If You Don’t Write That Book, Who Will? Deciding What to Write
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Recently I’ve had several conversations with writers who are exploring what book they should be writing. Sometimes the individual is seeking to be published for the first time. Other times it’s a published authors trying to decide what to write next.
I’ve found that asking yourself one question might well give clarity where before your vision was blurred.
If you don’t write that book [or insert “that idea”], who will?
At a writers conference, I met with a conferee who was trying her hand at writing, unsure of whether she had the innate ability to pursue publication. I skimmed her sample chapters for a nonfiction book, laughing aloud in a few places, feeling challenged in my thinking in others. Good stuff. Strong writing.
But as we talked, the writer happened to mention another idea she had. I realized immediately that: it suited her well; she had spent her life working in an industry that the idea was connected to; the topic was one most Americans strongly relate to; and she saw a way to solve a conundrum others haven’t discovered. She also had spoken at significant conferences on the book’s subject and been enthusiastically received.
I responded to her by saying, “The chapters I read were good, and with some additional work, you might well get that idea published. But there’s nothing uniquely you about the concept. Anyone to write what you did. However, with your second idea, if you don’t write it, who will?”
I had a similar conversation with one of my clients. She explained to me that her publisher had seen one of her blog posts, liked it, and asked her to write a book on it. My client’s response was, “Why not?”
After all, when your publisher asks for a book, you should write it, right?
But I didn’t see it that way. The publisher might have just been struck by the topic and impulsively asked the author about expanding that into a book. It was in a genre my client could write in, but was this the best idea for her next book? Her career is young, and she’s establishing a lot about herself with her readers: What type of book should they expect from her? What is true for her voice and what isn’t? Is she giving her readers what they want? And, most importantly, if she doesn’t write that book, might someone else?
The answer to the last question is yes, another person might well write a book on that idea. Plus, my client has another idea that’s still taking shape in her mind, and it’s uniquely her. The concept is encapsulated in a phrase that’s catchy, memorable, and perfect for a book’s title. Not to mention that certain events in her life will enrich the book significantly. And she is passionate about writing it.
We’ll discuss the first idea with the publisher to find out more about why the request was made, but I’m pretty sure, my client needs to write that second idea.
If you find two or more ideas sparring each other for your attention, ask yourself:
1. If I don’t write this book, could someone else?
2. Am I uniquely qualified?
3. Am I passionate about the idea?
In what ways do you agree with me? disagree?
Do you think writing what your passionate about is the most important part of deciding what to write?
How to decide what to write next. Click to tweet.
Ask 3 questions to decide if you’re writing the right book. Click to tweet.