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  • Writer's pictureRegina Grimm

Self-Publish in 12 Weeks Step 1: Pick (and Narrow) Your Topic

So you've decided to join me, have you? Are you ready to self-publish your first book in 12 weeks? Fan-fricking-tastic!

Check out the introduction blog post here if you haven't already done so.

Main Quest for Week 1: Pick (and narrow) your topic.

Maybe you may already have your story half written, sketched out, or outlined, or know exactly what you were going to write about. If that's the case, fantastic! Mark yourself. Complete this task and keep writing. I'll catch up with you for Main Quest: Outline and Planning next week.

If not, I've got you.

We are going to get you there together.

What you have to do: Read this blog, follow the instructions, and pick a topic.

For my overthinkers out there, let's just face this head on...

You will not pick the perfect topic.

That's not only okay but encouraged! While your writing goals may be far loftier, the purpose of this blog is to get your first book self-published. I want that book finished, edited, formatted, printed and sitting in your house with a copy of your bookshelf.

This is intended to be a bit of a hold-you-by-the-hand-but-from-a-distance instruction manual that will get your first book self-published. Yes, I said first. Possibly the first of many.

Does your first book have to be perfect? No.

Does it have to be excellent?  Nope.

Does it even have to be great? Nope, neit, nein, no way Jose.

Does your book have to change the world? Win awards? Become a movie? Does anyone ever even need to read it? No!

Do not confuse effort with results here, my friend. While no one is encouraging you to self-publish something you are not happy with, this is an educational process. You will learn more from publishing your first book than you have reading all the articles and all the blog posts and watching all the YouTube videos in the whole damn world. Remember the rules: Start Before You Are Ready (like, now, honey!), and Learn by Doing.

Imagine this series of blogs as kindergarten for writers and grade one for self-publishers. We're just going to get through the process once, and then it can get better and better and better.  All your book has to be is done. Complete. Our goal is for your first book to be "Look what I did!" not a "Someday, I'd like to..."

Look at me! My first 5 books were an erotic retelling of Snow White. Does that mean I have a deep, profound, unending yearning to blend sex and fantasy in such a way that would change the course of history for all humankind? Nope.

When I started writing the series, it was frankly because I was too scared to publish the stuff I was really proud of.  I wrote it under a pseudonym. I kept it a secret. I blushed when I told people about it, but it was interesting and challenging enough to finish the first goal. -learn to publish a book.

It served its purpose and continues to teach me more and more every day, even 4 years later. You need to find your "erotic Snow White."

By that, I mean you need to pick a topic that will keep you interested enough to finish the first draft, then interested enough to edit that draft - or have someone edit it with you-doing rewrites up to 5 times. That is the only criterion.

Let's get to work.

Step 1a: Pick an Idea


  • Paper

  • Pen/felt tip/pencil/writing utensil

  • Highlighter

  • Timer

  • Place as free from distraction as you can make it

How to:

  1. Get somewhere you won't be disturbed for 15 min to 1 hr

  2. Set the timer for 15 minutes

  3. Brainstorm book ideas for the full 15 minutes

  4. Repeat if necessary (more is not always better - but if you are on a roll, go for another 15min)

The topic can be anything, and that makes this stage really tough. Best advice? Write down all your ideas, and I mean all of them. Even the bad ones. Terrible ideas can be the seeds of genius. They may trigger fresh thoughts and pathways. That may be the battering ram into the stronghold of your biggest interests and desires. Let them all out. Do not censor or judge your ideas - you just want them on the page. If you start evaluating your ideas as they come, you risk getting trapped in Analysis Paralysis - that terrifyingly "stuck" moment where overthinking keeps you literally paralyzed instead of taking that first vital action.

“Every artist has thousands of bad drawings* in them, and the only way to get rid of them is to draw them out.”

Chuck Jones * same for bad ideas :)

If you get stuck and cannot think of anything in the first 15 minutes, consider one or more of these questions:

  • What lesson do you wish you learned earlier in life?

  • What personal challenges have you overcome?

  • What stories do you want to tell?

  • What are you passionate about?

  • What do you want to tell or retell?

  • Do you want to write fiction or non-fiction?

  • What age group do you want to write to?

  • What are your hobbies?

  • What do you want to know how to do?

  • What do you know how to do?

  • What would you watch shows about?

  • What kind of books do you like to read?

  • What is your favorite ...?

  • What pisses you off?

  • What interests you?

  • What makes you smile?

Step 1b: Narrow Down Your Choices

Now that you have a page (or pages) of ideas, grab a highlighter.

Set the timer for 60 seconds.

Run your eyes over your page. Sometimes it helps to go a little cross-eyed for a bit and just glance at the page itself. Highlight anything that sticks out.

Another benefit of writing out longhand is that people naturally add emphasis when writing. We have a tendency to underline, capitalize, using a larger font, and make bigger letters when ideas excite us. Look for any ideas that pop out of the page.

When the timer goes off, pick 1 idea.

Yes, just one. You can only effectively write 1 book at a time.

"But Regina! There are 50 great ideas on here! I don't want to lose them!"

Fear not, my friend. Here's the best bit. All those other highlighted ideas? You can tackle each of them in the same way as this first idea at the end of the 3 months! Save these pages, or just shortlist your great ideas somewhere for future reference.

Now that you have your idea, we are going to narrow your scope.

What is a scope?

In project management, A project scope statement is a clear definition of the boundaries of a project. For our purposes, a scope statement is a clear definition of a right-sized writing project that you can successfully navigate in the next 12 weeks.


Idea: Relationships

Scope statement: How good night kisses can foster more loving relationships.

Idea: Birds of Vancouver Island

Scope: An illustrated guide to 15 species you may be seeing in your backyard - a Vancouver Island Guide

Idea: Grimm Brother's Fairytales

Scope: An erotic retelling of the classic Snow White fairytale

Idea: Murder Mystery

Scope: A dinner party at an old mansion. The host is murdered, and his 12 guests are the only possible suspects, and one of them is ready to kill again!

Your goal is to narrow your idea down into something you could completely write in 12 weeks. That doesn't mean it will be easy, but if your scope is focused, you will have a better idea of when you are done and when your finished product is ready for the next steps.

Final thoughts on this topic: Nothing is set in stone. While it is fantastic to have a great idea that you can chase all the way to the finish line, there is no one saying that you cannot change your mind and shift your scope farther down the road. My advice is to pick something that revs you up, that gets you excited, because, my friend, this is not an easy task. There will be days you want to quit, ignore your writing goal, or maybe give the whole thing up - but with a topic that lights you up, you are better equipped to push through the tough times. Remember your goal: Publish your first book. Even if you turn out to hate the process and never want to do it again, you will know. You will never have to wonder, "What if..." So, take some time now, come up with a scope statement, and I'll see you next week, where we mind map out the chapters, or topics and lay you out a roadmap for success.

Can't wait? Start writing now! I'll chat with you soon, Published Author.

With Love,

Regina Grimm is the author of erotic fairytales written for the uninhibited readers 18+.

Check out her books:

Prefer to read the whole story at once? Grab your copy of Snow: The Complete Erotic Series now! All five books are available now on Kindle and in Paperback.

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