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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lim

MF 222 : Figuring out what your first book should be about

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

In this episode which kicks off a new mini-series, I share how I came up with the idea for my first book. More at

Moving Forward is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

Part 1: Editors – the unsung heroes

This week, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, more so than usual. Over the past week, my co-writer and editor have been putting the last touches on my upcoming book. Sunday, we hopped onto an impromptu conference call and our editor, sage and wise like a Jedi master, took us through some last minute formatting quirks that she caught. I don’t think editors get enough credit for the work they do for authors. They really deserve their own byline and credit page. A few months ago, I asked Megan if she wanted an editor’s bio page in our book, along with the authors’ page. She declined, saying it wasn’t necessary and that she hadn’t heard of an editor’s bio page before in a book. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen one myself. I think this needs to change and editors need to get the credit they deserve.

I’m excited, exhausted and scared all at the same time but mostly, overcome with a sense of relief that a book we thought impossible to tackle is actually coming out. What big things are you working on that keep you working late at night, filling up those spare few hours you have in your already busy life? Who are the people behind the scenes that support you in the journey to get there?

[NOTE: the books mentioned in this episode are out of print. For more, check out episode 388.]

Part 2: “I want to write a book but don’t know what it should be about”

This week, we kick off a new mini-series on writing your first book. Given that my new book is coming out this week and so many of my friends have told me that they would love to write a book one day, I thought it might be helpful if I break down the process of how I went from idea to page.

Seth Godin has a great quote that I recently came across:

“Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority.”

It’s both inspiring and daunting. Consider that so many of us think about writing a book but never hit that first keystroke. Of those that start, very few finish and of those that finish, even fewer ever publish their work; whether traditionally or DIY. Before we get to all of that, let’s start with the big question that you may be asking yourself:

What should I write about?

Over the years, I’ve been told I should write a book about public speaking, podcasting, and most recently, Poshmark. While I may write about those subjects one day, my first book (not counting the coloring book which is its own topic), is one I didn’t think I could write but the one I really wanted to.

My first book, the one with words and lots of them, is about an incredible experience I had as an actor, portraying an iconic character in a Star Trek fan film that recreated the look and feel of the original series. I got to work with passionate fans from all over the world, Hollywood professionals, and it even opened a few doors when I moved to LA to pursue acting.

While I flirted with the idea of writing a book about this experience over the years, a few things kept me from doing so. First, this happened well over a decade ago and I didn’t keep a journal then (boy, do I regret that!). Second, this story is large. So, the idea remained a whisper in the back of my mind.

However, despite the fact that I didn’t keep a journal, I’ve been telling and retelling the story of my experience over countless dinners, get-togethers with friends, dates and more. That’s when it hit me – this book has been on the tip of my tongue. I’ve been "writing" the first draft for years. I just never put it down on paper.

When it comes to what you should write about, think about the “first drafts” of those stories or experiences you love telling and retelling over and over.


Take some time to assess what you love talking about. It doesn’t have to be specific to your professional or even your talents. If you love talking about TV shows, books or movies, write those down. Don’t judge your ideas as you put together your list. We’ll build on this over the coming weeks.

[NOTE: the books mentioned in this episode and in the book writing series are out of print. I am leaving these episodes mostly as is and strictly for informational and instructional purposes only. I have retracted my story from the book discussed in this episode and its sequel with full reservation of my copyright. For more, check out episode 388.]


Scrivener (available for Mac, Win, IOS) is a book writing program that auto formats for self-publishing on Amazon’s KDP and other platforms. It’s a great tool with rich features that allow co-writers to collaborate through Dropbox. Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve but I’ve been a fan since 2017 and have talked to many authors who use it as their go-to. If you’re interested in Scrivener, you can use the coupon code MOVINGFORWARD to get 20% off your purchase (for Mac or Win). It’s a one-time license fee and available for Mac, Win, IOS.

Note: this section contains affiliate links and coupon codes for which the author may receive some compensation.

Part 3: What I’m reading / read:

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan (****). The third book in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. While I loved the first book and enjoyed the second, I went into this one with tempered expectations. Third acts of trilogies usually aren’t that innovative or engaging. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Kwan has the same energy and storytelling spirit that he displays in his first two books. The story continues the tale of the family dynasties first introduced in Crazy Rich Asians and continued in China Rich Girlfriend. Here, Kwan takes his characters into some unexpected territory with revelations that shed light on events from the first books. The book kept me on edge an provided a satisfying wrap up to the saga while maintaining the same self-referential humor about the mega-rich and their lifestyles. Highly recommend.

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