Everyone thinks writers get their ideas from some lightning strike of inspiration, but the truth is that developing ideas for a book—good book ideas—takes work.
How do you get ideas to write your book? If you're a new writer, or even an experienced writer who is searching for your next topic, coming up with book ideas can be challenging. Even more, knowing if your book idea is good or not, and making it better, is harder still.
For the last several years, I've taught a workshop called Better Book Ideas, and have helped thousands of writers come up with ideas, make their ideas better, and turn them into finished novels, memoirs, and nonfiction books.
And the biggest thing that I hear from aspiring authors is, “What's next?”
Maybe you don't have a book idea yet. How do you get one?
Or perhaps you do have an idea, but you're not sure it's good enough to turn into a book. How do you know?
Or maybe you think your book idea is amazing, but you're not sure how to get started.
In this article, I'm going to tell you exactly what to do next no matter where you are. I'll share over 30 brand new book ideas, and tell you how to find more on your own, to help get you started. We'll look at what to do to make your book idea better and get ready for the writing process. Finally, we'll put it all into practice by getting started with your book today.
BUT FIRST: Download a quick, printable worksheet with our best book ideas! You can save them or print them out so you have them at your fingertips when you're ready to write. Download our best book ideas worksheet here.
Table of Contents
Already Have a Book Ideas: Here's How To Make It Better?
Do you already have an idea for your book?
Some of the ideas below are there both to give people new ideas and to make your book idea better. I'll also going to share more about what to do with your book idea next.
With that in mind, let's start with the steps to go from nothing to a solid book idea that will enable you to write, publish, and sell your best book.
The 5 Step Process to Create a Better Book Idea
How do you come up with a book idea? Then, how do you make your idea better and get ready for writing and even publishing it?
Before we get into our list of best book ideas, let's talk about what to do with them:
Step 1: Start By Picking a Genre for Your Book
Before you start, it's important to get clear what kind of book you're writing, what your book's literary genre is.
We have a full guide on literary genres here, but here's a quick summary.
Literary genres are categories, types, or collections of literature that share certain characteristics, such as their subject matter or topic, style, form, purpose, or audience. In other words, genre is a way of categorizing readers' tastes.
But wait, why should you be thinking about genre now? Genre matters in the idea stage because there are different subject matters, rules, and things the writer is thinking about for different genres.
Genre is also important for marketing and publishing. So if you someday want your book to be published and maybe even become a bestseller, it's great to know if your book idea will have a pre-existing market.
There are three main genres for books that dictate everything related to your writing process.
Three Main Book Genres:
- Fiction: Is it imagined in some way? Most fiction books are novels or books of short stories. Graphic novels are also almost always fiction.
- Nonfiction: Is it true? Nonfiction books can be how-to, inspirational, reference, religious, biography, or more.
- Memoir (a genre within nonfiction): Memoir is a type of nonfiction book that's about your own life. It differs from autobiography in that it focus on one part or subject within your life rather than a full birth-to-death retelling.
So which type of book are you writing? Knowing this determines the whole writing process, so it's important to figure it out!
Below, we'll have many ideas for each of these genres (or you can go ahead and download our best 30 book ideas worksheet here).
Now that you're aware of the three main genres for books, you need to think about your subgenre, because within each of those three book genres are hundreds of other genres. You can see our full list of book genres here, but here are some of the biggest (and as you read through them, think about which genre your book might fit in):
Book Genres and Subgenres:
- Fiction Book Genres
- Fantasy Novels
- Science Fiction (or sci-fi) Novels
- Mystery/Crime Novels (Guide: How to Write a Mystery Novel)
- Horror Novels
- Dystopian Novels
- Comtemporary/Literary Novels
- Suspense/Thriller Novels (Guide: How to Write a Suspense Novel)
- Historical Novels
- Graphic Novels
- Coming of Age Novels
- Short Story Collections (Guide: How to Write a Short Story)
- See more novel genres here…
- Nonfiction Books
- Memoir Genres
Which main genre and subgenre are you most interested in?
Step 2: Brainstorm Your Book Idea
Using the list of book ideas later in this article, or on your own, write down as many ideas as you can think of.
At this point, you don't need to select the idea you want to write. We're just brainstorming for now.
But if you already have an idea you're passionate about, that's great. Move on to the next step.
Step 3: Pick a Story Type or Nonfiction Book Type
Another important question to consider is the type of book you're writing. Type refers not the genre but to the structure of the book.
Your book idea and book structure work together. Your idea will influence the type of book you're wanting to write and vice versa. So it's good to be aware of and be thinking about the type of book you want to write as you consider your idea.
Important: some of these will look similar to the genres above. However, story type/book type transcends genre. You can have an adventure romance novel or a sci-fi love story or a fantasy mystery story, and so on. Genre does not equal story/book type!
10 Types of Stories
- Love Story
- Coming of Age
For more on these, check out our full story type guide here with examples.
7 Nonfiction Book Types
- How-to and Self-Help
- Inspirational/”How-to Memoir”
For more on these, check out our full nonfiction book type guide here with examples.
Which book type or story type are you wanting to write? How does it compare with your brainstormed ideas? Do you need to make changes to your idea to make it work with your chosen book type?
Step 4: Select Your Idea and Create a Plan
Next, it's time to choose your idea and get ready to write. The first step is to create a book plan, planning out each stage of the writing process from your initial idea through the writing process and all the way to the publishing and launch of your book.
Why plan this far ahead? Because we've found that when writers create a plan, they're much more likely to finish their books.
In fact, in a study we did among writers in our 100 Day Book program, writers who created a plan were 52 percent more likely to finish their books.
The first step to creating a plan is to turn your book idea into a premise, a single-sentence summary of your book's main idea.
Step 5: Start Writing
Once you have a plan, you're ready to write!
You can follow our complete book writing guides for each of the three main book genres here:
But if you really want to succeed, there's one more thing you need.
Recommended: Get a Coach
You need a coach!
At The Write Practice, we believe in the power of deliberate practice to help writers finish their books and accomplish their writing goals.
For me, I didn't start achieving my goals until I discovered and implemented deliberate practice, which is also true for every writer I've worked with.
But what is deliberate practice? For writing to be practice, it requires five things:
- Theory. You must learn the book writing process.
- Practice. You must put the theory to practice.
- A Coach. You must have someone to guide you in the process.
- Accountability. You must have people to hold you accountable to what you said you would do.
- Feedback. You must get feedback on your writing.
For most writers, they need a coach to help guide them through the process, give them feedback, and hold them accountable if they want to achieve their goals.
But how do you find a coach? If you don't have a coach, check out our coaching services at The Write Practice. We'd love to help you finish your book and accomplish your goals!
30+ Book Ideas
Don't have an idea, or wanting to make your idea better? Get inspiration from these ideas here:
10+ Novel Ideas
Ready to write your novel? Here are ten story ideas to get you started, followed by a link to 100 more ideas to get you even more inspired.
- Two distinct realities. Of the nine bestsellers ever written, all were set in two different universes. Think Harry Potter‘s muggle vs. wizarding world. Or A Tale of Two Cities’ stable London and rebellious Paris. Create two unique environments and you’ll force your fictional characters into action and keep readers engaged.
- What are your character's scars? We all have scars, physical and emotional wounds that have healed but still linger in our memories. If you want to be a writer, Stephen King suggests, “the only requirement is the ability to remember every scar.” To write better stories, think about your own scars and project them onto your characters.
- Kill someone. Writers don’t hide their eyes from death. Death is, after all, something we all face eventually. Death is one of the most common inciting incidents. Let death cause an existential crisis in your characters. Maybe it's a crime that will start a mystery “who done it” plot. Or perhaps it's the death of someone close to them, murdered by an evil villain, beginning a revenge story action plot. Or it's the death of your hero's mentor figure. Whatever it is, put a death into your story and see what happens next.
- Kill your characters' parents. Storytellers have always known that orphans have the best character arcs. They start from the lowest of lows, and so the writer can take them to the highest of highs. Just think about all the great orphans of literature: Pip, James Bond, Harry Potter, and even Mowgli from The Jungle Book (find our full list of books about orphans here). For your novel, write about a character who is orphaned, how they became an orphan, and how it affects their lives.
- Throw in some ghosts. Ghosts are a well used motif that can liven up many ideas. Ghosts appear in books by Edgar Allen Poe, J.K Rowling, Homer, Charles Dickens, and even in the Bible. They all saw ghosts! Everyone wonders about the afterlife. Have fun with it!
- Dive into your character's biggest fear. Do you know what your main character is afraid of? Often we run from our fears, but use your character's fears to drive your story. Maybe they are afraid of being alone for the rest of their lives, maybe they're afraid of snakes, maybe they are terrified of performing. Whatever it is, push into that fear and build your story around it.
- Fortune. Let's say your character comes into an unexpected fortune. Perhaps they inherit their great aunt's mansion. Maybe they win the lottery. Or what if the “fortune” is the unexpected attention of the most popular person at school. The problem is, not all fortunes are good. How do they handle it, and what does it expose about their character?
- Meet cute. In a love story, whether that story is the main plot or subplot, the inciting incident is called a “meet cute,” for example, when the hero bumps into the heroine in the hallway, knocking her books to the floor and forcing them into conversation.
- Clock. Set a timer, and watch your protagonist scramble. Clocks come in all forms: an incurable form of cancer, a terrible storm bearing down, a terrorist setting a nuclear bomb, or the last chance to accomplish something in high school. What clock could you set for your protagonist, and how will they respond to it?
- Trapped with a monster. Monsters aren't limited to a horror story. They can be people who do monstrous things, addictions that take over people's lives, scaly beasts, or natural disasters. The reason storytellers have used monsters for thousands of years is that they always reveal what’s really inside a person. Throw your character in front of something monstrous to see what happens next (and who your character becomes).
10 Nonfiction Book Ideas
- Curiosity killed the writer. People write nonfiction books for two reasons: either they want to share something they know a lot about or they want to learn more about something they want to know more about. Let's start with curiosity. What is one thing that you would never tire of learning more about? It doesn't matter if you're currently an expert at it or even if there are already dozens of books about it already. Start with your curiosity.
- Autocomplete your book. What is your field of expertise, something that could fill a whole book? Instead of just starting to write about it, start by typing those terms into google. But instead of hitting enter, see what Google's search suggestions say. Are people searching for what you want to write about? If not, keeping entering things until you and Google are on the same page. (Pro tip: I use a tool called Ahrefs, a powerful SEO tool, to make this easier.)
- 7 steps to accomplish anything. Many nonfiction books are a kind of manual to a specific field, e.g. the Dummies Guide to Writing Nonfiction Books. So pick a topic that you care about and list out the three or seven or eighty-two steps to accomplish a goal within that field. You now have the core of your book.
- Encyclopedia of your world. Choose one book topic you have some kind of expertise in and write the encyclopedia of that topic. List out all the terms, jargon, and important topics to know, then fill them in, one at a time.
- Ask me anything. What is the #1 thing non-experts ask you about your field. Start your book there.
- Inspire me. Much of the time, people don't need more information to change their lives, they need more inspiration. Choose one specific thing that people struggle with, perhaps that you once struggled with, and inspire people to change using stories, principles, and good old fashioned pep talks.
- Great mystery. What is one thing within your field of expertise or realm of curiousity that shouldn't be true but is? Something that surprised you when you first learned about it? Tell the story of how you discovered the truth, and how that discovery changed your worldview.
- I've got 99 problems, but a book idea ain't one. What is the biggest problem people face in your field of expertise or realm of curiosity? Teach people to solve that problem.
- Failure to success. What is your biggest professional failure? What is your biggest success? Tell the story and share the concepts that connect those two events in your life.
- Words of Wisdom. Pretend you're on your deathbed. List out between 10 to 100 pieces of wisdom you'd like your loved ones to know.
10 Memoir Ideas
Want to write a book about one aspect of your life? Use these memoir ideas to get you started!
- Fear. In my memoir, Crowdsourcing Paris, I tell stories of how my audience challenged me to confront some of my biggest fears, including eating tripe, performing in public, and exploring the abandoned, centuries-old catacombs beneath Paris. Needless to say, it made for great material! For your memoir, tell the story of a time when you were faced by a fear and did it anyway.
- Expert. Write down either each expertise you possess—e.g. arboriculture, playing the fiddle, the history of 12th century Thailand, etc—OR something you know a little about and would like to know much more. Once you have your list, begin your book by telling the story of how you got interested in that field.
- Love life. Describe your own “meet cute.” Think back to the first time your spouse or significant other. Describe it. How did you feel? What happened next? What did that experience teach you about love, life, and happiness?
- Betrayal. What is the story of a time when you experienced betrayal? What did that teach you about the world? How has it changed your life since?
- Death. How has your life been impacted by death? Perhaps the death of a family member or spouse, the death of an animal, the death of a stranger? How has death shaped you and your worldview?
- Let's go on an adventure. At their heart, travel memoirs are adventure stories. What was your biggest, messiest, most exciting/uncomfortable adventure? What would you do if asked to go on that experience again? Instead, take the reader along the ride with you.
- Your biggest life lesson. Let's pretend you travel back through time and encounter yourself at a much younger time. What is the biggest life lesson you would share? Let that life lesson, and how you learned it, be the subject of your memoir.
- Look around you. Sometimes the best memoirs begin not with grand ideas but the ordinary things around us. So start with where you're at right now. Describe your surroundings. What are the biggest dilemmas you're facing in your life? What advice would you give yourself right now if you could?
- Life vs. Death. Have you ever had a life or death moment? Describe it, how you got there, and how it changed you.
- Too Many Good Things. You can't have everything. What is a moment in your life when you had to choose between two good things? Maybe family vs. money, or self-preservation vs. self-sacrifice. How did you make that choice. What would you tell someone in your same shoes?
5 Other Ways to Get Book Ideas
The book ideas above are a great way to get started, but they're certainly not the only way to get book ideas. Here are a five ways to come up with book ideas on your own.
1. Study structure. When you study book structure, you realize that most books have similar structures. All you have to do is insert your characters, writing style, and unique worldview on it and you have a new story. So if you're writing fiction, study story structure (my book The Write Structure would be a great resource for you).
2. Read books. Writers read! If you're out of ideas, one of the best things you can do is to read something that inspires you and fill up your creative well. You can also go back and re-read some of your favorite books and study why they moved you so much!
3. Study other artistic and intellectual disciplines. Sometimes the best ideas come when you get out of your routine. By studying other disciplines, like painting, history, warfare, theology, and more, you will likely get ideas to apply to your writing.
4. Transform with a twist. Cormac McCarthy says, “The unfortunate truth is that books are made from books.” Think about how many modern films are plays on Shakespeare, and how Shakespeare himself transformed the work of medieval Italian authors and the historical lives of famous rulers. You can do that too! Take a book, ideally one written many years ago, and transform it into your own time period, characters, and worldview. Then, give it your own twist ending!
5. Go for a walk. In her book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, author Rebecca Solnit says, “The mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour.” If you're stuck and out of ideas, try going for a walk. Just make sure to bring a notebook or your phone's note taking app so you can write down your ideas as they come to you!
Now, How Do You Write Your Book
“Ideas are useless. Execution is everything,” said George R.R. Martin.
The best book idea, no matter how good it is, won't write your book for you.
Now you have to do the work of bringing your ideas to life! Fortunately, you have us to help. There are two ways we can help you finish your book.
1. Free guides: we've written three master guides on how to finish a book, depending on your genre. They work! You can find them here:
2. Writing Coaching: Deliberate practice requires a coach! We work with authors to help them accomplish their writing goals. If you think you'd be a good fit, learn more about what it would look like to hire us to coach you here.
Whatever you choose, make sure you finish your book!
What genre of book are you writing? Did the ideas above help you? Let us know in the comments.
Choose one of the three types of books above (fiction, nonfiction, or memoir) and an idea from the list. Set a timer for 15 minutes. and start writing! When you finish, post your practice in the Pro Practice Workshop here. Then, give feedback to a few other writers.
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