Be an Active In-Person Networker

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“Who me? A networker?” you ask. Yes, you. But don’t let that overwhelm you. It’s not at all complicated to “network”—and it might come even more naturally to you than you think.

In today’s world, there is a myriad of ways to network online (think social media), and this is really important; however, it is just as important to network offline. Here at Inspira, while we have clients from far off places like Indonesia and England, Arkansas and Arizona, most of our clients are from the Pacific Northwest. And, the majority of our clients heard about our company through our in-person networking or through word of mouth. Many of our authors have found the same to be true. Their biggest book deals or speaking engagements have happened because they were able to meet someone face-to-face and share their passion.

Networking is all about exchanging information and developing contacts with the end goal of furthering your career, gaining clients for your business, or spreading the word about your book. When you are able to shake someone’s hand, you become more than just a name in a contact list; you become a face and a story. You can connect over the fact that your sons go to the same school or you both disliked the last conference speaker. More importantly, they are able to see your passion and better understand where the passion comes from.

When having a personal conversation, you are also able to tailor you message to your audience. You don’t have to speak in generalizations; instead, you can specifically say why your project would be beneficial to them.

Finally, in-person networking makes you memorable. You took up space in someone’s life and left an impression (hopefully a good one!). So, when the time comes and they are looking for a book in your specific subject, they will remember your conversation and buy yours!

  1. Always be prepared. You never know when you’ll meet a good networking connection. It could be at a big conference, but it could also be at the hairdresser or at a local football game. Be ready to talk about your book at any moment. If you haven’t already, memorize a 30-second “elevator pitch.” This can especially help if you are an introvert who gets nervous when you want to impress someone or articulate a concise idea. (Smelling nice and dressing professionally never hurts either!)
  1. Always carry business cards. Don’t make people rely on their memory; give them a tangible reminder of how they can contact you and get more information.
  1. Think local. People are often very willing to support local business and authors. Develop a relationship with your local media, including radio, newspaper, and TV connections. Talk to your local library and offer to host a reading or a workshop.
  1. Be personable. Don’t dismiss the power of a solid handshake and good eye contact. You are your best marketing tool, so don’t sell yourself short. Share your passion, and people will catch hold of your vision.

“Sometimes, idealistic people are put off by the whole business of networking as something tainted by flattery and the pursuit of selfish advantage. But virtue in obscurity is rewarded only in Heaven. To succeed in this world you have to be known to people.” ~Sonia Sotomayer

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Setting Yourself up for Success During the Holidays

A little while ago we wrote a blog called “What Gets Scheduled Is What Gets Done!” in which we encouraged writers to make an action plan and schedule their writing. However, that was back in the summer when we were all optimistic about our time and energy. It is easy to make grand plans during the bright summer sunny days.

Unfortunately, here in the Pacific Northwest, it is no longer sunny and perhaps many of you, like myself, are struggling to keep up with your projects. This is not going to get easier as the holiday season approaches! However, don’t let one or two off days (or weeks or months!) discourage you from writing. The important thing is that your project gets finished and your ideas get shared with the world. Progress is not about perfection, but perseverance.

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If you have a writing goal you have put down on paper, try to stick to it. Take realistic stock of your time and what can get done, and then guard your writing hours! This will mean planning ahead. This may even mean saying no. Really take some time to reflect on the importance of your writing and your writing deadline. The reality is, this season of life may mean making sacrifices for your project. (If you do not have a writing goal and/or do not schedule your writing time, now is a great time to  do so!)

Why is it so important to set yourself up for success during the holidays? Many people find it hard to stick to their normal routine during the holidays as their schedules fills up with activities and social events. With so much to do and more people around the house, it’s hard to put time into extra personal projects, like writing a book.

Before the holidays begin, take some time to think about the challenges of keeping your writing routine during the holidays and create a plan to handle them as they arise. Here is a self-reflection/ journaling exercise you can use:

  1. List the challenges you face during the holidays/vacation:
  2. List possible strategies/tips to set yourself up for success during the holidays/vacation:
  3. Identify one or two commitments you will make to yourself regarding these strategies:

Success in writing, or anything else, is rarely achieved in one fell swoop.  It is more often attained in slow, methodical progress toward a goal.  With that in mind, here’s to keeping your eye on the finish line—and to reaching it!

Writing Well-Organized Chapters

I love bulletins. Whenever I go to an event I make sure to grab one at the door so I can meticulously follow along as the event progresses. At choir concerts, I keep my finger on the current song, and make sure I know what song is coming next. Same with the theater. You better believe I always know what act we are in.

I don’t do this because I am bored or distracted, rather because I love to know what is coming up. It gives me a sense of security because I know exactly what I have gotten myself into and how to prepare. Oh! This show is three hours long with five acts? Let me go to the bathroom now!

Think of the first few paragraphs of a chapter as the usher standing outside the theater doors. He is there to welcome people in, hand out the bulletin, and help people find their seats. Once the audience is comfortably settled in to their seats, they start to peruse the bulletin. If they anticipate they’re going to be there awhile, the audience wants to know what they’re in for.

The same is true with writing. When readers start a chapter of your book, they want to know what they’re in for. Introduce your topic to your reader and then tell them how you are going to say it. This shows your reader you are organized and allows them to prepare. Think of these statements as signposts along the road of your writing: “Next chapter three examples ahead!”

Coast_to_coast_signpost_Rogan's_Seat.jpgWriters often leave out these signposts because they are afraid of sounding pedantic, robotic, or repetitive. However, these signposts do not need to lengthy; they can be a short sentence or two, or even a numbered list. Instead of detracting from your writing, a signpost will show structure, organization, and reinforce your ideas. In fact, far from being impersonal, these signposts help your reader feel like you are right beside them, walking them through your writing.

Another reason writers leave out signposts is because their writing isn’t well-organized and therefore they cannot explain the structure in advance. A clear signpost can help the writer say on track as much as the reader!

So, before you write next chapter of your book, make sure your readers know what they are getting themselves into! (Just in case they need to take a bathroom break first!)

This post was written by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor. 

When It’s Time to STOP Writing Your Book

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You gotta know when to hold ‘em

Know when to fold ‘em

Know when to walk away . . .

Okay, so technically that line from an old Kenny Rogers song is talking about gambling, not writing a book. But either way, it still holds true. Sometimes, you just need to know when to walk away.

There comes a point in every book manuscript when good enough is, well, good enough. How do you know when that is?

My honest answer is that it’s not something you will intuitively “know”; neither will there likely be writing in the sky or an angel choir singing the hallelujah chorus. Rather, it’s a decision you make:

It is finished.

I’ve seen authors make endless iterations of paragraphs and chapters and beginnings and endings when, frankly, each was just as good as the one before it. I have seen the same comma being inserted and removed multiple times in the same sentence, seeking “perfection.” I’m not sure who was more frustrated, the author or me!

When it comes time to make that determination, here are some things you, the author, should be thinking about to determine if your manuscript is done:

  • Structure: Does the flow of thought makes sense across the entire book ?
  • Non-fiction: Is there a clear thesis statement? Does the book deliver on its promise to answer a certain question (or questions) for the reader?
  • Fiction: Do all your story lines get resolved? Are all your readers’ internal questions about the characters and plot resolved?
  • Is there an intriguing first chapter and a satisfying last chapter?
  • Does the pace of the book pull your reader through? (does not lag partway through)
  • Does each chapter end with a satisfying conclusion and transition to next chapter?
  • Are your tone and voice consistent throughout the whole book?
  • Is there a good connection between author and reader? (outside voices can tell you this)
  • Have you caught all the grammar and spelling errors? (It’s hard to get a perfect book but you should strive to get as close as possible; find a trusted proofreader!)

The sensation of “finished” may feel different between a fiction and non-fiction book. An editor with Penguin Random House said, “When editing non-fiction, I feel the book is done when it delivers on its promise: it communicates its information in the most pleasing and effective way, and has answered the readers’ anticipated questions.’

On the other hand, a fiction author related, “I find that I’m done with a book when my subconscious mind is no longer working on it. When I stop thinking about it when I’m running. Or if I’m in the grocery store staring at avocados and a great idea about the book doesn’t just spring into my head. Or if I’m no longer waking up in the middle of the night with an urgent need to write down some dialogue. When those little moments stop happening, I know I’m done.”

That’s where a trusted third party voice, like an editor, can help you settle the issue and assure you that, yes, it’s time to put down the pen (or computer) and launch your book into the world. If you’ve ever launched a child into the world, you know what I mean. You teach them everything you can and pour your life wisdom into them the best you know, but eventually, you have to let them go and make their way in the world on their own.

After all, we don’t want them hanging around the house forever, do we?

 

arlyn_headshotArlyn Lawrence is a developmental editor, president of Inspira Literary Solutions, and co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World (LifeSmart Publishing). She has successfully launched five children into the real world, along with over three dozen books.

Choosing a Winning Book Cover

To be honest, we all judge books by their covers. This is true today more than ever. While there has been much fear and speculation over the decline in sales of “real” books alongside the rise of e-books, that is not true. Physical books are selling better than ever. This is due to three main reasons:

  • there are more people on the planet than ever (as well as more people in developed nations with equal access to education); therefore, more people buying books than ever
  • the power of social media and globalized networking
  • because so many things are online and intangible, people want to put their money into buying quality physical products. Publishers today are putting increasing amounts of money into design and quality of books. People want to buy beautiful books.

For example, I own a 99-cent copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice on my Kindle. However, when Juniper Books, in collaboration with Penguin Publishing artist Coralie Bickford-Smith, came out with their new Jane Austen book covers, I willingly threw my money at them (see image below). That’s not because it was new content; I wanted to own this beautiful new copy and put the cover on my shelf.

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Beautiful, compelling book covers matter tremendously to the success of a book. With that in mind, here are some tips for choosing a winning cover design for yours:

  1. Pick a good title. Read our previous blog about how to pick a book title: https://inspiralit.com/2016/08/11/whats-in-a-name/
  2. Browse Amazon and search for other books in your genre.Is there a noticeable design pattern? What colors are generally used? What type of typography? Minimalistic or crowded? Be aware of what is selling in your genre and use the marketing research that has already gone into those books.
  3. Hire a trusted designer. Don’t skimp on design. A professional and beautifully designed book will be one of your biggest marketing tools. One of the key signs of badly done self-publishing is bad design, so make sure your designer knows her (or his) stuff!
  4. Don’t try to accomplish too much through intuition. The entire subplot and theme of your book does not need to be hidden in the cover. Don’t try to include secret clues or messages in the cover. Just because you use the imagery of a wave in your book does not mean that is the best for your cover.
  5. If in doubt, go for a classic and professional-looking design. A professional cover is timeless, straightforward, and (hopefully) beautiful. Can’t go wrong there!

If you do decide you want to solicit the opinions of others to help you make a decision on your book cover, get feedback from a qualified focus group composed of prospective readers in your market segment who are interested in your specific topic. They are your target audience. As the author, you are very likely too close to it to be able to make a completely objective assessment. And, your family members and friends are probably too close to YOU to make an objective assessment!

Research shows that bookstore browsers spend an average of eight seconds looking at the front cover of a book and 15 seconds studying the back cover before making the decision to buy it (or not). Online bookstores like Amazon reduce the decision time even further. In mere seconds, your cover compels a reader to buy—or to click through to the next book on the list.

In the world of visual marketing, your cover matters. Your cover will likely correspond with your brand (think website and social media platforms) as well as be the first impression people get of your book. Make it a good one!

This post was written by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor. 

Marketing Your Book: The Importance of Building Your Tribe

If you are a regular reader of our blogs, you’ll notice we talk about your “tribe” a lot. We define a tribe—as it relates to an author—as a group of people who look to you for direction, insight, wisdom, authority, or “how to” on a particular topic. Your tribe may be small (e.g., your family). It may be medium size (say, you are a community leader or you own a small business or pastor a congregation, etc.). Or, your tribe may be large (e.g., you are a thought leader in your industry, a well-known professional athlete, or a celebrity in one regard or another).

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No matter the size of your tribe, it is your most important marketing and networking tool. In fact, the traditional publishing working is largely funded by people with large tribes (fan-bases). Publishers know that if a celebrity writes a book, it will sell. There are enough people who count themselves as a part of that celebrity’s tribe who will buy the book because they care about the celebrity. You may not be a celebrity, but you have a tribe. These people will not only be the first people to buy your book, but they are also going to be your biggest advocates. (Think of your mom; I bet she will not only buy your book, but also convince eight of her friends to buy it, too!)

This is why you want to start building your tribe early and communicate often.
If you are anything like me, there is a small part of you that wants to go hide in a cave for two years writing a book and then emerge with a perfect, fully finished product to market. Maybe that is how the world once worked, but it is not today’s world. In a world of distraction, relevance, and constant marketing, you cannot go dark for two years. Maybe your mom will remember that you were in a cave writing a book, but you cannot expect the rest of your tribe to keep up the anticipation for that long.

Do you have an idea for a book? Are you still in the writing process? Tell your tribe. Let them go on the journey with you. Let them see your writing days. Let them see the exciting day you sign with an agent and the bad day you had writer’s block. Build their trust, their excitement, and their loyalty. While you spend your two years writing a book, make sure you are always checking in with your tribe. Keep your project in front of them and on their minds. This way, when it comes time to market your book or launch a Kickstarter, they will be there for you.

Where should you start? First, decide on the best way to communicate with your tribe—e.g., Twitter, Instagram, blog updates, Facebook page, or LinkedIn. Then ask, how does your tribe communicate best? Knowing the main demographic of your tribe (i.e., the audience of your book) can help determine this.

Second, decide if you are going to market yourself or your project. How personal will you make your communication? If your tribe is world business leaders, then you will want to keep your updates professional—market your project. If your tribe is moms with toddlers, your communication can be a little messier, and you can be more comfortable with marketing yourself.

Third, build the bridge. Remember, the end game is not about numbers. Of course, it would be nice if your book sold thousands of copies, but, hopefully, that is not your main goal. You have a unique message to share and your tribe is excited to hear it. That is what matters. Build community through authentic communication and trust.

If you need some help building your tribe, brainstorming ways to communicate/market, or editing/self-publishing your book, Inspira is here to help. Let us become a part of your tribe!

This post was written by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor. 

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: What’s Best for Your Book?

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If you hang around Inspira long enough, you’ll hear our slogan: “from book-in-head to book-in-hand.” Many of our authors walk into our office with a clear book head, but are unclear about which path to take to actually get the book into their hands.

Part of what we do  is help authors decide what’s best for their book and their book’s target audience: traditional publishing or self publishing. There is no overall best way to publish; there is only the best way to publish your specific book in order to reach your specific audience. Sometimes that means traditional publishing, in which case we will help you shop it out to literary agents. Other times (more often than not) our role is to help you self publish a quality project you can then market.

If you are an author considering publication, two big questions to ask are: How much control do you want over your project? And how much risk do you want to shoulder? Your answers will be important drivers toward either traditional or self publishing.

What Does Traditional Publishing Look Like?

  1. You send out your manuscript or manuscript sample (one to three chapters) and book proposal to literary agents. Once an agent is secured, he or she will be your advocate to help you find and communicate with a publisher.
  2. Your agent will help you secure a publisher and copyright contract as well as negotiate royalties (how much you will be paid).
  3. After that, your book will be in the hands of publisher. The publishing company handles editing, titling, design, printing, marketing, and distribution. You will be paid royalties, and possibly an advance, depending on your contract.

Pros of Traditional Publishing

  • expertise in book editing, production, marketing, and publicity
  • publisher shoulders the risk
  • physical bookstore distribution
  • nearly always assures chance of media coverage and reviews

Cons of Traditional Publishing

  • everything is contract-based (so read it over carefully!)
  • limited control over design and editing (they choose the cover, the title, and may even ask you to rework the book
  • publisher owns the rights to your book
  • unless the book is a big seller (not typical), royalties are generally small
  • process typically takes 18 months to two years

What Does Self Publishing Look Like?

  1. The author retains complete control over the publishing process, hiring outside help for editorial and design work (Inspira), and printing.
  2. If the author utilizes a distributor or print-on-demand printer, those companies will print and ship the books on demand; however, the books will not likely be stocked in stores.
  3. The author is in charge of all marketing, publicizing, distribution, fulfillment, and website management.


Pros of Self Publishing

  • greater control of content and timeline of the project
  • maximum earnings; author gets highest possible percentage of sales
  • author is not bound to a publisher or distributer and retains all rights to his or her work

Cons of Self Publishing

  • author shoulders all risk; there is a possibility the book will have no commercial viability
  • the book may be available through bookstores, but unless well-marketed, is rarely ever physically distributed/stocked
  • author may have more work to do, i.e., managing printing, marketing, and distribution/fulfillment

Over the past decade, self publishing has because a viable and competitive industry with self published books often reaching The New York Times best seller list. While self publishing may sometimes get a bad rap because there is no quality control, you (working alongside companies like Inspira) get to set the quality of your project!

Do You Want to Learn More?
Attend our workshop, “Steps to Publishing Your Manuscript,” happening Sept. 24th, 2016, 9 am to 3 pm in Gig Harbor, Washington.  Learn hands-on from our team how to navigate the publishing process (traditional or self) and walk away with a plan in hand for your manuscript! Includes a delicious lunch and a beautiful waterfront location.

Don’t miss out our BUY ONE GET ONE FREE competition happening THIS WEEK! Winner will be announced Friday, Sept. 16th!

Why Writing a Book Is Like Building a House

 

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My house was recently under construction. Chaos, tarps, and paint fumes everywhere! During the month-long process, we decided to paint the ceiling and a few accent walls before the new floors were put in, the last thing on the construction to-do list. We freely painted the walls without a drop cloth, letting our bright orange paint stain the old floor. If we had decided to paint after the floors were put in, we would have had to cover the entire house in tarps. By painting first, we saved ourselves unnecessary work and worry.

Writing a book is like building a house. First, you collect and organize your supplies. Second, you roll up your sleeves and construct your book; this is the blood, sweat, and tears of writing. Finally, once the structure is built and the walls of your chapters have been hammered in, you can paint the walls, put in the carpet, and cover up the electrical sockets. These final steps are the editing process.

Both building a house and writing a book are hard work. Well worth it, but hard! This is why you want to make sure you are editing in the right order.

Always begin your editing with focusing on the big picture. Does the structure of your book hold up? Would you rather tear out this wall and have a combined kitchen and living room? In this stage, you may end up chopping up your novel and piecing it back together. You will probably shuffle around some paragraphs and you may even move or delete entire chapters! You don’t want to spend time and money on painting a wall you are just going to take out. Save the painting, or minute copy editing, until you have fully developmentally edited your book.

Here are some sample questions and tips to help you move from big picture developmental editing down to copy editing:

  1. Ask the big picture/structure questions first:
  • Do you have everything you need to fully explain your thesis?
  • If fiction: Does your plot build up towards a climax? Is the climax in the right spot to build the most tension?
  • Does the flow of thought makes sense across entire book?
  • Does your book need to be re-ordered?
  • Are there any repeated sections?
  1. Then move on to the consistency questions:
  • Are all your chapters and sub-sections are roughly the same length?
  • If fiction: are your characters consistent? Do their dialogue and actions reflect who they are?
  • Does the pace of book pull the reader through? (does not lag partway through)
  • Do the chapters end with a satisfying conclusion and transition to the next chapter?
  • Is your tone consistent? Right? (e.g., Friendly and casual? Formal and academic? Too cute or overly humorous? Harsh or condescending?)
  1. Finally, make sure your manuscript follows the components of good writing:
  • Use grammar/spell check (but know it won’t catch everything)
  • Sentence type variation
  • Sentence length variation
  • Active voice
  • Show don’t tell
  • Use imaginative vocabulary

Final tip: Take advantage of the services of a developmental editor as well as a copy editor (and proofer!) to help you refine your manuscript before publication. (Check out our blog on Why Your Book Needs a Developmental Editor). They can save you a lot of headaches along the way!

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Also, check our out workshop, happening Sept. 24th, 2016 in Gig Harbor, Washington: So You’ve Got a Story, Now What: Steps to Publication.  Learn hands-on from our team how to navigate the publishing process (traditional or self). Includes a delicious lunch and a beautiful waterfront location!

kerryThis post written by Assistant Editor Kerry Wade, who just celebrated her one-year anniversary with Inspira! 

Ditching Your Inner Perfectionist

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Ah, procrastination. The bane of many of us. Even people who are usually “drivers” can have a tendency to procrastinate when it’s a task they find overwhelming . . . or when they think they can’t do it perfectly.

This frequently shows up when a person has to write something, particularly if he or she doesn’t consider himself/herself a “writer” by calling or profession. In our work, we meet an incredible number of intelligent, competent people who are actually very good writers, but who experience problems accomplishing writing tasks, whether it’s a university paper, a blog post, important correspondence, or the book they’ve always wanted to write (or finish). Some of their problems include:

  • procrastinating and avoiding getting started
  • doing vast amounts of research but not putting it into actual writing
  • drafting, re-drafting, and re-re-drafting but never getting to a finished product

Does this describe you? If so, it’s likely your problem isn’t just simple laziness or bad time management or lack of skills—so what is going on?

It may be time to ditch your inner perfectionist.

Some people set extremely high standards for themselves, which can be a good thing in certain arenas. These people are successful; they accomplish a lot. But high standards can also make us so self-critical that it seems as though nothing we write, or could write, is ever good enough. So we either put it off, or we do it over and over and over and never feel like we get it right.

Now,  aiming for excellence is admirable! But what we’re talking about here is perfectionism, which can become unrealistic and get in the way of accomplishing what we need to accomplish—particularly when it comes to writing.

How to Get Past Perfectionism in Your Writing

It is a huge temptation, if you have perfectionist tendencies, to edit while you write instead of waiting till you’re finished. For example, that sentence you just wrote needs a “little bit” of tweaking—there, it is perfect. The last two paragraphs could be switched around and you definitely noticed a few spelling mistakes. So, you put the pen down or use the arrow key to page-up and edit what you have just written—and you do it again, and again, and again.

Stop! Don’t write and edit at the same time. Finish writing. Get all your thoughts out (with no self-critique along the way) and then start editing.

Simultaneously writing and editing slows down the writing process and disrupts your flow. Writing the first draft of your book (or paper or blog) is a big picture process. The most important thing to do is get the ideas in your head down on paper. Every time you stop to edit your work while you are writing, you are switching gears from the big picture side of your brain to the side that focuses on minute details. Flipping between those two sides of the brain takes time and energy—save that for later!

Here are some ideas for getting your thoughts down, for “getting into the flow”:

  1. Create a conducive writing environment. Try to have:
    • solitude
    • freedom from distractions (turn off your phone, email, tv, Facebook, etc. If you want to listen to music, choose instrumental.)
    • comfortable room temperature (not too cold or too hot)
    • things around you that inspire you (sights, sounds, smells, etc.)
    • proper hydration, nutrition, and rest
  1. Cultivate the power of habit. Go back to the same place regularly, like a favorite desk, chair, view, etc. Try to choose the same time every day. After a while, your subconscious will come to associate that time and place with writing, and will cooperate by performing accordingly.
  1. Value practicality over perfection. Especially if what you’re writing is for the purpose of function instead of art (which is why most of us have the need to write), ask yourself, Which is better, something or nothing? If you’re writing a paper, a blog post, correspondence, or some kind of book or curricular resource for your work, the goal is to communicate, not write the great American novel. (If you really are writing the great American novel, we’ll deal with that in another post!) Famous author George Orwell once said, “When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” (Great advice, and by the way, he did write great novels, too!)
  1. Consider working with a developmental editor who can help you organize your thoughts and create a “big picture” writing structure within which to work. This can help alleviate the overwhelmedness and break down your task into smaller, more manageable chunks.

After you get your thoughts out, you will need to hone them, so your inner perfectionist will eventually get at least a hearing (although a limited one, if you’re ever going to really finish!). In our next blog, we’ll deal with how to move from big-picture mode down to editing-the-details mode. But for now, just tell your inner perfectionist to take a little vacation while you get your writing done!

This post  was a joint effort between Arlyn Lawrence and Kerry Wade, who enjoy combining their talents as writers/editors to help our Inspira clients complete and publish writing projects of all kinds! 

Organizing Your Book

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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.

fichteancurve

(Image from: http://www.shesnovel.com/blog/3-awesome-plot-structures-for-building-bestsellers 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.

Kerry

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

Blog image photo credit: Hans Peter Meyer