What to write about


We’ll spend a lot of time this month talking about your journey as a writer. Today let’s think a bit about your reader’s journey.

Yesterday you chose your topic but that’s not enough. I’ll give you an example. I’m writing a book on Cocoa (writing applications for Mac OS X). So is Tim Isted. Our books aren’t anything alike even though the topic is the same. We each have different readers in mind and we each have clear ideas

OK, you’ve decided that you do want to write a book. What should you write about?

There are many different aspects to this question but for today I want you to focus on identifying the topic you want to cover. "I don’t have anything to write about" is as lame as a teenager complaining "I’m bored. There’s nothing to do."

There is no end of topics to write about. Remember, your goal this month is to write a book. It doesn’t need to be a best seller or even one that any publisher would sign. If you were unconstrained by the market, what book would you write? (If part of your dream is also to get published, that’s ok too.)

I’m hoping that your problem isn’t too few topics but too many. How do you choose from a big bag of book ideas? You could just close your eyes and imagine pulling one out. In fact, that might be one approach. Brainstorm a minute and come up with ten ideas for books you’d like to write.

Think about the things you’re known for. If someone has a question about XXXX they come to you. What’s XXXX? If you’re at a party you’re probably talking about YYYY. What’s YYYY? If you’re not at a party you’re probably working on ZZZZ. What’s ZZZZ? These are potential topics.

Look back over your list as if it was created by a friend of yours. Suppose he or she is going to write a book on one of these topics. Which ones would drive you nuts to hear about day in and day out for a month. Get rid of those. They’ll drive you nuts if you write that book too. Look at what’s left.

In part one of Dave Thomas’ So You Want to Write a Book series he explains that he looks for three things from a potential author: Passion, Evangelism, and Practical Knowledge. You should read this article but think about your ideas for books and think about what it is that you are passionate about and talk, blog, eat, and tweet about.

Practical knowledge is particularly important for our one month writing sprint. Learning new things is fun—and you will learn a lot of new things about your topic while writing your book—but you need to start with a solid to core to build on or you’ll spend all of your time this month spinning your wheels because you don’t know enough to get started.

Today’s assignment then is to come up with your topic. You are welcome to share it below in the comments or keep it to yourself. Tomorrow we’ll narrow down your topic a bit more and think about who the reader is and what journey we will be taking them on.

This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.