Mapping Your Manuscript

“When most people think of an ‘editor,’ they generally think about someone who weeds out all the bad grammar, misspelled words, and typos from a manuscript.  That is only partially true. This is copy editing. A good copy editor knows the rules of grammar and uses them scrupulously to polish your manuscript.

developmental editor, on the other hand, reads a manuscript and asks good questions. She (or he) gets at the heart of your book to make sure it has all the right components, and that it flows seamlessly and logically from start to finish.” (Excerpted from our blog, “Why Your Book Needs a Developmental Editor”

Editors will often begin by mapping out a book in order to see the whole book at a glance. This simply means going through the book and writing the titles of every chapter, heading, and subheading and how many words are in each section. For example:

Chapter 1: Title
Heading 1

200 words
Heading 2
6000 words
Subheading
300 words
Subheading
287 words
Subheading
350 words
Heading 3
3000 words

Chapter 2: Title
4000 words

Chapter 3: Title
500 words
Heading 1
200 words

This shows the editor at a glance, “Wow, Chapter One has multiple headings and subheadings and Chapter Two has none! Why? Could Chapter One be split into more topics? Why is Chapter One so long?”ams-k-m_road_intersections

These kinds of observations can help you, the author, know where you needs to work on consistency and organization. Chapters should be relatively the same length; an extremely long or short chapter must be a purposeful stylistic choice.

However, mapping out a book is not just about evening out the word count. This at-a-glance technique allows you to look at how your ideas build on one another and ensure your thoughts flow smoothly from chapter to chapter.

Putting away the actual words of the story and looking at the novel in this condensed structure allows you to step back and gain a new perspective. When an artist is working on a painting, he or she will often hold the painting up to a mirror. The reversed image allows the painter to gain a new perspective and look at composition rather than details.

As an author, you can map out your own manuscript. Let yourself experiment. What would happen if you shuffled around some chapters? Take away the emotion connected to your writing and allow your manuscript to be malleable. Is this map the fastest route? Does it build the most suspense? Is this detour unnecessary? Mapping out your book allows you to ask the important developmental questions and easily move things around. You’d be surprised at how helpful this tool is!

While you are writing, make sure you are always pulling back to get the big picture. Whether you use this tool or your own method of organization, it is important to take your reader on the best journey possible. Many books have great ideas and compelling story arcs, but they take meandering roads full of detours. Be open to redrawing the map of your book, it might just be the thing that turns a great idea into a great book!

Post written by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor

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Why Attend a Writing Workshop?

 

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As a writer, or someone who is interested in writing, you have probably seen advertisements (like our own!) for writing workshops. You may be wondering: What is a writing workshop? What do you get out of it? Why go to a writing workshop?

Writing workshops can be anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, and serve to support authors on their journey toward writing and publishing a book. They provide a variety of information, support, consultation, feedback, encouragement, and networking.

This is usually very different from a writing class. A writing class is prescriptive, teaching writing techniques and styles within one or a variety of genres. Generally, the writing exercises are assigned according to the topic. The beauty of writing workshops are they are tailored to YOUR writing. You get to work on your book, at whatever stage it is in. You will received feedback and input from professionals in the writing and publishing industry that will give you the next steps you need to take to get your book where you want it to go.

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There are a number of components to writing a book and getting it published. Many authors who come to Inspira or attend our workshops assume that the right steps to creating a book are A) write the book, B) get feedback, C) make corrections and work towards publication. However, for most people, step B comes WAY too late.

For example, if a novel writer discovers after completing the first draft that a character is not believable, she may have to go back to square one and rewrite the entire book. Or a business writer comes to a workshop and realizes he should have been marketing his book during the entire year he has been writing it. A writing workshop gives you a recipe for writing, tailored to you, so you can know what’s ahead, and make sure your writing process is the most productive and highest quality it can be.

Writing workshops offer a short and inexpensive (when you consider both the cost of editing and hours spent re-working) boost to your writing. They can be invaluable for new and seasoned writers alike. Here are some more reasons why:

Guidance and Information: There is much you can learn from reading books and online sources, but a good facilitator can direct you to areas you need to focus on and answer your specific questions. At Inspira, we are experienced in the worlds of editing and publishing and so we are able to offer advice directing from the field.

Networking: Workshops are an excellent place to network with fellow writers, editors, publishers, and others. Never underestimate the power of networking.

Motivation and Inspiration: Writing can be a long and lonely progress. And, it’s not only the writing, but the marketing, networking, agent searching, and everything else that comes with it. A good workshop will remind you why you started, encourage you to continues, and give you the know-how to do so. Ideally, you should leave a workshop feeling inspired to finish your book!

If you are a writer, don’t sell yourself short. Get the tools you need (as soon as possible) to make your writing a success. Build community and seek out professionals who can guide you. Workshops are a great way to dip your foot into the water. Perhaps you just have an idea for a book; a workshop is the perfect place to learn how to begin and succeed. Perhaps you are part way through writing and feel in a rut; get encouragement and tips to keep going! Or maybe you have finished a book but want to re-work it yourself before sending it to an editor. We cannot stress this enough: don’t edit in the dark. You don’t want to spend hours and hours reworking your book without knowing the full scope of what the reworking should look like.

If we have convinced you of the importance of writing workshops, and you are in the Seattle/Tacoma area, we hope you’ll sign up for our upcoming one-day workshop on January 28th!  We think this workshop is the perfect place to kickstart your book. After spending years working with authors and finding ourselves repeating the same information over and over, we decided to condense this information and offer it to aspiring authors to help them in their journeys to writing.

We hope to see you there!

You can register for Inspira’s one-day workshop “So You’ve Got a Story, Now What?” by accessing our Facebook Event page or emailing Kerry@inspiralit.com.

Protecting Your Work with a Copyright

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Your book is written and in print, hooray! Now you’re done, right? Not so fast. Before you’re off to the races with your marketing and distribution, you want to make sure you protect your work through copyright.

Copyright protects the intellectual rights of both published and unpublished works communicated in any tangible medium of expression (e.g., books, paintings, songs, software programs, etc.) from the moment they are created. It is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and is not dependent on being granted from any authority; it is not necessary to “apply” for a copyright. What you do need to do is register it in order to establish the work as yours and to protect you from others using, appropriating, or profiting from it without your permission. It is not required that you register your copyright; it is completely voluntary. Registration of your copyright is simply a service provided to you by the U.S. Library of Congress. If there were ever a dispute about your rights to your intellectual property, your copyright registration would be on the public record, and proof that you are the creator of that work.

Note that you cannot copyright the title of your book. What you may be interested in, in that case, is a trademark, which can protect words, phrases, symbols, or logos, or designs. (Trademark registration can be a lengthy and expensive process and requires an attorney.)

How to Register Your Copyright

The U.S. Copyright Office, a branch of the Library of Congress, is physically located in the James Madison Memorial Building in Washington, D.C. However, in this wonderful electronic age in which we live you will access it by their online location at http://www.copyright.gov/. This is the least expensive and easiest way to establish your copyright. To register, you will be required to provide:

  • a completed copyright application,
  • a (nonrefundable) filing fee, and
  • a (nonreturnable) copy or copies of your book, usually electronic

Simply set up your account online to get started, and then follow the prompts to register your book and pay by credit card. Generally speaking, most online filers receive their certificate within nine months or earlier.

It is still possible to register your copyright traditionally (manually), although the Copyright Office is starting to phase out this option, and it is more expensive. You can download a copy of the form on the website, fill it out, and send it in with your payment and a hard copy of your book.

Though perhaps tedious, registering your copyright is not a complicated process and shouldn’t be intimidating. If you fail to complete it, your book will still be copyrighted. However, if you don’t file your forms forms and pay your filing fee, your copyright will not be registered. And it’s the registration that counts if there’s ever a dispute about your intellectual rights to your book.

So, once you’ve finished your book, don’t neglect this important step. You worked so hard to create it; it’s definitely worth the extra step to protect it.

Do you have questions about book writing and publishing and live in the Seattle/Tacoma, Washington area? Consider attending our Book Writers’ Workshops … the next one coming up is Saturday, January 28th, 9 am – 3 pm in Gig Harbor … “So You’ve Got a Story, Now What?” Find more details on the “Workshop” page on our website, or read about our previous workshops, last June and September. Hope you can join us!

 

 

Losing Steam? How to Keep the Momentum of a Project Going

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Back in June, we hosted a workshop entitled “So You Have a Story, Now What?” in which we covered the steps to planning, starting, and finishing a book. It was one of those gorgeous Pacific Northwest summer days where the water on the Sound is still and dreamy and the sky is full of color—a great day and an inspiring environment, for sure. At the end of the workshop, participants wrote out their goals of what they would write about, how they would space out their writing, and when they would finish. I, like our participants, hit the ground running. However, today, five months later, it is much less of a run and more of a slow jaunt from the couch to the kitchen.

Losing steam is a common phenomenon. It happens with all sorts of long projects, whether it is a commitment to write a blog every two weeks, posting every day on your social media, or writing a book. The beginning stages and the finishing stages of a project are fun, but the daily grind is not always exciting. In fact, it can even be boring. This is dangerous because if you are bored and stuck in a rut, often the work you are producing is boring and stuck in a rut. If you are not inspired by your own work, you are more likely to quit and run out of steam.

One of the main reasons people lose steam is because they lose sight of their vision and start second-guessing themselves. I have just spent six months on this project and it’s not even that good of an idea. What was I thinking? No one wants to read this book! It’s not turning out exactly how I envisioned. Sometimes old vision is cast out of the way for new vision. This book isn’t a good idea anymore; I have an even better idea. In fact, I’ve been working on this project for a year and I’ve changed. I’m a different person and therefore I need to write a different book. And so, your life gets filled with half finished products.

Here are some tips to get you out of the mid-book slump:

Have a deadline. A book has a natural deadline. You must finish it so it can get it edited, printed, and onto shelves. There are going to be days, weeks, and or even months, where you are going to be running on low steam. The important thing is to stick to your writing goals and deadlines. Sit down at the desk and type whether you want to or not. (Read our blogs “What Gets Scheduled Is What Gets Done” and “8 Steps to creating Your Perfect Writing Environment.” 

However, other projects, such a blog, newsletters, or social media, are ongoing. With no end in sight, they can become mundane or repetitive. Set deadlines for yourself to revamp your process. Every six months, completely change your style, update your branding, or try something new. Create series that you can start and finish so your content always feels fresh.

Don’t be a perfectionist. If you feel like the thing you are working on right now is mediocre, it is easy to imagine that the next project will be better. Remember that a finished product in hand is better than a perfect project still in your head. Forget the idea of writing a perfect book (which, by the way, does not exist), and cling to the idea of getting better with each project.

Complete your goals (it’s addictive). You may have heard this before, it’s true: set small goals you can achieve along the way. Celebrate when you achieve those goals. As a writer, there is nothing more important than finishing your first book. Holding your book, fresh off the press, is one of the best feelings. Even if you’re not 100% excited about the book, now that one is finished, you will know the process and can write the next one.

Be accountable. Meet with a good friend, a writing coach, or an editor who will keep you on track. You can also publicly post your process. Many authors and artists do “100-Day Projects” where they post a photo of themselves writing or drawing for 100 days. This gives not only builds your online presence, but creates accountability.

Remind yourself why you started. Why are you writing this book? Who are you writing this book for? Most of our authors have a message they want to tell. We encourage our authors to have a specific person they are writing to. Imagine that person and remind yourself why you are writing to him or her. Get back into the field. If you are writing about at-risk teens but have spent the past month behind a desk writing, spend a day with the kids. If you are writing a book about an engineering process, go build something. Recreate the excitement you had when you began writing.

Be around creative people. Surround yourself with go-getters. When you see and talk with others who are working hard to achieve their goals, they can be an inspiration to you. If everyone around you is complacent, it will take a lot of energy to put your nose to the grindstone. But if you surround yourself with people of vision who work hard, you can ride off their momentum.

The goal is to enjoy your project and ride the train of vision and excitement all the way to the end. If you are feeling discouraged or worn down, take some time to recast your vision. Then get back to writing and finish your book!

This post written by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor.

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

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.

Who Me, Write a Book?

“Why should I write a book? There are so many others out there already. How can I possibly have anything new to say on the topic?”

This is probably one of the most frequent objections I hear from would-be authors, many times leaders in their fields who have been urged to think about writing a book. They ask, What do I have to contribute that someone else hasn’t already?

inspira-10-6-2016To a certain extent, this is true. There probably IS someone somewhere who has already said what you have to say. As they say, there is very little new under that sun. But, that being said, no one else will say it quite like you! And no one else has the unique audience you have.

All of us have a “tribe,” a group of people that looks to us 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). Whatever the size and scope of your sphere, these are people for whom you are uniquely positioned with something to offer. This is why your book, no matter what the topic, will have something unique to offer your particular tribe.

What does your tribe want to hear from you? They look to you for:

  • how to/teaching on a particular topic
  • encouragement
  • your perspective
  • direction
  • life wisdom
  • your story (ies) or experience(s)

Having a particular demographic in mind makes writing a book a whole lot more meaningful and compelling. Plus, identifying your own tribe is helpful for a number of reasons:

  1. It helps clarify your target audience (helpful for marketing your book, and/or in submitting it to an agent or publisher if you choose to traditionally publish your book)
  2. It sets you up as a thought leader in your industry or area of expertise
  3. It can be a powerful marketing tool for your business, program, or product
  4. It can be an effective motivator for the discipline of writing since you’re writing with real people in mind

So, if you’re contemplating (or in the process of) writing a book, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is my tribe?
  • For what kind of information, insight, encouragement, or expertise do they look to me?
  • How am I already delivering that to them?
  • How could a book in hand make that process simpler or more satisfying?
  • How could writing a book get my message to more people?
  • How could that impact my business, product, or program?
  • What steps should I take now that I’ve identified my tribe and what they need from me?

Chances are, there is an audience just waiting to hear your message, uniquely from you! And a book is one of the best ways to deliver it.

Arlyn Lawrence is a developmental editor and the founder of Inspira Literary Solutions. She has written and published books of her own, but gets considerably more joy out of helping other people write and publish theirs.

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!

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

organizingyourbook

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