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So You Want to Write a Book...The Idea Harvest

So You Want to Write a Book...The Idea Harvest

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Published by D.J. Gelner
The second in a series of posts about how one goes about writing and publishing a book in the new era of publishing
The second in a series of posts about how one goes about writing and publishing a book in the new era of publishing

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Published by: D.J. Gelner on Jun 21, 2013
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07/05/2013

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The Idea Harvest
 
In theprevious post in this series, we tackled some of the big-picture ideas you need to think about before sittingdown to write a book.I assume that because you moved on to this post, you’ve spent hours upon hours agonizing over every little detail
therein. No? Well, I hope that you at least thought about the points raised and gured out that yes, you do indeed
still want to write a book.Once you’ve made that commitment, you’re going to need something to write about.You need an idea.
As any writer who has nished a book knows, ideas are the essential currency of our trade. An idea that I had is
why you’re reading this post right now.I also realize that a lot of times ideas are tough to come by, especially when you’re sitting in front of the computer,“ready to write.Most folks have been taught to either repress their creative brains or redirect their creative side’s efforts towardother, less rewarding tasks through years of schooling and work.You know the ability’s there; it shows itself in the worst times, while you’re on the subway, or in a meeting, or
waiting to get an oil change. That “aha!” ash of brilliance that would make a great jumping off point for a story,or a ne premise for a non-ction book.
You try to will yourself to remember those moments, those hints of genius, through sheer brainpower and mem-ory.Unfortunately, most of those ideas are ultimately lost to the ether, forgotten amid piles of bills, soccer practicesfor the kids, and increasing demands at work.You know...”life.”Fortunately, there’s help for you yet. It’s a little something I like to call “The Idea Harvest.”
The Idea Harvest
You’re going to have to do a little bit of work for this one:
1) Go out and get a little notebook.
I like the smaller moleskines since I’m a bit rough on notebooks and theyhave a leather cover, but you can get small, pocket-sized notebooks at Target or Wal-Mart in packs of 2 for $2.
2) Get a Decent Pen.
My favorites areUniBall Signos, preferably in blue so that I can use them for editing proofs
if need be. They write smoothly and retract, which prevents mishaps like your Pilot V5 leaking all over your jeans
pocket because you forgot to put the cap back on (I still wear those pants like a badge of honor to this day).
Carry both around with you everywhere
. Get into the habit of writing those ideas down. Even if the idea seems
stupid, or it’s a joke, or just a line of dialogue, write everything down in that notebook.
Before you know it, you’ll be using the other notebook in the two pack.“Hey Gramps, (since I’m sure all of the kids still go around calling thirty-year-olds “Gramps”) I have somethingcalled a smart phone.” Yes, yes--I’m well aware. I have one too. I even use it sometimes if I can get enough light
 
and my reading glasses to sit just right...Admittedly, I don’t carry around a notebook often for this specic reason--I have something to capture ideas near
me pretty much twenty-four hours a day.But let me ask you: you also have a smartphone with you constantly, but how many notes have you taken with it?How many voice memos have you dashed off to yourself all this time? A few? Maybe?That’s what I thought.
The whole point of this exercise is to get you to carry the notebook around as a reminder that you should be jot
-ting ideas down. Only after you have that beaten into you by months of carrying notebooks around should youwean yourself off of it and go back to using your phone to take notes.
Um...”Book Ideas?”
Right! Now that you’ve started taking down copious, insightful, hilarious notes, you should have plenty of them.Or maybe you’ve always had a great premise for a novel, but didn’t know where to start or where it would go.
That’s totally ne.The next step is guring out how you can put together an entire book relying on some of those disjointed, seem
-
ingly unrelated ideas that you’re writing down. More appropriately: you have a premise, so how do you ll it in
with ideas.
Non-Fiction Books: Make an Outline
Outlines are the lifeblood of non-ction books. It’s the rare non-ction piece that can be insightful and entertain
-ing without an outline. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of the few that comes to mind, and that’s about alunatic genius who gets hopped up on all kinds of drugs and hallucinates 3/4ths of the book, anyway.
Outlines work in non-ction for a good reason: they’re a great way to organize your thoughts into a cogent whole.
Heading, subheading, supporting points. BOOM! Each chapter gets its own heading. If you decide to go with atraditional publisher, they’ll want to see an outline anyway. Outline, outline, outline.
If you nd yourself stuck after three or so ideas for chapters, don’t worry: all that means is that you need to focus
your idea harvesting for the next few days, weeks, months, etc. Think about the book whenever you have free timein short, directed microbursts. What could you provide that would be helpful to your readers?
That raises another good point: ultimately non-ction comes down to one thing: value. What kind of value are
you giving your reader? Especially in a world where tons of great content is available for free, how will you makeyour stuff stand out?
Fiction: Plotter vs. Pantser
No, that heading doesn’t refer to what you think it does...at least I don’t think so...Fiction writers tend to fall into two camps. There are those who plot out every twist and turn ahead of time, writ-
ing incredibly detailed outlines to the point that they just need to “ll in the blanks” come writing time.
Then, there are those of us who prefer to create characters and throw them in a situation, with little or no idea of how the book is going to end, and see what happens.

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