This afternoon my 20-something son Facetimed me. We talk on the phone and text quite often, but I hadn’t seen his face since August. I got totally distracted as soon as he popped onto the screen and started chatting.
“Stop,” I finally interrupted him in mid-sentence. “Do you have a mullet?!?“
“Yeah!” He grinned, turning sideways, so I could see it in all its glory. “Isn’t it cool?”
“Um, yeah?” Visions of Billy Ray Cyrus’s mullet danced in my head. But it’s not actually like Mr. Cyrus’s at all.
My son’s is shorter, more like a flip, and he doesn’t have the Elvis wave thing on top – phew. So mullets are here again, but as a young professional, my son did his “professional” take on the mullet (if that even exists).
But it’s still a mullet, which in a roundabout way brings me to books and writing!
Don’t Rehash What Readers Can Find with a Google Search
You can take an old idea (like a mullet) and write a book on it, but you don’t want to just rehash the ideas that are already out there.
You must have an original take on it. You must add something to the conversation around your topic.
There is so much content out there: books, blogs, podcasts, online courses, and much of it is a rehash of the same old ideas, reworked in new packaging, but really there’s nothing new there at all.
This is what my son did. A mullet is a mullet is a mullet!
There’s a common idea in the writing world that your idea is great because even if someone has written on it, you haven’t written on it, so of course, your version will be original.
Possibly with fiction, but not with nonfiction, especially prescriptive or transformational nonfiction, where you want to inspire or teach your readers to make a change.
Your words will be original (unless you plagiarize), but you need to go deeper than that. Your ideas need to offer something new to the world and to the conversation around your topic area, especially if you’re sharing them in a book.
Your readers are smart. They know what’s out there. If they’re buying your book and investing time and money into reading it, you want to give them something new, not rehashed material they could have discovered with a quick google search.
Before you start writing, when you’re developing your ideas and researching, think deeply about what you are adding to the conversation around your topic.
5 Ways to Add to the Conversation
You don’t have to do original research to add something new to the conversation. Here are a few ways you can go about it.
- Add new perspective on an old idea
- Create a different way of solving a problem than has been shared before
- Develop and share an original framework or steps to help readers achieve a goal
- Share a original insight or stories around your topic that might encourage readers or inspire change
- Combine existing ideas in a new way?
Figuring out your original approach to your topic area is deep work, and it’s totally worth it, especially if you’re going for a traditional publishing deal.
In your nonfiction book proposal, you’ll need to clearly explain how your book is different from the many comparable titles on your topic that have already been published.
This is one of those areas that you want to drill down before you start writing as it will influence what you include, what you cut, and how you structure your book.
Think about this question, are you adding something fresh and new to the conversation around your book idea? Or are you writing a book version of a mullet – rehashed and looks a little different but not anything new?
If you’re not sure, I offer Idea Clarity sessions, and I can help you hash it out.
All my best,
P.S. On another note, while mullets, and more recently cargo pants, have made a comeback, I’m hopeful that pleated pants stay firmly in the late 80’s/early 90’s!!!!
P.P.S. I also have to share that I had the pleasure of seeing Billy Ray Cyrus on Broadway, starring in Chicago. He wasn’t the best actor but WOW, the man can sing!!!