing the One Ring into the fiery pits of Mordor, choose something different. Tolkien might be dead, but his legal representation is not.

The next step is to form an outline. Whether it be a single page of dot points or 30 pages of in-depth notes, forming a framework that maps your major plot points is vital. It keeps your writing on track, minimising time wasted on irrelevant subplots or dead-end storylines. Think of your outline as a proving ground for your novel – if you struggle to produce a couple of pages of highlights around your brilliant idea, do you really think you could produce a full length masterpiece?

Putting Pen to Paper

Once you’ve outlined your road to success, you’ll then need to do the deed. Long-form writing is one of the great mental challenges. With the light at the end of the tunnel seemingly so far away, it can be incredibly easy to toss in the quill. And this is what separates the published author wheat from the ’I’ve got a book idea’ chaff.

Creating a schedule can do wonders for your progress. If you only write when you feel like writing, it’s likely you’ll soon find that you seldom feel like writing. Making writing habitual, however, denies you’re the option of putting it off ‘til later. Find 30 minutes in the morning before work, or an hour after dinner. Commit to this timeslot, and throw down a ‘do not disturb’ request to your family.

Once you’ve got your tush in the seat, stay motivated by offering yourself an incentive to finish a sentence, paragraph or page. A gummy bear. An Oreo. Or for those with willing and devoted partners, a conjugal visit (admittedly, not great for productivity).

The Long Road

Finally, it’s important to realise that the first draft is just the beginning of the novel production process. While completing the first iteration may feel like the most colossal thing you’ve ever accomplished, as soon as you finish it, you’ll have to go straight back to the start, and do it better this time. It’s a demoralising realisation for many a first time author; that their first draft is but a chunk of unmoulded clay that needs to be formed into something kiln-worthy. Becoming comfortable with this idea is paramount to seeing your novel through to the publishing phase.

There are obviously editing, formatting and publishing hurdles further down the line, but when it comes to getting a base idea from your noggin to a Word doc, these steps should be all that you need.

So, you’ve got an idea for a book. Now what? If you’re not put off by the doomsday rhetoric above, it’s time to get authoring.

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