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Copyright protects the intellectual rights of both published and unpublished works communicated in any tangible medium of expression (e.g., books, paintings, songs, software programs, etc.)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

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

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

 

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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

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!