Where to Get Ideas for YOUR Book

What should you write about? Where do ideas come from? What will people want to read about? Good questions... read on...

Many people want to write a novel but have a problem coming up with ideas.

Discovering what the “perfect” subject matter should be is one of the most difficult things about being an author. How do you know what topic others will want to read about? How can you be sure the concept will hold YOUR interest, as a writer? How will you know if the subject matter, once in book form, will sell? All good questions that, unfortunately, don’t have a definitive answer.

The best I can do is tell you how I came upon the idea for “One Last Lie”. The story (in summary form) goes something like this…


“Can I have your sperm, please?”

Three years ago this question came out of my best friend’s mouth – a woman I’d known for many years and had never asked for anything more than a sip of my Caramel Machiatto. She talked about her motherly instincts and the ticking of her “biological clock”. It seemed she had given it a lot of thought, talked with many people and was now ready to proceed. Apparently, I was the last to know.

I was stunned, speechless and quite flattered. I stuttered, grabbed her hand and asked for a few days to think about it.

Coincidentally, I was having lunch with my lawyer the next day and I brought up my friend’s question – which was now my current problem.

She dropped her fork. “Absolutely not!” she snapped.

“Why not?” I snapped back.

“The law is too unclear. Even if she says now that she doesn’t want money or support, she might change her mind. What if she’s really a nut and her pregnancy hormones put her over the edge? Seriously, what if she’s unstable?”

“She’s not,” I said adamantly.

“But what if she is?” she insisted.

“She’s not,” I insisted back.

“But what if…”

“She’s not.”

And that was the origin of my best book so far – “One Last Lie” – a novel that has made people mad, sad, happy and most importantly, it has made them think. 

So, I guess this proves that one of the answers to finding a great idea for a book comes simply from living life – taking your every day experiences or casual conversations and adding a “twist”. The thing is this: if you’re going through an experience or talking with a friend about something, it’s likely that millions of others are going through the same thing or talking about the same topic. And honestly, who doesn’t like to read about themselves?

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Kate Gillan September 28, 2012 at 05:41 PM
You can also get more ideas about how to write a novel at my Novel Writing Workshop which is free at the Darien Public Library! Bring your ideas and I'll help: http://www.darienlibrary.org/events/novel-writing-workshop
Al Brecken September 29, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Some years ago , a best-selling novel was "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit" , auth Sloan Wilson. The novel was of local interest beacuse the protagonist of the novel, Tom Rath , was a Fairfield Ct. commutor on the New Haven at a time when a grey flannel suit was de riguer attire for those employed in Manhattan and who boarded a morning train to Grand Central at a Fairfield Ct. station such as ------ Greenwich. Wilson's sucessful novel was essentialy a "thinly-disguised auto-biography" because Wilson did indeed become "A Man in the Grey Flannel Suit" when he was hired by Time Inc. and commuted to Manhattan from his Fairfield Ct. residence.. After the succesful publication of Wilson's novel , a gray flannel suit for commutors to Manhattan was no longe de riguer.
Dorothy Hayes January 15, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Many classic novels are biographical. Tolstoy to Dickens, and to the present. Writers must write about what they know, it is said, and proven to be true. We take pieces from our everyday lives. But the plot is something inspired. In my next novel, Murder at the P&Z to be published in May, I was inspired by a huge towering black spruce in my Wilton backyard, an evergreen tree at least a couple hundred years old and large enough to hide a body under. I was once a reporter for the Wilton Bulletin. So a reporter is sent out to cover the story of a dead woman's body hidden under a tree. The rest is again drawn from people and experiences I met in everyday life. Research of Wilton's colonial history added to those ingredients make the tale believable. Murder at the P&Z by Dorothy H. Hayes to be published in April.


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