Are you one of those lucky people who wake up with a new idea for a book every morning? If so, you can use the checklists, tools and self-tests that follow to review your ideas and pick the one most likely to connect with your perfect audience.
If, though, like many people you struggle to come up with new ideas, or you have a good idea but don’t know how to make it outstanding, here are some tips for generating new ideas, position your idea to be unique, test it to find ways to improve it, and then come up with a winning title.
First, let’s talk a little about getting into the right state of mind.
The Creative State
Being creative is not something that only the inspired or artistic can achieve. It’s a skill and a process, and, like everything else we do well, it can be learned and developed. If you think creativity is not something that comes naturally to you (although it probably does in areas other than writing), or it’s not something you’ve had a lot of practice at, you’ll be relieved to know it’s not a magical ability and there are defined steps to follow.
Eight tips for getting into a more creative state of mind
- Get yourself somewhere comfortable and clear from clutter and other demands (work, phone, email etc).
- Clear your mind with whatever works for you. Listening to or playing music, going for a walk, exercise, drawing or painting or having a long bath works for many. If you’re into meditation or yoga, use that.
- Silence your inner critic: that voice in your head that edits stuff before it comes out of your mouth. It’s often useful, but it can stifle creativity. First, accept that it is useful in some contexts and then decide to give this critical voice a little break.
- Pose creative questions, using words like, ‘How can I… ?’, ‘What if… ?’, ‘What’s interesting about… ?’
- Dwell on an idea. If you have a skill, a theme or an over-riding feeling about what you want to create, meditate upon it. Simply let it expand to fill your mind and let the connections in your brain start firing.
- Take a notebook to bed. Do some free writing about any ideas you’ve come up with just before you go to sleep and as soon as you wake up in the morning. If you wake up in the night with an insight, you’ll be able to note it down (although it may seem less brilliant in the morning).
- Remind yourself that you use your creativity to solve problems and explain things to others every single day. If you’ve been told you’re not creative and you’ve believed it in the past, it’s time to put aside this old and inaccurate belief.
- Remember times when you’ve been at your most creative. Rekindle those feelings, consciously in the here and now. Creativity is like a muscle – it grows with use.
Three steps to coming up with your book idea
There are three stages in coming up with the right idea and they involve different types of brain activity. Without knowing this, it’s easy to get derailed by trying to do them all at once. To avoid brain freeze, take these steps one at a time.
1. Generating Ideas
- Any and every idea has potential.
- Don’t self-edit or criticise; simply record all the ideas you come up with.
- Use word association, brainstorming, mind-mapping or any other method of generating and recording ideas that works for you. Try all of them.
2. Reviewing Ideas
- Now is the time to allow your inner critic its say.
- Typically this will involve a process of elimination.
- Sort ideas onto a Keep or Kill scale:
Record the outcomes of the reviewing stage.
3. Improving/Testing Ideas
- Choose your top five ideas and see how you can build on them.
- Refine your ideas further until you have three solid concepts, from which to select.
- Write them on a single sheet of paper and leave for up to 24 hours.
- Come back to the list and see which one jumps out at you.
- Add further meat to the bare bones until you’ve got a first–draft book proposal planned out.
Good luck with your creating your book idea. If you want to run it past me, or think you need some help getting to the next stage, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.