Developing Your Book’s Purpose Statement

Are you thinking about writing a book? If you’re feeling inspired, motivated, or simply have a message you want to share with the world, then maybe checking “author” off on your resume is in your near future. We couldn’t be more excited for you!

One of the most crucial steps in the book-writing process (potentially even THE most important step) is developing your book’s objective. Every book (except for fiction work) needs a clear and defined objective as it provides direction, organization, and gives readers a “take-away.”

In order to determine the objective of your book, ask yourself these questions: What do I hope people will gain by reading it? What do I have to say that is unique? Why is my mission or message important? Who are my readers? How will my book impact their lives?

At Inspira, we’ve developed a simple formula to help our authors create a purpose statement for their book. Once you’re ready, you can use this formula (as well as the questions listed above) to dial in your point and start writing with definitive purpose:

If. . . (Insert here the kind of people who will be reading your book, or your target audience. What is their gender, age, socioeconomic status? What are their interests? )

Read. . . (Insert your working title here. Read here for tips on naming your book.)

They will overcome. . . (Insert what you see as the readers’ main need or obstacle.)

And ultimately achieve/experience/be able to. . . (Insert the unique benefit or “take-away” you’re providing.)

Here is a sample purpose statement:

“If young millennials (age 18-25) read my book, 10 Steps to Getting Your Perfect Job, they will overcome joblessness, boredom, and anxiety, and achieve the skills they need such as determination, charisma, and flexibility to land their dream job in their ultimate career field.”

Your message is important and deserves to be shared with the world. If you’ve been considering writing a book but aren’t sure where to start, this could be the step you need to take. As always, Inspira Literary Solutions is available for consultations, writing coaching, developmental editing, copy editing, design, and even book production.

Happy writing!

If you’d like to learn more about what we do at Inspira and how we help aspiring and current authors of all genres, we invite you to peruse our publishing portfolio for samples of our work, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, or email us at arlyn@inspiralit.com.

Inspira Abroad

img_4889

Recently we had the incredible opportunity to take our work abroad and we wanted to share the adventure with you all!

In January, (Assistant Editor) Heather and I (Arlyn) traveled to England to work with one of our clients there. Kate Chislett, who owns the Instrumentally Music Studio in Ascot with her husband David, has developed an innovative (and fun!) preschool music curriculum, and we have had the delightful privilege of helping publish it.

       img_4616

Heather and Kate in the Instrumentally Studio in Ascot

For several days we worked with Kate both on and off-site, drawing from the inspiration of the studio (a fabulous place!) and Kate’s passion and creativity for her topic – infusing a love for and foundational knowledge 0f music into young children. Alligator A, Bunny B, Catty C and other characters like Mrs. Crotchet and Miss Minim are springing to life in Carnival Zoo with illustrations by designer Brianna Showalter.

froggy

Meet “Froggy F” on the musical scale!

But a trip abroad wouldn’t be complete without taking time to see the sights, would it?!  We took a few days to see London:

heatherandbeefeater

Heather meets a Beefeater at the Tower of London

img_4757

Art appreciation at the National Gallery 

 … and even squeezed in a quick trip to Paris:

img_4866

The Arc de Triomphe

img_4847

What’s Paris without the cappuccinos and the croissants…?

img_4877

… and pastries and macarons!

img_4870

Shopping on the Champs d’Elysees

img_4819

And a visit to a bookshop cafe … of course!

I also had the privilege of speaking to a group of parents in Ascot, who invited me to come share some parenting tips from our Parenting for the Launch book:

img_4908

At All Souls Church in Ascot, UK

We were certainly a little tired when we came back from our whirlwind trip, but more than that, we came back inspired! It was a tremendous opportunity to work with an amazing client with an inspirational and exciting publishing project, be inspired by incredible sights and people, and have the joy of some inspiring mother-daughter time in London and Paris.

It’s no coincidence that our name is Inspira; it is meaningful to us on so many levels. We love our work!

Arlyn Lawrence is the founder and president of Inspira Literary Solutions. She loves books, travel, people, and books.  And books. 

Why Attend a Writing Workshop?

 

Writingworkshop-2

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.

Writingworkshop-5

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.

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

steamtrain

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.

When It’s Time to STOP Writing Your Book

the-end

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.

Why Writing a Book Is Like Building a House

 

painting-black-paint-roller

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!

440px-Stipula_fountain_pen

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

typewriter-14625648655rG

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

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.

Brianna

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.

Brianna_Painting

  • 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.

Brianna_House

  • 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!