Writing a Book? Choose a Topic

You're a writer or soon-to-be author looking to write your first fiction. Great step. Now let's talk about your book topic.

First off, let's figure out what your story is. What are you trying to convey to your audience? What knowledge are you looking to share? To put it simply, what's your topic? Some will refer to it as subject matter or purpose, but for the purpose of this article, we will refer to it as topic. To write a great book, it's not enough to have a dialogue in your mind that you're itching to write out into a story. Where's that dialogue leading to? Is there a point to it all, and what is that point? You've got to have a topic in mind before it's broken down to points.

Having a topic is the first step to creating the whole book package, because it's from acknowledging your topic that you're able to determine what makes up other categories of the book such as the following:

- Theme - Content - Title - Synopsis - Book cover & Design Before you decide on a topic, you need to ask yourself the following:

Why do I want to write on this topic? What do I know about it? Is this topic worth exploring? Is it worth sharing with the world? Can I narrow this topic enough to get a theme out of it?

Topics can vary from cultural to economical to political, or psychological. Note that topics are not the same as themes. Topics give way to themes, however the two are not the same.

Once you have a topic in mind, you can then craft out a theme. However, you don't necessarily have to have a theme before you begin your first draft. Sometimes, themes are born during the writing process, rather than at the beginning. It all depends on you and your writing style.

A topic is the general idea of what you're trying to convey through your writing. A theme would be the result of dissecting that topic into bits and taking the core focus of that topic towards something more specific and narrowed down. Your topic has to be about a certain issue or issues, movement, or phenomenon. An example of a topic would be Racism. The theme then would be, say, the prevalence of racism in early 20th century America. Here is another example below:

Topic: Loss Theme: Loss of identity/Loss of innocence/Loss of freedom/Loss of individuality

You can see that, as much as the two look similar and could pass as the same thing, the theme is more narrowed down, more zeroed in, whereas the topic is broader, and can refer to a whole number of things. If your topic is on love for example, then your theme should go deeper, explore what it is about love that you're trying to convey to your readers.

Do not begin writing any book without having a topic. As was mentioned earlier, it's okay if you don't have a theme yet, however a topic is essential. Without one, your book is simply words on print -- a book without a 'soul', hence, without meaning.

Here are a few reasons why authors choose certain topics to focus their books on.

Based on Author's Interests Usually, it’s always great to select a topic that’s of great interest to you, and then navigate it in ways that’d please your target audience. You could also select a topic solely because of your target audience’s interests, however, if you don’t know too much about the topic, or if it isn't something that you find interesting, it might be a little difficult to write a great book on it, because your work, no matter how good your writing is, has to reflect you the author, thus your book has to go beyond being written well. Your writing should reflect your passion and show your strengths towards your topic.

Perhaps you’re passionate about a topic due to personal experience or personal struggle (like Sylvia Plath or Virginia Wolfe). Perhaps you’re an expert, having studied the topic in school/higher education. When you write on a topic that interests you -- even if you may not know too much on it --, your interest is reflected in your writing.

However, just be honest with yourself. What if the topic you’re interested in exploring isn't one that readers have any interest in reading? Do you go ahead and write it anyway, or do you give up?

If you’re a first-time author, then you can't go wrong with trying; you can't determine readers' reactions to your book topic until you try. You have no way of knowing the audience wouldn't like your take on a certain topic that hadn't held much interest for them previously. How else would a topic begin to be of interest to readers if someone (you) doesn't bring it to light for them? However, if this isn't your first (or even second) book on the same topic, then it’s time to look at things differently. What can you do with your writing style that’ll get people to notice your topic? Is it time to focus on another topic? We’ll discuss more on content in another article.

Based on Readers' Benefit It's always good to write on a topic in which you want to show your target audience a different perspective on an issue or movement. You want to evoke reaction, response, inflame and provoke. You want to show them something that you believe is of importance to show the world.

Based on Potential Revenue Another reason you might want to write on a particular topic is because it's a trending and widely-discussed topic, a topic you know is debated on among readers and could be revenue-potential. Perhaps it might be a topic that's not necessarily your niche, but if it’s getting either local, national or global attention, you might want to explore your options in that area.

No matter your genre of interest, whether fiction or nonfiction, poetry or academic journal, you have to have a topic before you can move forward with your writing, but you also have to acknowledge why you're choosing that topic, if it's for the right reasons, and if it can give you the results you want. Ensure that -- whatever topic you choose -- your writing on that topic will reflect your passion and show your strengths.

Happy writing!

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