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. No matter what support you get, or don’t, it will still be you that must put in many hours. If you think you want to write a book, than do it. I think you should, simply because you are thinking about it.

However, if you want a guarantee that you will sell thousands of copies, that’s a marketing problem, not a writing problem. You solve a marketing problem by studying how to market and sell books, which is a different skill from writing them. If you want a guarantee that you’ll be famous, that’s an ego problem, and also has little to do with writing. Writing is just a kind of work. Only you can decide you care enough about your idea to do the (writing) work required.

If you think your story can help people, that’s excellent. But it’s unlikely that you’d be the first to write about:

  • Being a recovering drug addict
  • Surviving divorce
  • Starting a successful company
  • Learning a major life lesson the hard/easy/fun way
  • Or whatever story, fictional or true, you want to write about

If you primarily want to help people, a far easier way is to find good books that already exist and convince more people to read them. The authors of those books will be grateful, and the readers who connect with them will be too. Writing a book yourself is the long way to go in helping other people.

If you’re thinking of writing, do some homework: does a book like yours exist? It probably does. The question then is: how is your story is different?  Or can you tell a similar story in a better way? Or aimed at a different audience? You’ll be a better writer if you become a better reader first. But of course independent of what others have done, you can decide you want to write your book anyway. You’ll learn much about yourself if you do. It’s an excellent investment of time, but only if you think it is too.

I say don’t wait for permission. Permission on creative matters is for cowards. Just write a draft of a single chapter 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 essay doesn’t get convince you, and yet you keep thinking about writing, this might explain why.

Or if you want to begin, go here.

[edited 12-5-15]

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

  1. Kristofer Layon

    Midway through writing a book about designing iOS apps, your advice is very timely and encouraging.

    I’ve found that *continuing* to write is even more difficult than beginning. It’s very common for me to get tired of my own ideas after spending so much time with them. And every little excuse to not write beckons daily. Sometimes hourly…

    So thank you for the encouragement!

  2. kirkistan

    Thanks for these good words. I needed to hear this. I’ve begun to wonder why I keep looking outside for validation of my idea.

  3. Thu Nguyen

    Wow, I didn’t think of writing like that. It’s always been about purpose and conveying the ideas clearly so that readers will be able to grasp the concept. However, this totally changes everything. Write for yourself first. That’s going to be my new motto.

    Thanks so much for the encouragement!

  4. Jessica Shultzaberger

    Great blog. It feels like everything is falling into place for me to write my book. I love what you say about if the book impacts one person it is a success.

    I am a full time college student and signed up for a Networking class. The teacher has asked us to pick our dream job and find a book to read about that. My dream job of course is to become an author.

    Any ideas for a great book to read for an aspiring author? I am writing a non-fiction piece and absolutely heart my book idea. I checked out your books but they are not exactly the right fit for this project. (sorry). Let me know some ideas if you have time.

  5. Mike Nitabach

    Great post, bro! I especially love this sentence:

    The only way to know if an idea is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is to do something with it.

    This is what I always tell the people in my lab. It is very, very easy to find reasons not to do an experiment and to talk yourself out of doing an experiment.

  6. Nathan

    My main problem is that I think of an idea, but later I find that it is very similar to some of the books I have recently read. Every time I come up with an idea, I show it to my cousin and he looks at it and laughs saying “that looks a lot like ____ (enter book title)”.

    I’m always afraid that my story is going to be an almost identical copy to another that I’ve read. Also, I can’t seem to find an idea that is original and that might keep someone interested. I’m really into fantasy, so the whole magic and other races idea is stuck in my head. However, I’ve read lots of books with these aspects and when I come up with an idea, well, it just doesn’t seem like something extraordinary. So I wind up ditching it anyway. If someone could please help me with coming up with an original storyline I would greatly appreciate it.


    1. austin neo

      i like that kind of stuff too but its not to hard to find new ideas writing is new to me andd im in 6th grade but im drawn to writing the way i find new ideas is i relate things that happened in the real world and turn past experiences into new ideas im young but i have gotten 100 pages done in my book in 6 or 7 months this man is so inspiring he is the only person that has ever got into my soul and actually inspired me

    2. ThankYou

      Same problem,but dude really just find something that inspires you,and stick with it and ….wait……DING your gonna get an idea that will knock your socks of ( and the odds of writing a book identical to another is very slim)

  7. Phil Simon

    Great post, Scott. I’m a big believer in just getting a book out there. You and I are certainly not the first to cover our topics; so there goes the originality argument.

    @Nathan – don’t worry about it. Keep writing.

    A few of my friends are a bit timid about putting their ideas out there. I say “Go for it” for many of the reasons that you describe here.

  8. Ghetto Genie

    Thank you for writing this. I almost broke down in tears reading it. Forgive the melodrama, but I have just started writing a book and your post has dispatched a good many of the anxieties that have surprisingly surfaced since I began this single act of writing. As other posters have stated, your words are what I needed to read.

  9. Jonathan Browne

    I stumbled upon your website. This article is great.

    It’s absolutely true that you should just create what you want to create and screw worrying about others opinions just DO THE DAMN THING!

    Good work. You write very detailed posts.

  10. Marilyn Nichols

    I couldn’t agree more! It’s a sales problem alright. I believe even the screenplay maker of world-renowned The Lord of the Rings had the same problem before publishing.

  11. Lynn Williams

    Your article inspired me to get moving on my book idea. Much of what you said makes good sense……now I just need to get going. I have a crazy idea…….maybe it will sell

  12. Rusty Dillingham

    I want to write a book about a person who has been dead for many years, but his daughter is still living. Do I need permission from her to write about her father?

  13. Ricky Lester

    I think I will enjoy a couple bottles of whiskey, and write about the South. I am gambling, cheating, and sleeping with enough loose women to put me on the fast track to hell. I might as well put it on paper before I meet the Dark Lord. Thank you for your words


  14. Jess NR

    As an aspiring author, I have to say that this entry really inspired me to continue with what I am doing. I do often have those moments of doubt where I seek reassurance from people who have encouraged me in the past. But you are right. It is not about what the masses will think of my book, it is what I as the writer get from it.

    Thanks for the advice! Keep doing what you do.

  15. anita

    wiw,,,your website and ideas and thoughts….did it for me..I M GONNA..WRITE

  16. Betzy

    Great words of wisdom!

    However, I got a question.. I have a passion of writing a book through pictures.. I have been in photography for some time now some pictures tell a story for themselves. Some pictures are very powerful and great. My passion is to have pictures with special, empowering, and motivational words and/or saying. I have seen several books that have been published with the same idea.. and I was wondering if it would run into problems to get the pictures published?? The pictures are mostly of people, real people. Can I get sued for not letting the pp know about this book?? Some pp I don’t even know.. What’s the process for a book of this nature??

  17. judy frimaldi

    interesting-this helps me continue on

  18. Todd

    I am beginning to write a fantasy novel. I read fantasy and sure they all have the same basic story lines. But what think is important is not to worry about copying a certain formula. But to think of a great storyline, interesting characters, and a nice good vs. evil plot.
    I don’t mind reading books that may be the same as long as it grabs me right from the start and keeps me interested.

  19. patricia hellgren

    Oh! just what l have been longing to hear from someone else and not my husband and friends who have been urging me to write my biography. lt was fantastic reading what you have written. The idea have been nagging me for years but now l will reseach more and start writing.


  20. Nicolas Authier

    Wow encouraging words!! Thanks!! I have just been thinking up to now… Think this may mark the turning point where I’ll start this thing that’s been on my mind…

  21. Anthony J. Villafranca

    Great post! It was very inspiring. I’ll try to use that inspiration and move forward..Thanks again..

  22. josh watford

    hey i think your site or what ever this thing is called will help me i wanna tell my story the watford story ! and now after reading your words i am more inspired to write it prob wont spell everything right but who gives a rats ass i dont! i just wanna tel it like it happend and i dont even read like some one might think but i still have this erge i no i didnt spell that right to put it down for every one that may be interested to read it or listen to it so thanks josh watford

  23. Sami

    omg this is awesome
    I started writing this book a year ago, and now I look at your website. This really helps!
    Thanxs, and I was wondering, are a real author?

  24. Lanae - pronounced like Layna

    Dear Scott,
    I was REALLY expecting to click on your link & read a bunch of B.S & you have me in absolute awwww..
    I love how you, say it LIKE IT IS, and wish others would do the same instaed of looking to make the mighty dollar when people are looking for help to tell thier story.
    I do have a qustion, & that would be: WHERE OH WHERE DO I START?
    I have so very much to say, I just lost my 24 yr old daughter to the drug oxycodone, BUT the worst thing is that she had been clean for 172 days, and I REALLY NEED to try & help other Parents.. “that is IF I CAN” ..
    PLEASE, any advice would be a big help. I find myself writing so much I have NO CLUE where to start at!
    Ok I do thank you once again for all the information that you have GIVEN to us your readers..
    And do have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  25. Sue Coombes

    Have had an idea in my mind for years…finally, last year I sat down and started writing, I love it, and don’t care who likes my idea or not, I can sit outside with my Lap-Top and just type away, and yes, you are right, just make a start & it is amazing what comes into your head.

    Thanks, I will continue, until I am satisfied with what I have written, and if any one else wants to read it, that will be a bonus.

  26. angela zastrow

    I have been dabbling with the idea for years to write a book about my profession. I am a hospice Registered Nurse and over the years have so many examples and stories to share but mostly I want to educate people on the whole dying thing. I want it to be honest and not sugar coated (much)…I want to answer the questions that people are afraid to ask, including the doctors. When I start the book it seems to be such a mess…I am writer chapter by chapter and cant get it organized. Then…I make the mistake of hitting the delete button. Should I just write random and then organize later? Thoughts?

  27. kari v

    Hi I’m actually only in eighth grade but I have started 4 books. One has finished it’s first draft and my little eighth grade friends have read it and loved it. Now that I have read this it gives me new confidence to continue writing.


    Writing here I come!

  28. kari v

    A long time ago two families fought for the right for control of the kingdom and the name the royal family but Kyle’s ancestors lost and Isabella’s ancestors won. So many years later Kyle’s dad was the advisor of the current king. The king’s wife was about to have a baby so Kyle’s dad went into the real world and fell in love himself. He had two kids (Kyle and Sammy). Then he found out the king had a daughter. This meant he had a chance at the throne, so he faked his own death and went back to his home land. He had a chance at the throne because in his land the daughter of the king must be married in order to take the throne, and boys from the next world don’t count, otherwise the advisor gets it. He took trips to the “next world”, as the people in “the realm” call it, to get his son Kyle. He tells Kyle he’s his uncle because Kyle thinks his father is dead. Kyle’s dad takes him to play with Isabella. When the king found out that his daughter was flirting with a boy from the next world he banished him and wiped his memory. This throw a large curve ball at Kyle’s dad’s plan to take the throne. So when Isabella turned thirteen she became able to go into the next world. Kyle’s dad used his power to send Isabella to the next world to talk to Kyle. He hoped they would fall in love and he would get the throne back for his family. But Kyle does fall in love with Isabella but when Isabella finds out she can’t be queen if she is in love with Kyle they go on an adventure to defeat Kyle’s dad and convince the king to change the rule so Isabella can have the throne and still be able to be with her true love.
    What do you think and people don’t copy me because a) it’s copyrighted and b) i’m only in eighth grade so don’t pick on an eighth grader please.

  29. Charlie Courtois

    Hi Scott,
    I liked this article.
    It made a lot of sense, and I wish I had seen it 27 years ago when I tried and failed to get a book I co-authored called the Executive Mating Game published

    Instead of blogging, I think your concept of writing a book is more useful than blogging.

    You motivated me to think “outside the box!”
    Take care, Charlie

  30. Marie

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. I have almost finished the first draft of a fiction novel but it has sat in the drawer because I am not sure it is interesting enough. Loads of work to do on it but this has made me think and even if I only finish it for me… The drawer is open. Thank you Marie

  31. Savannah

    First off, im 14 so this could just be a whim. ok, so the story is about 2 17 year olds in 1941. they are neighbors and fall in love. world war 2 takes a toll on their relationship.

  32. sandy

    thank you, and thank you again..

  33. Caroline

    This was very helpful. I am writing a book about myself, but it’s not 100% the truth, it’s just bits and pieces of my life. It’s kind of similar to a memoir which is easy for me, because it’s like a book I’ve already read I just have to remember. Except it’s without the flaws of having to be tied down to perfect remembrance because it’s really fiction.

    Ps. I am writing this book for myself, and for the thought of entertaining other people. I also want to write it to greatly improve my chances of getting into a great college.

  34. BayLee Pacchelli

    Thank you so much for giving the advice. I have a problem. I will think of a great idea, but my friends say i read stuff like that. Then they say that is dumb or it’s not original. Should I listen to them, or should I just write anyway?

  35. shakiya johnson

    your words just gave me so much motivation.i have a true story to tell about my life & i have been putting it on hold for years now.thank you so kindly& please wish me luck

  36. bronxanna

    well i’d like to wirte a book but i don’t know if it will be good enough or how it should be

  37. Sandie

    I have written a small book, about success values for younger and older people….re Anger Fear Decisions Happiness Money I have learned the hard way…I wrote this booklet for my boys who are now suceessful in business and have told me to get it out there…I have studied PMA for 20 years…I also understand self esteem…am i too late? I have just had a massive brain haemorage..and receovered…i want to leave my mark Kind Regards Sandie

  38. Vincent

    You should write a book on how to write a book. This is not a joke. Your blog is actually inspirational and you should expand on it in the form of a book.

  39. Carson

    Thanks so much for the encouragement! :) Your not going to believe this but I’m only 12 and have written 6 books using online book writer programs. lol. I’ll continue my series so thx!

  40. baniroy

    your advice is encouraging it better to beginning to find out if my idea is good

  41. Imogen

    I’m a college student, I’ve just finished studying english literature. although passionate about science, i have had to struggle through the past two years of my teenaged life with alopecia. I wanted to take up writing as a hobby, and this has really encouraged me to do it. I want to write a book to support others going through the same that I’ve gone through as there is little support out there. I’ve been unsure for a while now, but this has really helped me to decide – Thank you!

  42. Skye

    hiya, hmmm… im on the prologue of a book and have started again and agian. Im writing with a friend of mine im not sure whether i should continue, im pretty sur my plot is original but its all really complicated, and long and it takes 20 minutes of oral speaking to explain the basic idea…should i continue?

  43. Natsuki Amane

    Thank you for this! I’m trying to start a book, a real book- I usually write short stories. I was worried about my idea being ridiculous or uninteresting; now? Pah. I don’t care. It’s probably going to suck, but it will be suckage that I wrote and it will be a book and I will love it greatly, and that’s all that matters; one can only improve. Wish me luck. Or don’t. Your call.

  44. Tarannum


    Your writings are truly inspiring, I am an engineering student and I love to write , I just started writing a book but only after I read the article above. Thanks a ton.

  45. kathleen

    I wrote a very small book, On my thoughts, ( of something, ) How do I know if its to small?
    It will only have a sentence or two per page, with pictures, couple of pages will include poems or photos,

  46. Cimone Jones

    Dude, my Gods, you are truly inspiring. I’m a really young person, fourteen, and I love to write put simply. I have my notebook and I even write for others on I’m not stupid enough, or hopeful enough to think I will be the next J.K. Rowling or Gods’ forbid that Twilight Author, but I wanna write a book nonetheless.

    Your blogs really put a smile on my face, and I plan to complete my book by the end of highschool. Now, I just need to write down. LOL! I hope my idea is not met with disgust or rejection. -shrug- I guess, I’ll know in the future.
    Thanks Again,

  47. PJ Hunter

    Although I agree with you writing anything, not only a book, is a hard endevor, I
    wouldn’t want to convince people not to bother. I have been writing things along
    the way, for years. I keep emails that interest people and some I realize I don’t want
    to send. Some people just have a yen to ‘talk’. That’s what I see writing as being.

    People are always telling me I should write a book, from reading the things that have
    happened to me in my life. One even said she was going to write a book with my stories
    in it. I’m just one of those people ‘things happen to’. But normally, I like to make
    People laugh at my own ‘dumbness’. It’s getting all the great words to come out on the page.
    That’s the hardest part for me. I don’t want to keep using the same mundane words.

    I never expect to get rich. I wonder the book would sell at all. But I want to share
    my experiences with people. That’s the main reason I write. You’re right…people
    want to know HOW to get a book published, What steps are necessary. Is that so wrong?
    That doesn’t make them lazy or wrong. That makes them unsure of just how it’s done.
    Some people don’t have the luxury of being as smart as you. But it’s good to know
    the all knowing, superior YOU will be out there to insult us, discourage us..and make
    us feel stupid for daring to ask hot shot YOU THE QUESTION! SINCERELY!

  48. Iomaha

    Hi everyone! I’m new here, and I have read exactly two blog posts, but they are really great and very inspiring! I was surprised to see another kid here too. Pretty awesome. I am not planning on becoming a writer, but it doesn’t have to be my full time job or anything. It keeps my busy mind occupied for sure! My book-in-progress is about an evil teenager named Medea who gets taken to a utopia for troubled teenage girls. She learns a lot about responsibility (everyone has a baby and a job) and friendship (she has 3 roommates). She finds that she is no longer evil. When she is released from the utopia she goes home to confront her abusive mother, then… Well, I don’t know. It sounds like the kind of book I’d want to read, and it’s not like I have anything to lose. Good luck to all!

  49. Janine

    I have a good title that I came up with for a children’s book. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Janine Gonzalez

  50. Karen

    I’m 14 and writing is a huge passion of mine. I’ve written short stories based on books I read like Twilight or Hush Hush. I’ve recently started on an original story coming from me and I continued to erase and rewrite everything because I thought people weren’t going to like it but this convinced me that I should start with my own opinion first. Helped a lot. Now I’ve gotta get to writing ^_^ Thanks a ton and Good Luck to all you authors out there(:

  51. Jlush

    I admire this piece. I’m actually going to start writing my book right now. This is exactly what I needed to get started. Thanks. We’ll be in touch one day.

  52. AJ

    Thank you for this, my close ones believe that i am too young to write, that i do not have the skills for it yet, that i should pay more attention in English class and polish my language skills,i know right?, after this wonderful piece of advice, i will soon start my prologue, Thank you.
    Some youngster who thinks writing is fun.

  53. Brandi

    I wanted to thank you for all of this information. I found it very helpful.
    Let me put it this way, your quote ” if an idea lingers in your mind, and won’t leave you alone” I was starting to think I was over thinking the story I have. I can’t sleep at night, all I do is think about my story.
    So thank you for all of this information.

  54. Angela

    It’s nice to be reminded that the originality of an idea doesn’t necessarily relate to its validity. I would go even further and say that even Shakespeare borrowed heavily himself.

  55. Fizaah

    Hey Scott!

    Thanks for the encouragement in your article…

    I have newly subscribed to your blog and your facebook page…

    All the best to you and will surely look forward to your wisdom and your books…


  56. Hannah

    I just read and thoroughly appreciated “Is your book idea good?”. When you’re self-conscious or embarrassed about your idea but at the same time extremely enthusiastic about it, it really helps to read this and realize that if it’s worth it to you then that’s all that matters. This really encouraged me to continue my project. Thank you.

  57. gail

    hey scott….just got a huge burst of “go girl” from your column, pretty much what I needed to hear. can see why the motivational is so motivational!! Thanks gail



    I WAS 15, NOW HE’S 24……


  59. Age Avakian

    Thank you for all the straight answers, no fluff. I never went to college & have no writing experience. There is a story in my mind that just keeps eating at me that I have seen nothing remotely similar to, anywhere. I would have to do research to make it realistic. After reading your answer to my questions, I’m going to give it a shot. Who knows? Thank you!!

  60. ThankYou

    Thank you for that,i seriously needed a push.Seriously,I’m a teenager and I really want to write a book,but people keep giving me this “yeah right” look.



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