Organizing Your Book


So, you’re writing a book Or, you want to write a book. That means you just have to sit down and get to it, right? Wrong.

To write a book as efficiently as possible—whether fiction or non-fiction–you need to start by organizing your ideas. As one writer’s blog describes it, “Starting to write a book without a content plan is an invitation to false starts and wasted effort. It’s as foolish as trying to drive from New Hampshire to San Diego without a road map, intending to navigate entirely by intuition. You may end up there, but you may have wasted a lot of time (and gasoline) on unnecessary detours and dead ends.”

That doesn’t mean you have to know exactly what you’re going to write. But you do need a basic structure to guide you, such us:

Linear vs. Non-Linear

A compelling book goes from point A to point B. For information-driven narratives (i.e., non-fiction) Point A is unknowing and Point B is knowing. For character-driven narratives (fiction), Point A is an introduction to the character (or characters) or the beginning of a journey. Point B is character growth or the final steps of the journey. Depending on the type of book you are writing, you may want to go straight to Point B or you may want to take some twists and turns along the way.

Information Driven Narratives

The key to a non-fiction, information driven book is logical organization. You want to help your reader receive and understand the information you are trying to convey. No matter where you are in the writing process, it is a good idea to a good look at how your book is organized.

Think of organizing an information-driven book like organizing a messy, overstuffed closet. The first thing you want to do is put your content into baskets. All the hats go in one basket; scarves go in another. These baskets are your chapters.

Now, look at the size (word count) of each basket. Is the t-shirt basket overflowing but shorts basket almost empty? Are there chapters that you need to, sadly, ax out of the book? Are there others you can combine?

It’s time to re-arrange. The order of the baskets should help readers increase their knowledge of the content. The chapters could be organized chronologically or thematically. Some chapters will be natural pre-requisites and others you can place in the text at your discretion.

Tip: If you are not a linear/organizational thinker, ask one to help you. He or she can listen to your ideas and hear the structure in your thoughts, and help you organize them.

Character Driven Narratives

A compelling character-driven narrative does not go, as logically as possible, from Point A to Point B (unless you are writing a comprehensive, fact-driven biography. )If so, I would argue your definition of “compelling.”) Consider these different methods of narrative organization:

Fichtean Curve

This curve represents traditional plot structure (exposition—rising action—climax—falling action—resolution) This organizational method is great way to build suspense in your story so your reader keeps turning the pages all the way until the end. The dips in the curve represent all the small crises that happen to your character. You don’t want it to be an easy hike from Point A to Point B; create some side-quests and hardships along the way.


(Image from: This is a great resource on Fichtean Curves and other plot structures.)

In Media Res: In medias res is Latin for “into the middle of things.” This phrase describes a narrative that begins in the middle of the story. This narrative could begin with the third crisis on the curve or even smack dab in the middle of the climax. The plot is still working towards the resolution of the climax, but the story is not provided chronologically. You could use a series of flashbacks, follow the paths of two different characters, or begin with the climax and then back track to the “beginning” of the story.

Beginning in the middle of the story is an extremely popular method of organization because it provides an instant hook and the division of the narrative keeps the readers in suspense.

Tip: While you want to keep readers in suspense over how you are going to take them from Point A to Point B, make sure you know the way. Draw out the Fichtean Curve of your plot first, then chop it up and throw the reader into the middle of it.

 Have you ever been on a road trip with someone who doesn’t know where they’re going? You know how you feel as a passenger: “Hey, stop the car so we can get out and ask for directions!” (Or, these days, consult a GPS!) Don’t put your reader in that spot. Start your book with a plan and a structure. It will be an easier and much more pleasant ride to your destination.


This post written by Inspira Assistant Editor Kerry Wade, a lover of rice, tea, and books.

Blog image photo credit: Hans Peter Meyer


Brianna: Living a Creative Life

This is fourth in our series of “What Inspires You?” a question we posed to the Inspira Team. This week we hear from graphic designer  Brianna Showalter, who designs the covers and interior layouts of many of the books we produce.


I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.

Georgia O’Keeffe

My hands and mind itch to create; I’ve always joked that I would be happy “making things” 24 hours a day. In this current season of my life, watercolor and drawing and graphic design fulfill my need to create, but I’ve also been known to dabble in ceramics, sewing, teaching art, creative writing, large scale, small scale, and acrylic paint.

I find that working as a graphic designer requires substantial creative output with little input because I am not actually touching the product. I have learned to balance that output by making sure I get plenty of time to do “messy art,” in which I actually touch and feel the paper and paint.

My inspiration comes from what I see around me; I’ve been drawn to beauty since I was  very young. Things like the vastness of the ocean, wide-open skies and color-filled sunsets, the intricate details of flowers, plants and seashells, fabric patterns, repurposed materials, and colors of all kinds “inspire” me to create beauty of my own. I’m also inspired by:

  • Solitude: much of what I create is reflective, and I am most likely to string reflective thoughts together when alone. I joke that painting is like cheap therapy for me! While I have a brush in my hand, I am able to ponder relationships, chew on ideas, and work through things so that what resides in my heart is softer and what comes out of my mouth is kinder. I see a direct correlation between the amount of time spent creating and my attitude and outlook on life.
  • Words: I gobble up books. Often the way words are strung together create strong pictures and images in my head that I must put down on paper. I love reading books about other creative souls . . . I don’t have any close friends who share this need to create quite so strongly, so I feel a kinship when reading about their lives and craft.


  • Color and imagery: I’m pretty sure my brain thinks primarily in color. I literally drink in patterns, color combos, flowers, fabric, paint, and artwork. For the past 20+ years, I have poured into my well of inspiration so that I have material to pull from during dry spells. I have huge inspiration bulletin boards, piles of magazine cut-outs, cupboards filled with art supplies, secret Pinterest boards and columns of bookmarked blogs and articles, and piles of books that are dog-eared and underlined.


  • Creation: Most days I have too many ideas to bring to fruition, but it really helps my soul to be in places where I am not the main attraction. Walking along the shoreline, hiking in the mountains, working in the garden, breathing in salty air, cooking meals outdoors, and biking instead of driving all satisfy this need to remember the vastness of creation that I am blessed to be a part of.

Living a creative life requires persistence and bravery, as it is not the heavily traveled road. I strongly agree with famed artist Pablo Picasso, who said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” I have a strong work ethic and belief that some days it comes easy, and some days it’s hard-won, but each day is worth it!

What inspires YOU? We invite you to also visit our other blogs by Inspira Team members and see what inspires them to write or create, Arlyn Lawrence, Heather Sipes, and Kerry Wade.  Everyone is different!



What’s in a Name?

ID-100405887Many aspiring writers assume that coming up with a title is the first step in writing their book. They spend hours and hours (or days and weeks!) agonizing over what the book should be called, before they’ve even started writing!

Titling a book is a big decision, but more often than not, the title doesn’t come until after book is finished. Sometimes, it isn’t until all your thoughts and inspiration are out on paper and your ideas have been strung together in a cohesive and enjoyable format that you’re able to determine a worthy title. Other times, the title appears to be sitting in front of you! Either way, choosing a title can take serious time and energy, and it’s not a decision to take lightly. The title is the very first piece of information your readers will ever gather about your book.

How do you come up with a title that draws attention and begs people to pick up the book? How do you make sure your title encompasses the message of your book? How do you ensure the title is memorable and easy to say? These are all valid questions, and what you should be thinking of as you decide what to name your masterpiece. Here are some other thoughts and ideas to consider:

  1. Click through Amazon and search for other books in your genre. What are they called? What do you like about the titles and what do you dislike about them? Notice what words and phrases stick out to you.
  2. Spend some time “free associating.” In other words, using a whiteboard or a piece of paper, create a list of words associated with your book. What words come to mind when you think about your book’s message? What words capture what you want your reader to feel or think when reading it? What words should be included in the reader’s “takeaway,” or what you want him or her to learn from the book? Would any of these words work as a one-word title? Consider phrases or words that are attention-seeking or memorable. The worst thing you could do is come up with a boring title that doesn’t attract interest.
  3. Role play. Imagine yourself at a social gathering, standing in group of people talking about your book. When you mention the title, are people able to instantly tell what your book is about (with only a sentence of explanation)? Do they seem intrigued and ask to know more, just from you sharing the title? Or, are they confused, bored, or something else? If it’s the latter, you should probably come up with a new title.
  4. Decide if your book needs a subtitle. Most fiction books do not need a subtitle, but many non-fiction ones do. Usually, the main title is the part that is attention-grabbing and memorable. The subtitle is a several-word phrase that gives context—it lends more information and gives the reader a better idea of what’s inside. Here are some good examples of great title/subtitle combinations:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, written by Brene’ Brown

Moonwalking with Einstein:  The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, written by Joshua Foer

See how the title makes you want to read more, while the subtitle gives you a quick idea of what the book’s about?

We know titling can seem like an overwhelming step in the book writing process. Our goal with this post was to provide you with some practical wisdom that will hopefully help you take a step in the right direction. Don’t forget the importance of following your gut—no one knows your book like you do. Happy titling, writers!

Post written by Heather Sipes, Assistant Editor

Front Matter Matters


First impressions matter. We take this into account when we show up 15 minutes early for a job interview or dress up extra nice for a first date. In fact, you only get one opportunity to make a great first impression.

This is as true for books as it is for people. Of course, the main message in the body of the book is what you really care about, and what you want people to read. However, the “front matter” of your book is an author’s tool to direct people towards the meat of the book.

Like any first impression, you want to make it a good one. Whether people read this section or flip through it to get to Chapter One, this is your opportunity to set the tone, depth, and personality of your book. Don’t shrug it off.

 What Is Front Matter and What Does It Include?

Front matter is everything that comes before Chapter One. Usually the page numbering is done in Roman numerals or some other system that differs from the body pagination. It includes:

Endorsements, which are a significant part of the marketing process. Whom you get to endorse your work can dramatically change the sales and relevancy of your book. You want “critical praise from people who have credibility with your audience” ( When potential readers see the name of someone they admire and respect, they know the meat of your book will be worth reading.

Next come the Title Page, Other Books by the Author (Optional), Expanded Title Page (book title, name(s) of the author(s), and the publisher), and Copyright Page (copyright notice, ISBN—the International Standard Book Number—printing numbers, publisher’s address, year the book was published, and Library of Congress Catalogue information, if applicable). The copyright page may also include where to order more books, the author’s website, and, if a Bible version is used, which one and the proper citation from the publisher’s website.)

In the Dedication, you get can dedicate the book to someone or something. If there isn’t anyone you are dying to dedicate the book to, you can skip this. However, this can be a meaningful place to pay tribute to a loved one (e.g., your family or a mentor) or a group of people (e.g., survivors of WWI). Whomever or whatever you dedicate this book to, the tone of the dedications should match the tone of the book. If it is a serious book, then this should be serious; if it is a comedy, then go ahead dedicate it to “anyone who has ever gotten their finger stuck in a park bench” or some other off the wall tribute.

On the Acknowledgments Page, the author thanks people who have been helpful in some way relative to the book: perhaps a writing instructor, the editor at the publishing house, the author’s agent, a supportive spouse, etc.

In the Table of Contents, you can choose how you want to represent the titles of your chapters. If you are writing a “How-To” book, you will probably want to include the names of the chapters so a reader can glance through and find the one he or she wants. If it is a novel, you may want to write “Chapter Nine” instead of “The Chapter Where Jimmy Dies” (chapter titles in novels can be spoilers!).

A Foreword (optional) is an introduction written by someone other than the book’s author. Use the same rule of thumb as endorsements: find someone who is credible and well-known to your audience. This can be a huge draw and marketing tool.

A Prologue (optional) is only used in fiction, and provides extra information for your readers. This could be setting the scene or important background information for your readers.

Finally, a Preface (optional) introduces you to the reader (as opposed to an Introduction, which introduces the topic. A best practice is to save writing the introduction until the very end. (You never know how your topic will change as it gets written or what could happen during your adventure of writing that you might want to write about the introduction.)

Working on the front matter is a great option for when you need a break from writing your book. For the days you can’t get into the writing flow, work on your copyright page or make your endorsement “Wish List.” Just don’t put it off until the end. Remember, front matter matters!

This post by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor

Do you have a manuscript you want to publish? Consider joining us for our one-day workshop, “Preparing Your Manuscript for Publication,” on September 24th, 2016, 9 – 3 pm at the beautiful Gig Harbor Marina!