Sunday, December 9, 2012

Growing an Idea

by Sue Viders

How do projects and books get started? Does the idea come to you out of the blue, in a dream, from reading a story, watching a TV movie or just from a conversation with a friend?

Several months ago, during a breakfast meeting, one of my writing friends challenged me to write and get a book up on Kindle by the end of the year. We had been talking about the fact that suddenly my royalties from Random House were getting larger. The sales of one of my books, Heroes and Heroines which has been in print for almost ten years, was suddenly double. When I checked it out, I found that the publisher had turned it into an e-book. Imagine my surprise. And although the print book was still doing well, sales were great electronically.

So we were talking about what we could write that we could get online. Since I had written several nonfiction work books for both my college and online classes I thought a book on how to write nonfiction would be a snap to do in a couple of months.

Over coffee we made a “pinkie pledge” we would start writing with the goal being to have a finished book up on the web by the end of the year.

As I began organizing my notes, lectures, hand-outs and workbooks on writing I quickly realized that I had piles of files that I had saved over the years. Way too much for a regular book.

I stopped.

First things first. I had to see what was already out there.

Putting all the notes on a worktable I began my research. What was my competition? What did their books look like? Soon my Kindle had over 20 books on how to write a nonfiction book. Over the next week, eight more print books arrived from Amazon on writing nonfiction.

As I read through all of them, I was discouraged. They were all pretty much alike. Pages and pages of text on how to write. Boring. Really boring.

I am dyslexic. Reading large pieces of text, long paragraphs and page and after page of solid text is not for me. I have trouble understanding heavy copy. And although there was a lot of good solid information in all these books, I really found it hard to “grasp” how I could use it in my own writing.

Day’s later as I was reading through my files they looked like all the other books.
Shoot. How did this happen? I was doing what everyone else was doing. Disturbing.

I needed to think up a different way of presenting easy to read, easy to understand and easy to use ideas for the beginning nonfiction writer.

Back to the worktable. What to do with all this stuff?

I began sorting -- put this file on marketing in one pile and these three pages on how to do an interview into another pile, and I noticed that I had five distinct piles. Each pile had loose pages, files, handouts and hand written notes from my lectures in them.

It quickly became apparent that I had several small books and not one great big book.
Good news as short books are easier to write than long books.

Now exactly how many books did I have? Hmm, at least five. There was one on how to do research, one on organizing, one on writing, one on marketing the project after it was written and of course one on how to get the main idea of what to write about.

Five books.

Another hmm... five books.  No, probably five booklets as I didn’t want them to be too long as today’s writers, like readers, need short, to the point, easy to grasp bursts of information that are easy to assimilate.

Sitting in my office, at my desk, looking at the blank monitor I literally had no idea of where to start. Getting a cup of tea, I picked up the small 2 inch cardboard cube I kept on my desk and began tossing it from hand to hand. I loved this cube. It is my “thinking” cube. Tossing it around frees my mind and lets it wander and ponder on the “what-to-do-next” problem.

The cube.

It has six sides.

I had designed it for my art marketing classes I taught many years ago. I stopped and looked at each side. There it was... the six concepts I taught to artists about making and marketing their paintings and prints. The six ideas were: Product, Price, Place, Perception, Promotion and Persistence.

Ah, the old gray cells snapped to attention.

I could take this idea and apply it to the writing books I was contemplating.

Yes! After much thinking I came up with six sections, six books, no, six booklets for nonfiction writers. They are:

 1 - Ideas
       •  How to find a great idea
 2 - Purpose
          Deciding why you want to write this idea
 3 - Knowledge
          Research for the project
  4 - Mapping
          Organizing your material
  5 - Writing
           Deciding on the platform and style
  6 - Marketing
            Promoting your project

As I grew more excited about this idea, I contacted the artist I had worked with before and he created a cube for each of the six booklets.

As I printed out the final design of each cube, I began fiddling around with how I might color it or print it on different colored paper when, it seemed like over night, I had a dozen or so cubes on my desk.

Ah, what fun. I built a tower and then a pyramid. They tumbled over like a kids first attempt with a set of building blocks.

OMG. Another light bulb went off.

Building blocks!

And the idea was off and running... 

(to be continued on Wednesday, so please come back! And feel free to leave a comment now)



  1. Loved every word of your post! I'm still working on my non-fiction word book. Don't think I'll have it up by the end of the year. I got waylayed by a fiction novella which I completed in 8 days!
    I still have plans for a second non-fiction book.
    I wish you much success with your endeavors.
    Happy Holidays!

  2. Cindy, Good luck with your book. We know what you mean about getting side tracked by a new project. It sometimes happens that way. Hang in there!


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