Why Keep Writing Materials Handy?

I’ve lost count of the exact number of published books I’ve written. I think it’s somewhere north of thirty. Most are nonfiction but for certain, three are novels. So you might think inspiration for a new book is always within my easy reach. Well, it is and it isn’t. Let me explain.


This novel is slated for Sept. 26 release and fits the cozy mystery genre


Ideas are always floating around in the universe. You might happen on one at the same time as ten other people. Me, too. But before I spend a year writing a book based on that idea, I take time to decide if the subject is suitable and complex enough for a book. Some story ideas are thin and best suited for becoming short stories, essays, blog posts, columns, or articles.


When inspiration strikes, I certainly stop what I’m doing, get up, and jot the idea into a notebook that I keep handy for that purpose. I do this even if I’m already writing on another story. I might make a notation right then and there that the idea could easily become a novel if I can come up with a suitable subplot or setting that can enrich the story as background or even become a character for the story. I might even consider possible subplots. Or, themes. And, most importantly, characters.


Just released, this book of  guided meditations is organized around universal themes


Alternatively, you might think your idea is best suited for nonfiction. In that case, you’ll need an organizing principle–a way to organize the material so that the subject matter can be presented incrementally in chapters. Inside each chapter, you might further break down the subject with sections along with any special elements such as quotes or helpful tips or recipes.


Possibly, you might divide your subject matter into themes that span the seasons or weeks of the year. Or, you could elect to devote a chapter to each month of the year. Consider additional material such as action items at the end of each chapter or succinct summaries. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll have to decide into which nonfiction genre your idea best fits (for example, self-help, inspiration, biography, religious, family and parenting, history, reference, textbook, etc.). Fleshing out the seminal idea is often more fun than work.


Inspiring ideas sometimes take root in my psyche when I hear an interesting anecdote or learn something new in a subject that fascinates me (like the myriad ideas that came up for me during my recent reading of Daniel Lieberman’s book, The Human Body (biological anthropology). If I see value in a nonfiction book idea, I’ll jot down the idea and any tangential material it triggers with the intention of revisiting and developing that idea later at a later time.


To be released in December, this self-help book focuses on rituals to add meaning to your life



Last year, my agent mentioned two words to me. Those two words got me so excited about writing a new novel that I went to work immediately crafting a backstory and a creating a forward-moving plot. Like I said, I don’t write the whole book when inspiration strikes, but instead, do my assessment and figure out if the concept can sustain several hundred pages. I can’t give away my agent’s two words here (they’re secret until my next mystery comes out), but suffice it to say that sometimes that’s all it takes to fire the imagination. And, yes, I wrote those words down and put them over my computer.


If the plot line needs some unexpected twists, I’ll revisit my trusty little notebook, turn to the tabbed section on plot ideas, and see if one or more fits. That’s why it’s important to keep your writing materials handy. You must have a place to keep all those ideas for easy access for when you are ready to begin the work of writing your Great American Novel or best-selling nonfiction book.