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.

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Alternative Narrative Stuctures

If you have ever watched a crime show or read a mystery novel, you have probably experienced a story that begins in medias res. The phrase literally means “into the middle of things” and in literature refers to a narrative that begins in the middle of the story. This plot structure is wonderful for grabbing the reader’s attention and bypassing exposition, and works best with action-heavy narratives.

Many thriller TV shows use this method. The episode begins with action, the crime is taking place! Then the story flashes backward to before the crime, provides background information, and then moves forward as the detective tries to solve the case.

This technique is commonly used in best sellers because it creates an immediate hook. The readers are drawn ‘max. The readers are invested in the climax from the beginning and now must see what led to this point and what happens after.

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Photo courtesy of TVtropes.org

Another plus to in medias res is that it forces the author to be creative with exposition. Exposition is necessary, but can often be dull and obvious. When the first few chapters of a book are filled with paragraphs of exposition or unrealistic dialogue for the soul purpose of giving information, the reader is easily bored. Beginning with the climax forces the writer to either use flashbacks, creative dialogue, or nonlinear narrative. This helps liven up necessary exposition, plus, the readers are already hooked!

Create Suspense by Giving Away the Ending

Another way to secure the reader’s interest is to ask the question, “How is this going to happen?” rather than, “What is going to happen?” Often, novels will gear up for a surprise ending such as the death of the main character. However, sometimes it creates more suspense to tell the reader what is going to happen and leave the reader wondering how.

I recently read a book that began with the main character telling the reader that he kills his best friend. However, as I got to know the characters I could not image why he would do such a thing. By giving away the ending, the author created suspense because the whole time I was looking for clues and any indications towards the inevitable ending.

While these two narrative techniques do not work for every novel, they are a good reminder for writers to be creative with their narratives. Plan the novel out linearly—from exposition, to climax, to resolution—then play around with different ways to build suspense and engage the reader. In medias res might not work for your novel, but it may give you some ideas for how to break up exposition and create inciting action. Are there snippets of information you can feed your reader to increase suspense? Could you make use of flashbacks or flash-forwards? Don’t be afraid to try something new; intriguing narratives make for good reading!

This post written by Assistant Editor Kerry Wade.

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.

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!

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.

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(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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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

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

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

 

 

What’s in a Name?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post written by Heather Sipes, Assistant Editor