5 Ways to Develop a Book Idea

Having an idea and developing that idea into a marketable, publishable book are two different things. I learned this early in the process when trying to decide what kind of book I wanted to write.




To win one of the five autographed copies of OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL, simply leave a comment on this post or any of the posts related to the “How I Got OH BOY Published” series. I will pick five random winners throughout the month of June. (Winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. Please note that comments may take a little while to appear on the site; this is normal. Deadline is June 30, 2013).

For an additional chance to win, click this CLICK TO TWEET button and post to Twitter. I’ll track those as well.


Like many writers, I’d always dreamed of writing a book—a super power all of us have. And, like many writers, I put it off indefinitely to tend to other things, like softball and raising kids and watching reruns of “Friends.” I had been honing my craft for years while writing a parenting blog, strengthening my voice and, slowly but surely, developing an audience for my writing. It took two major events life-changing events happening within the span of six months (the death of my dad and my sister-in-law) to kick me into gear. These events got me thinking, What if I die before I can live out my dream?

So I sat down and forced myself to develop an idea that I could turn into a book. That idea eventually turned into the recently released, OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters (great gift for Father’s Day, I might add!). It took considerable time to come up with the right hook. That’s why I’m offering up these tips that I learned along the way. I hope to save you a few headaches and a little time as you develop your idea.

1. Force Yourself to Sit Down and Think

Like most writers, I come up with ideas for books daily. Could be from a magazine article that caught my eye. Could be from a conversation I overheard. Could be from a dream I had. One idea came from a joke written on a popsicle stick! But were any of these ideas actually any good? Thanks to the success of my parenting blog TheLifeOfDad.com, I knew that the book I wanted to write needed to be about parenting, so it helped me weed out the most ridiculous ideas and focus on the ones that were most likely built to suit my writing.

2. Force Yourself to Do Some Research

Every genre and market already has many books associated with it. In order to find success, you have to find a way to make your book stand out. When I was considering ideas for OH BOY, I searched on Amazon and spent time at Barnes & Noble, browsing all the books in the parenting section. There were plenty of how-to books and “what to expect” books and sentimental books, so I had to figure out where my niche would be. One of my favorite books of all time is W. Bruce Cameron’s, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. This got me thinking: I have three daughters all under the age of five, so What if I wrote a humorous guide for the early years of raising a daughter? And that’s how the idea of OH BOY was born.

3. Force Yourself to Write

Having a good idea is only half the battle. Executing that idea into a book takes time, patience and plenty of caffeine. I started with an introduction, setting a goal of 1,500 words. If I couldn’t come up with 1,500 words that opened the doorway to a book on the topic, then I shouldn’t write it. Thankfully, I did write an introduction—and a reasonably solid one at that. It took me a couple of tries and a lot of editing, but once I cleared that hurdle I was confident I could write a full book on the topic.

4. Force Yourself to Form a Gameplan

How many chapters should the book have? What should the topics be? Should my book be straight humor or humor mixed with actual advice? Forming a gameplan is much like developing a book proposal that you’d ship off to an agent or editor. It’s helpful to answer these questions before you start writing your book and querying agents. If you’re writing nonfiction (like me), you need a full outline when querying. If you’re writing a novel, you’ll need to write the entire book first before making your pitches. Either way, the earlier in the process you can make decisions, the better—it’ll help keep you glued to the task at hand, which is write your book.

5. Force Yourself to Have Fun and Believe in Your Writing

Every writer goes through moments of self-doubt. We’re in a business that is designed to reject people over and over again, even the brilliant ones who go on to sell millions of copies. (Did you know Kathryn Socket’s The Help was turned down 60 times before finally landing an agent and going on to be a bestseller—and a movie?) Keep in mind that you love writing and, no matter how hard it seems at times, you’re doing it because you enjoy it. The more you do that and the more you believe in what you’re trying to accomplish, the harder you’ll work at it and the better your idea and your writing will be for it.

Want to Win an Autographed Copy of

To win one of the five autographed copies of OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL, simply leave a comment on this post or any of the posts related to the “How I Got OH BOY Published” series. I will pick five random winners throughout the month of June. (Winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. Please note that comments may take a little while to appear on the site; this is normal. Deadline is June 30, 2013). For an additional chance to win, click this CLICK TO TWEET button and post to Twitter. I’ll track those as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Check out my humor book, Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl.
Sign up for my free weekly eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

You might also like:

29 thoughts on “5 Ways to Develop a Book Idea

  1. yoyod

    I appreciate how you explained doing research before starting your novel. I researched a lot when writing my first novel which turned into a three part series. Just waiting for someone to give the okay they want my manuscript. Thanks for the advice and keep up the good work. You are an inspiration to the craft. Just like you I have always wanted to be a writer but kept putting if off. Now that I am about to turn fifty, I am putting pen to paper and hopefully I will be successful also.

  2. Marie Rogers

    Good advice, as always. By the way, I wish your book had been around when my father was trying to raise girls. He had eight and I think if he were still alive, he’d still be trying to figure it out!

  3. plong

    Brian, I’ve been following you for a while now and want you to know I really enjoy your tweets and posts/articles in WD. As usual, you make us look at the reality of writing by starting off every point with the word “FORCE”. Anyone that thinks this isn’t hard work is fooling themselves. I always appreciate your insights!

  4. Becky

    Thank you for such a great article. I am just starting out on my debut novel and it is an exciting adventure! I have been blogging for a year now. I write a blog where I review other debut authors. I love it, but it is a lot of work. I have found some really good books and some that need a lot of work. It has shown me what not to do and what to improve on as well. I originally began the blog to help and encourage new writers like myself and to help them get the exposure that a “newbie” needs to get noticed in the myriad cyberspace of publishing digitally. Best of luck on your book. Happy Father’s Day!!

  5. rncarst

    Good article and advice. And simple, which is always best. Developing a Blog or a website where you can practice, display and receive feedback on your writing is important as it take you from a writing a book “in theory” to writing “for real”.

  6. cskaley

    Congratulations on your book! Excellent article with sound advice. #2, doing research, really hit home for me. Thanks so much!
    Cheers Christine

  7. antneesd

    Thank you Brian for your articles on writing. I have just started on my own adventure to finish my book and owe you a ton from the advice, tips on books, and ideas ranging from character development to plot to making the story sound believable. I have an 8 year old daughter and certainly feel your pain in raising three girls! Good luck with the book and I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

  8. bdaniels119

    This is great advice! I especially like the last one. As an unpublished writer I definitely get tied down from self-doubt and when that happens I have to remind myself that I write because I love writting. Congratulations on your book!

  9. Amy Townsend

    Thanks for putting this together! It really inspired me to see that I’m (sort of) doing the right things to flesh out my own book idea, a humorous look at career advice and the job market, which I’ve developed into a blog (www.whatsbetterthanthis.com) to develop a community, just as you suggested. I was also gratified to read your advice about conducting research at the bookstore/Amazon and the importance of finding your own niche. Thanks to you I feel like I’m on the right track. So, can I go ahead and watch a Friends rerun now?

  10. WriteIn RI

    Dear Brian,
    It encourages me to find a writer who shares the real realities of a writer’s hopes, dreams, life! We all experience the same “putting things off” – things being writing. Are we intimidated or overwhelmed by the process of pen to paper? I don’t know. But, I always appreciate your honest suggestions. It doesn’t get any more real than this article with a few basic ideas that all boil down to discipline and begin with one word in common – “Force…” Thanks for telling it like it is. My son and his wife are looking forward to baby #2 – a girl this time. I’ll be sure to get him a copy of your new book for Father’s Day. I think he’ll need it. Thanks and congratulations!

  11. debi1959

    Ditto to what Sorell said. I, too, have been paid for my newspaper and magazine columns and have a book in the back of my head that I, honestly, have been afraid to start. Because the topic is so personal to me and is somewhat emotional for me, that I don’t want to mess it up. So if I procrastinate the start of it, I can’t mess it up, right? Of course not! THis column motivates me. I just finished filling out my calendar for the next month with blocked out time to get my thoughts down on paper in some kind of organized form! Thanks for the kick in the you-know-what!

  12. darinlhammond

    Wow, Brian, so much force involved. I feel too lazy to take on the challenge, hence your use of the word “force.” Well chosen. You have inspired me, and I will force myself into a plan. Thank you for the nudge.

    Darin L. Hammond

  13. Cin5456

    I think you’ve just given me what I need to finally write the story I’ve wanted to write for a long time. Only this one will have a spin on it that, I hope, will make an excellent submission for my Creative Writing MA Culminating Experience Project. I couldn’t figure out how to frame the story that I know will attract readers for my project. The professor who used to oversee and read for the CW MA stopped for medical reasons, so I must find willing readers among the English faculty. I knew basically what slant I would use to attract my preferred readers, but I did not know how to make the story current, vital, and as far from cliche as possible. Now I think I know, and I have you to thank. Your example of choosing your topic brought it into focus. I can write the story I wanted to, but I can also write a much more poignant story that I’ve wanted to write for many years. You wrote to your strength. I need to do the same. If I make the two stories synonymous, one mythical, the other biographical, I can research his motivation in the current time frame. I’ll see how he acts in a modern circumstance that mirrors his mythical experience. Now I need specifics, and research will help me across that hurdle. I have almost a year’s worth of notes to work with, so at least I have started already. Thank you! You know, I have heard the same advice before, but somehow, your example made it real.

  14. Blue Ocean

    I’ve really enjoyed your articles lately. They’ve certainly helped me to identify where I need work in my own writing. Keep it up; I’ll keep reading!

  15. Sorell

    Brian, congratulations on publication of your book. Great achievement considering you have family, sport and editorship of Writers Digest to divert your time. I live in Australia, so not eligible for the draw..

    As a published writer of newspaper and magazine articles, I have not yet taken the big step of writing a book. I now follow your sound advice which I hope will motivate me to stop procrastinating and go forward with a festering idea which I have hitherto lacked confidence to proceed with.

    Many thanks for your articles.

  16. BarbaraAlvarez

    Thank you for writing this – I am working on a a story outline for a book that’s promising to be a saga (really) and another outline for a sequel to a novella I published two months ago.

    (On the having daughters – I have two sons, both grown, so it’s now up to them to grow the family!) 😉

  17. Annie56789

    Wish you’d written this before our three girls grew up! We had three girls in a little over three years. Yes, it was crazy. But we all survived and love each other and love to spend time together. Two daughters live nearby, and the third visits as often as she can. We even vacation together. Hey, why didn’t I write this book?

  18. Egg

    Well done on the book, Brian (darn, I don’t live on mainland US, so that rules me out to win a copy).

    I just wanted to say good on you. You’ve put so much in to help others – I know I’m not the only one who’s benefited from your prompts and articles – that it’s great to read about your own success.

  19. Tom Bentley

    Brian, as the only child in the house is a cat, I don’t need to be entered into the contest, but I do want to congratulate you on your book’s release, and to thank you for the sound writerly advice you regularly dispense.

  20. Kris Boss

    This is actually very helpful to me! I’ve just recently gotten an idea for a nonfiction project and I was struggling with which direction to take. Great post, thanks so much!

  21. dmddeb

    The information I receive from this site has been so helpful. I know my writing has improved by bounds since I’ve started receiving these e-mails. I particularly liked the one about query letters and also the ones with agents and publishers listed.

    My nephew is having a girl in June and your book would be a fantastic gift for him. (After I’ve read it!) He thinks his daughter will be a delicate princess, but I have a feeling she will take after her mother who is as comfortable on a hunting trip as she is in the kitchen.

    Thanks for all you’ve taught me!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.