Is your book idea good? (Yes, I promise)

“If you write for yourself, you’ll always have an audience.” -Bruce Springsteen

“We can secure other people’s approval if we do right and try hard; but our own is worth a hundred of it, and no way has been found out of securing that.” – Mark Twain

It will take many hours to write a book. Therefore, you should write about something you, the writer, finds interesting.  Why not please yourself?

“Will anyone care about my story?” people ask. Yes – you. It starts with you. Many people with an idea want an authority to tell them their idea is worthy. Why is approval necessary? You are the one who is going to do all the work. It is only you that needs to love the idea and believe in its merit. If you’re worried primarily about everyone else, that’s a marketing problem, not a writing problem. You can solve a marketing problem by doing research to see how many people care about stories like yours. If you want thousands to know you, that’s an ego problem, not a writing problem. Writing is just a kind of work and you must decide you care enough about your idea to put in the hours.

If you think your story can help people, that’s excellent. But it’s unlikely that you’d be the first to write a story about being a recovering drug addict, surviving divorce, starting a successful company, or whatever the specific life situation, or fictional idea, you want to write about. Do some homework: does a book like yours exist? It probably does. Did it help people in the way you want to help people? Probably yes. The question then is if you think your story is different or you can tell it better. No matter what you want to write about the primary question is for you: do you care enough to do the work?

I say don’t wait for permission. Permission on creative matters is for cowards. Just write a draft and see what happens. Maybe it will be awful. Maybe wonderful. Who knows? No one. Not until you get off your ass and make the thing. Writing is easy bravery. No lives are at stake. You’re not doing heart surgery or charging across flaming trenches. Pick up the pen, go to the keyboard, and use your words. No one will see but you – why be afraid of yourself?  If you care about the idea for the book, do it. If you find it worthwhile or meaningful, that’s enough. Your idea is good because it’s yours, and it means something to you.

If in the end only one other person on the planet gets value from what you make, that alone justifies your efforts. That person might be a close friend, a distant stranger, or possibly even yourself, years later, when you rediscover this amazing thing you made, amazing simply because you made it. Your book idea is good because it’s yours. Whatever it is it’s good enough to be the book that you write. If an idea lingers in your mind, and won’t leave you alone, just do it. The only chance for sanity is to get the idea out of your mind and down on paper or on a screen.

If you think the story should be told, whether it’s yours, your Mom’s, or your imaginary friend Rupert’s, you are the only person in the world capable of telling it in the way you have it in your mind. Fiction, non-fiction, memoir, fantasy, a play, a novella, a blog, first person, third, a third person fantasy novella about Smurf memoirs, who cares? Form is a distraction. Certainly at first, and maybe always.

“All fiction is derivative, a fact that the good writer turns to his advantage, making the most of reader’s expectations, twisting old conventions satisfying expectations in unexpected ways. “ – John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

So what if your idea is not original. The last 2000 years of literature is mostly borrowed from Sophocles and his buddies, or Shakespeare, or the ancient myths. It’s clear the telling of the tale can be more potent than the tale itself.  And for those ignorant of the books you’ve read, your story, however trite to you, might just blow their mind.

Don’t pester others for validation before you’ve written a word. Instead ask them to support your excitement and passion, for they can do that no matter how little sense your idea makes to them. Feedback? Sure. But feedback on an idea is mostly worthless. What confirmation do you need, or could you possibly get, for your own interest in an idea? The only way to know if an idea is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is to do something with it.

And if you make it, and others don’t like it, you’re in good company. No author or artist has made something everyone likes. And for many authors and artists their friends were their only fans in their lifetimes.

Ideas can seem to tease us in our minds – they hover out of reach, too far for mere thinking to knock them on their ass. It’s only the act of making an idea real, through writing, drawing, filming or other manifested work  that we pin ideas down long enough to discover what they can or cannot be in the world. Many will crumble. Some will disappoint. Some might need to linger again in our minds, for weeks or years. But the glory is that in every attempt there are new seeds to plant elsewhere. There is always more. People who never make anything don’t know this, but there is always more. You lose nothing by making. If your idea fades, before it disappears it will help you find others.

It’s only through effort that we learn what an idea actually is, and if our passion for it will last or fade. There is no shame in failure – all makers fail. But it’s hard to respect someone who never tries, even once, to do something good that’s always on their mind. If you’re worried about how good your idea is, you’re worrying about the wrong thing.

Get started. It’s the only way.

If this doesn’t get you to stop reading or talking about writing, and actually do something, this might explain why.

Or if you want to begin, go here.

247 Responses to “Is your book idea good? (Yes, I promise)”

  1. Iuri Almeida

    I am Portuguese and I have been writing since a young age, but never actually had the guts to try to publish my ideas. I become very excited when I think I could share my ideas with the world, but then a lot of questions pop in my head like: will people enjoy it? Will they just dismiss it? Will someone take this seriously other than myself? I think you can say I´m afraid of what will happen if I go forward with this, but that at the same time I just can´t leave my idea on paper. So… here it goes. My first idea for a book:

    The story is set on a rural area from the USA. It tells the story of Billy and Hilda, two teenagers who live in that area. Billy lives in a village and Hilda in a farm owned by her parents, alongside her younger brother, Peter. At first glance, Billy, Hilda and Peter look like normal children, but they actually have something very special. They have a unique gift that allows them to talk to animals. Thanks to this gift they have made many animal friends which include Cláudia, a female cat who is a very good hunter, Jeremy, the male cat who considers himself the greatest heartbreaker in the universe, and Samantha, a female dog who loves to play and jumping around everywhere. Together, the three humans and their animal friends live a simple, happy life in that rural area.
    But it´s not always that peaceful around those parts. Those calm plains are also home to a giant grizzly bear nicknamed Scarred Face by the locals. That bear is so dangerous it became quite of a legend. Mothers tell their sons and daughters to not venture in the dark or the bear will get them. Hunters pray to never see him while they are outdoors. And even the wild animals greatly fear him, considering him a evil demon. The bear is not the main villain, but is a serious threat to the lives of the protagonists and will prove to be a deadly foe, requiring great teamwork and determination to defeat.
    But if that bear is not the main villain, who is? It´s none other than David Richard Perez. A man who is an old childhood friend of Billy´s father. At first he pretends to be an helpful friend, but reveals that under that friendly facade lies a cruel and heartless man, who is completely selfish and greedy, caring only about makiing money and feeling zero simpathy for who he must kill or hurt in order to get a quick buck. As soon as he knows about Billy, Hilda and Peter´s gift, he immediatly tries to use it to make money, but later notices that Billy has another gift besides the one of talking to animals… something much more rare then that.
    You see, Billy was also born with an ability only know as the ” Prevision”. An extremely rare ability that is also poorly known. As such it´s impossible to determine how a human being can be born with it. The ability, like it´s name suggests, allows the carrier to see through future events. It manifests itself through nighmares and visions. Poor Billy simply cannot understand why his sleep is haunted by those horrifying nightmares or why he occasionally finds himself having those confusing visions. Richard, however, knows that he can “absorb” the ability out of it´s carrier to use in his experiments and creating a dangerous produt that he will cover up as a miraculous cure, hoping to make billions by selling it. Richard easily gains Billy´s trust (as our hero is very trusting and wants to be friends with everyone) and manipulates him into falling for a trap. Now his friends must fight to save him from Richard´s hands… all while avoiding the dangerous Scarred Face.
    Side characters include Mathias, a peregrine falcon who the heroes save and treat his broken wing, earning his loyality in the process and Sandra, a young woman who is blind and whose very kind personality instantly wins over the heroes. She is later revealed to be Richard´s daughter, who he blinded while using her for his experiments and discarding her when said experiment failed (not wanting to be bothered by a blind daughter who would be of no economic use for him). Other characters also include Tony, a rat who was part of a rat colony that operated under a brutal regime (he fled that colony and is now pursued by his former friends) and Helena and Scorpio, a black cat and a Siberian Husky, respectively, who work as agents of a police organization and who are after Richard, intending to put a stop to his crimes.

    So yeah… sorry if I was long-wided. What do you think? Please let me know.

    • Jaque

      He literally said in his writing that asking for feedback on an idea is worthless, read what he said

      • Scott

        Thanks Jaque. Let this post be proof that people often read what they want to read into whatever they’re reading/

    • Aalihyanna S.

      Sorry, but you really shouldn’t leave your ideas on websites because someone could steal your ideas. I will not, however there are many others who might just think your idea is brilliant and turn your book into their own. Please be careful. I wish you the best of luck on your journey in writing.

  2. Mr Luke

    Now here’s the thing, why would any up and coming wanna-be writer go and give their basic idea out to the world for anyone to see and therefore steal if they think its a good idea? I find this very strange, my ideas are closely guarded secrets until ive written them, then i will share with family and friends before going forward. I would hate to share my idea then have it stolen by some unsuspecting day dream writer. Is it just me that feels this way?

    • Rachel Thompson

      It just feels that way. Plagiarism is rare in the industry and frankly only you can do your idea the way you see it in your mind’s eye. 3 people writing the same idea will produce 3 different books–you can’t rip off style and word choices

  3. stephanie rea

    i am 15, i have been writing a book for 6 month now i have had times were i stopped due to writers block, education , friend and other stuff.
    it is about a women who had woke up with a broken leg which she can barely walk on, with no memory in a hotel rooms bathroom. her husband was murdered. so she trys to get out she collapses in the hotel foyer go to hospital. after hospital she goes home and feels unhappy she is quite rich and lives in a big house. she gets kidnapped and locked in a room by her husbands killer who also plans to kill her. she gets out in someway and trys to get out. she get to a phn rings the police she get through but then gets caught. does she get away or not? she doesnt get away. build of suspense then police bust into the building arrest the guy he get caught and but in jail

    • Sam Hill

      Well… it’s a good idea. But it’s very short from what I see and the way you wrote that comment doesn’t seem like it’ll be well written. Also saying things like “in someway” indicates you need to plan it out better…. Best wishes on your story.


      Nah, that was to short

  4. Tiffany

    I just want to say thank you for all the information you’ve posted about becoming a published writer as well as writing a book. Writing is my passion but I’ve never had an idea I’ve been passionate about turning into a book until a few months ago. Your advice, particularly this article, has really helped me. Thank you so much!

  5. Hondo

    I have a fiction book I’ve been working on. While I don’t believe this “idea” has been done before – don’t we all say that? – I’d like to research that to see if my thinking holds true. Is there a means to search topics, plots, premises, etc., to ascertain an answer? I’ve googled various key-words, but nothing so far. Seems there must be a place to have a definitive result. Thanks in advance.

    • doyst

      I think you’ll find most ideas have been done. You just need to look at Hollywood over the last few years and the amount of remakes they are churning out nowadays. How many stories do you know where a moody, dark eyed man, full of secrets and attitude, walks into a bar, or a clearing and unwittingly starts a feud with the bad guy.
      I love reading, love films. I have had ideas for a novel since I was a child,rewriting lord of the rings for my own entertainment. Characters are what makes a good read. Well crafted characters,ones you believe in and grow as you lay them out, flaws and all,on the page.
      I am of the notion that you need to write for yourself. Any else that comes of it is a bonus.

  6. steve hardin

    I just have an idea for a story that just may fi our times. People are looking for something that may five them hope. My story, in a fictional way does this.
    Anyone interested? You have my email address.
    Thank you for your time. Steve

  7. Mickie

    I think that all these points relate exactly the same as if you want to start a band and write music which is what I took from it!

    Really rad advice, so thank you!

  8. amanduh

    This was a refreshing post.
    I should write, but I don’t. My problem is not in coming up with an idea. I’m just oozing ideas… but then I try to perform a cost benefit analysis- will people like this idea? Is this idea overdone? Will this idea come in and out of fashion by the time I’ve made something of it? And I kill every single one of them. I have written several novel-length works purely for myself; with no intentions of publishing or even having others read them. They came easily that way, and if I ever want to write again that’s how I’m going to have to approach it.

    • Rachel Thompson

      A writer must always write for himself first or or he will never get it done–if you like it others will too. To make it market worthy is a not depended on the idea as much as if the work meets industry standard. That part is all craft execution and editing. If it’s readable it is publishable but attracting a publisher or self publishing well is yet another layer in the business of writing.

  9. Ireland

    I have an idea for a love story with a bit of thrill between a teenage couple but i haven’t quite got to the big thrill scenes yet!!?? I’m getting there i have the Introduction already in my head but i haven’t written anything down yet:(
    And i have the character names in mind but until i get most of the plot i won’t write all of it down yet.:))

  10. jason

    Hmmm. I see your point in writing mainly for yourself, but I just cant agree. If all you are doing is writing for self enjoyment, than the opinion of others is pointless. However, some, like me, write with the hope of making money from our writings. In this case, their opinions is vital to your success. So far i have an idea i love. I am even in the process of writing the novel. Issue is, the segments i have had others read have all lead to the same conclusion. That is, they hate the main character! I love her but no one else does. I think the story could potentially still sell and that is the only reason i am continuing. however, there is a very real possibility that i will fail. If that happens i will have wasted 2 years of my life for nothing. Sure, I may like it, but that is irrelevant if others dont. An artist can not make a living doing their work if others dont buy it.

    • Roger

      I see nothing wrong with hating the main character. In fact, wouldn’t that be something unique and less traditional.

    • Rachel Thompson

      The answer is character arc. Characters must change and grow over the story. If the reader hates her at first but comes to see in her what you see, then the story succeeds. But, you must have a strong plot or some other interests to sustain it while she learns and grows. We don’t always have to start out rooting for the protag, but if we don’t end up that way, or rooting for what she must do, you have nothing. Look at Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the wind. The little bitch winds up a super star,but maybe we still don’t like her, we like what she accomplished.

    • Sam Hill

      I believe this article was for writing for your enjoyment and other’s enjoyment. And there is nothing wrong with hating the main character. I’ve read many books where the main character was as bitchy and narcissistic as anyone could be, yet the book was good because her attitude made it interesting and the plot was supporting her life style. I am currently writing a story about a convict myself, who kills people for the fun of it. You aren’t supposed to like him, but it adds a large part of the main plot in the story. From what I see your story could be very interesting. I wish I could read it when it was finished.

    • Vickie Hudgins

      If you enjoy writing how can it be a waste of time? Have you submitted your manuscript? Why not? It is easy to find excuses not to put yourself out there. What is the worst that can happen? Would you be any worse off? Some of my favorite characters are those that I hated.

  11. scottish diane

    i am currently writing a book about my life im 40 and was a drug addict for 15 years and i was abused as a child which led me to a horrific lifestyle i had 4 kids all who were taken to care i am now clean and i think my life story would give people hope as i was 34 before i changed my life and it has turned full circle ijust want to throw it out and see what people think of this idea.

    • Rachel Thompson

      It’s been done, but nobody called your name never did it and none but you has your perspective. Write it well and interested people will read it.

  12. Nadine

    Just wanted to thank you for this, from the bottom of my heart. I have a ton of aspirations, fears, hopes, dreams and dreads when it comes to writing a book, and you’ve somehow laid them to rest here. Time to get started!

  13. Jessica Rivera

    I actually have a great idea I want to write about in my book. It’s an autobiography about my life. I’ve came up with 7 outlines for chapters and have included a title for each chapter and a quote on each chapter and want to include more outlines of chapters because to be honest after what’s occured in my life, I feel like my story needs to be told. The only thing is that I can’t seem to find my old journal I use to write in from 2009-2012 and I feel that would be a big help and my question is, even though I don’t have my old journal to guide me through with my writing, I still have old poems, new poems, documents, a title for the book and even a cover, I still feel my old journal would be a big help. This article including other ones have been a big help because I stopped writing 2 weeks ago but even if I don’t find my journal, I’ll try my best to continue writing and try to remember all the important events that have occured in my life and put it down on paper. Thank you for not only this article but several articles you have written, they have motivated me a lot to get back into the game of writing a book

  14. manuparasuraman

    well to start up i am 13 . i have started writing a book i have started my book about a year ago its about a boy in the babylonian era who rightfully dethrones the wicked the wicked king. i think i am writing the story too fast without actually elongating much i would like to know what you think about my story and ways i can improve it i am up to my tenth chapter i would love it if you could give me your email trough which i could send you a copy of my book

    • Sam Hill

      Hey this comment is a bit late, but I’d love to read your story. Sounds cool. Email is (Not my main one obviously, but the one I use for social affairs.) Writing fast through a story is always a concern on every writer’s mind. It’s good to finish the book and read the entire thing. See if you can read this 110 page book within a day or if you can read it like any respectable novel.

  15. Race Foreman

    Still good information, Scott, I was saying, “OMG, this is for me!” Am writing and loving it and, ew la la!



Leave a Reply

* Required