The big idea or high-level concept of your book is that moment of inspiration that first excites you. It’s the basic framework and is the first step to building the foundation of your book.
Here are some examples:
· A story about a boy called Benjamin who had a life-changing accident as a baby.
· A book that explains how to generate more sales.
· A biography of my grandmother’s life in 1920s China.
Whether you’re writing a novel or non-fiction, the big idea is central. Every word you write will link to it and it must take the book forward in some way as well as sustain a full-length manuscript. Easier said than done!
Having a bank of ideas through regular brainstorming sessions can help you stay creative and also be used if your current idea can’t be developed. I talk a lot about idea generation in my course Kick Start Your Book With Karen because as a writer, it's a skill that needs to be used on a consistent basis.
So, grab a pen and paper as I share 8 ways to generate potential new ideas for your book.
1. List your own life experiences
When I wrote The Good Mother, I had given birth the year before and had a second child on the way. This life experience was a powerful trigger in creating the big idea for this novel. It was also a life event which was hugely emotive which came through in the writing.
To do: List 10 of your most memorable life experiences (both positive and negative).
2. Ask ‘What If…?’ questions
Stretch your mind to come up with “impossible” situations: For instance, Michael Crichton’s iconic novel Jurassic Park was based on the question: What if dinosaurs were brought back to life?
To do: Brainstorm a list of ‘what if…’ scenarios
3. Record your dreams
If you’re a person who dreams a lot when they sleep, record them in a notebook as soon as you wake up.
To do: Spend a few minutes each morning after you wake up recalling your dreams, even if they are just fragments.
4. Browse online
The world wide web is full of potential story ideas if you know where to look. A good tip is to focus your search on local newspapers, rather than the large news sites, for unique ideas.
To do: Set a time limit and browse online taking notes of anything that captures your attention.
5. Burrough’s Method
Ideal for those with a love of craft, this technique derived from the American author William S. Burroughs who would take a text and cut it into strips of individual words and phrases, then rearrange them at random to create new sentences. A great one for the kids, too.
To do: Print out some text or cut up old magazines and see if you come up with ten new sentences that might have potential for a book idea.
6. The Q and A
This works well for non-fiction book ideas. What types of questions do you get asked that you could provide the answers to? What’s the most common question? This could the basis of an idea for your book.
To do: Make a list of things people come to you for, whether that’s advice on how to do make up or restaurant recommendations.
7. The How To…
This is a popular idea when you want to share your expertise. For example, if you’re website builder, how to design and build your own website.
To do: What expertise do you have that you could share?
8. Put two ideas together
It’s a common complaint that every book idea has been done before however, by putting two ideas together, you can come up with a unique outcome.
To do: Take all your ideas from questions 1 – 7 and try pairing them together.
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