Feel the Spirit Move You With These 6 Writing Tips For Your Next Christian or Spiritual Book!

Once upon a time, an American schoolgirl wrote to eminent Christian scholar C.S. Lewis. The year was 1959, and she wanted to know if he had any suggestions for her on the art of writing. He sent her a list of eight rules, including admonitions to turn off the radio and dial out the white noise of daily life, write with the ear and not the eye, write about the things which interest you, and know the meaning of every word you use. His most revealing point of advice, however, was to be clear, and to remember that readers can’t know your mind. “Don’t forget to tell them exactly what they need to know to understand you,” he wrote. And if you’re the author of a Christian or Spiritual book, this advice resonates with a special power. After all, there’s a lot at stake when it comes to misunderstanding our place in the world and in relationship to the divine.

How can you go about writing in a way that helps readers understand you? Here are six recommendations for getting started:

  1. Do your due diligence. Research, research, research. Knowing your readers, what they’re reading, and how they find their books is key to engaging your ideal readers, in Christian and Spiritual subjects more than most. Reader behavior in these groups is radically different from reader behavior in other genres, such as mainstream science fiction or romance.
  2. Know thy reader. Building upon the previous point, it’s really important to not just know your reader but be able to articulate the anticipated audience for your book. Who might actually pluck your book off of a bookstore shelf and spend money with your writing persona in order to truly understand what you have to say? The more specific you can be, the better, because this will help you refine your text before publication and market your book after publication.
  3. Polish those rough edges. Writing well and ensuring that your manuscript reads well before submitting it for publication are vital processes, as there’s nothing which will turn off readers so quickly as a poorly edited text. Don’t just depend on your own eyes, either, and expand your beta readers to include a professional who edits for a living. An expert will know exactly what works and what doesn’t, and will save you time (which is, ultimately, money).
  4. Know and love your material. If you don’t already believe that you are the best person to write this particular book, and that the world needs this book, then take some more time to spend with the material. Full immersion is often the only way to truly feel like an expert, and your book will most definitely benefit if you have the conviction that you and it are a match made in the stars, or Heaven.
  5. Write what’s next. It doesn’t take long to notice that there are a lot of books out there in the world; all it takes is a five-minute visit to your local public library or indie bookstore. There are practical as well as personal reasons to write something new rather than something which has already been written in twenty or a hundred other books: a book which dares to do what hasn’t been done will sell. Readers want the next new thing in their hands, not a threadbare trope or ten. And you, as an author, know when you’re departing from the “has-been-dones,” and it’s a rewarding feeling, isn’t it?
  6. Think big, and think ahead. You’re an author, which makes you a visionary. You’re able to imagine not just the outline for a book, but a world in which the book already exists, and you’re willing to make it happen. Some writers get hung up on the fact that one writing prompt or strategy which used to work for them doesn’t anymore, and fall into the black hole of the dreaded Writer’s Block as a result. Don’t linger on the past; think of what will work for you in the here and now, and don’t hesitate to experiment with form, style, and voice as you forge ahead in writing your manuscript. If you find yourself struggling, try something new … or try taking a moment to breathe. The most stifling of pressures are the ones we impose on ourselves!

And there you have it: six fresh ways to hone your craft as you draft your next book! Still not sure what you need to get started publishing your next Spiritual or Christian manuscript? Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication.

To see our staff picks of amazing Christian books from many of our published authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here. We keep a separate Pinterest page for Spiritual books, which you can find here.

Write, Finish, Edit: A Writer’s Guide to Moving Forward and Finishing

We’ve all pictured the cloistered writer hunched in solitude over a notepad or laptop, furiously scratching out word after glorious word well into the wee hours. The brilliance flows faster than he can capture it on paper until the day he triumphantly types “The End” …

Well, that’s how we imagine it, but it rarely goes so smoothly! Writing a book is a big project and a long process, and the direction is not always obvious or easy. It’s common — even normal — for an author to hit roadblocks. Call it writer’s block, brain cramps or something else, but it gets us all at one time or another.

Let’s face it: We need more than an imagination and determination to get to the finish line. Sometimes we need outside intervention, and it comes in many forms. Here are some writer’s block-breakers you can seek out next time the creative juice stop flowing:

  • Inspiration. It can be as simple as a walk or a favorite song, or as stimulating as a brainstorming session with another writer. Enlist someone you trust to motivate you to think about your story in a different light.
  • Advice. Sometimes the inspiration is there but you just need specific, practical guidance to iron out the wrinkles in your plot, character development or story arc.
  • Unbiased feedback. Enthusiastic cheerleading feels good, but it’s not always what you need. If you’re relying on friends and family for feedback, you’re better off with brutal honesty … but how many people you know are willing to provide it?
  • Editing. Leave this one to a professional. While it’s fine to lean on friends, family and fans for the final proofread for typos, hire or trade services with a professional editor to do the heavy lifting. They’ll not only whip your grammar, syntax, punctuation and spelling into shape, but will also make sure your story is organized optimally for clarity and enjoyment.
  • Help finishing. There’s no shame in handing off your “baby” to another writer. Ghostwriters are a poorly kept secret in the literary world and extremely common. Odds are some of your favorite bestsellers were penned — either wholly or in part — by a ghostwriter. A talented ghostwriter is adept at adapting to your voice and creating a finished work that is everything you envisioned, or even better than you pictured!

When writer’s get stuck, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Writing consultants, editors, Publishing Consultants, proofreaders and ghostwriters all fulfill different needs, so figure out how extensive your manuscript issues are before deciding on a path to getting it back on track.

Not sure what you need to get over that writing hump? Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication.

 

Prepare for National Poetry Month this April

Did you know that the month of April is, among other things, National Poetry Month? This makes April the perfect month to publish that book of poems you’ve been thinking about for a while, and not just because this month provides some great marketing opportunities; it’s also the perfect month to think about the reasons why we write, and the ways in which we put words together on the page. It’s a month to re-envision our craft as wordsmiths!

First, I might point you to the experience of Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmol, whose first book of poems, Letters, to the Men I Have Loved, did more than moderately well … it did so exceptionally well as to remain on Amazon’s bestseller lists for months! Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmol published through Outskirts Press, and in our interview with her on our blog, she said that the most rewarding part of being published “is and will always be” the ability her book had “to touch people.” Said Ms. Castro Marmol, “It’s crazy because I didn’t think people really read books anymore. But for me, having these girls go and buy my book, and spend their twenty dollars or so on Letters … it’s amazing, that someone believes in things still.” Readers have been snapping up copies of her books, both in physical and digital forms, at such a rate as to firmly prove that people still “really read books” … including poetry!

So how do successful poets do it?

Success as a self-publishing poet is all about consistency, commitment, and personal development. To help you become the best poet you can be, here are three ways to improve your writing as well as self-publishing your work.

  1. Read, Read, Read! Any time you want to improve your skills and become more successful, reading can help. Read poetry! Read books and articles about writing and publishing poetry! Read information about self-publishing! Read anything that inspires you to write and become the best poet you can be, but don’t limit yourself to poetry and industry-related books. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and advertisements. Read everything and anything you can get a hold of. You never know what will inspire you!
  2. Stay Committed: If you want to be successful, you need to commit yourself to your craft. Make time to write every day. Look for ways to continue to learn and grow. Figure out what motivates you and include those motivations in your daily life. Share your goals with others so they can help you accountable. Never give up on dreams.
  3. Be Consistent: Whether you are writing, editing, or marketing, be consistent. Work on your poetry every day. Set a schedule for when you will write, edit, or market your work. Set goals for yourself, and make a plan to achieve them. Successful writers don’t write sporadically; they work on their craft in some way every single day.

Supposing that these three suggestions have provided you with the motivation you need, what next? Well, turn this list on its head and consider it a starting point … and a list of tips for starting your next book! The path to publication may not always be smooth, but there are ways to make sure it is well-lit and passable. And that’s why we’re here to provide you with the services and resources you need to move from a grand idea for your next book to a finished, published book of poems for the next generation.

Not sure what you need to get started publishing your poetry? Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication. To see our staff picks of amazing poetry books from many of our authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.

How to craft the perfect autobiography, biography, or memoir

If you’ve ever spent some quality time with a good biography, autobiography, or memoir, you’ll know that this is a genre which has a lot to offer both to the authors who are willing to translate their lives into literature and to the readers who are looking to be moved by the stories of those who have lived other lives from their own. But how does one write a good biography, autobiography, or memoir? This month, we’ll be providing some tips and tricks for crafting a work of non-fiction drawn from life and history which will leave your readers moved, to tears or to joy or to action, and hungry for more. Oh, and don’t forget that Outskirts Press offers a spectacular One-Click Publishing Package for Memoir!

Five time-honored ways to write from life include:

1. Taste-test. That is, take the time before getting started to immerse yourself in the genre. Like a lot of others, the autobiography, biography, and memoir genres are so diverse as to include everything from “chatty” celebrity tell-alls to serious historical excavations to symbolic and “atmospheric” texts that read more like prose poems than anything else. Find a couple of examples of the field that do what you want to do, or somehow make clear the imaginative possibilities of the form, or that do the exact opposite, and use these books as your guiding stars as you begin to craft your own book.

2. Draw up a list of scenes. Draw up a list of scenes which stick in your head, regardless of their importance to your larger life story or the life story of the historical figure you’re attempting to put together. These scenes are simply the memories or historical moments you know you want to write about, now or eventually, and can be organized or restructured later. Don’t put too much of a premium on what comes “first” or what you want the first paragraph, page, or chapter of your book to look or feel like. It’s more important that you get some words on the page without being intimidated by the process.

3. Start fleshing them out. Simply pick a couple of the scenes on your list and start fleshing them out in prose. As you go, you’ll start to get a feel for what’s most central about that memory or historical moment to you. Is it the way it made you feel, and how that affected who you became later? Is it key in understanding a relationship in your life or the life of an historical figure which shapes everything else? Is it that it provides humor to leaven the darker moments of your book? Highlight the lines which seem most important and telling, and move on to the next scene once you feel like you’ve reached a moment of completion. You’ll fit the pieces together later. Do you find that more scenes crop up in your mind as you’re writing? Perfect! Add them to the list. You’ll get to them eventually if they really are important.

4. Embrace the drama. By which we mean: employ each and every storytelling technique which you find useful, including colorful language, dramatic tension, and situational irony. Just because you’re describing events which really happened doesn’t mean that you can’t use the tools of fiction to keep things fun and interesting. Think about the central conflicts of your scenes, and see if they might start adding together to something even larger and more central to the story of the life you’re telling. Does each memory circle around your or your historical figure’s relationship with your/their mother? What is the larger ecology that your collected scenes all fit within? Pump up the setting and the mood with all the vivid details that you or the documents you’re drawing from can recall.

5. Due diligence matters. Whether you’re writing a memoir or a biography or an autobiography, the fact remains that the true story isn’t limited to your own personal memories and lived-in experience. Many of the most striking books to emerge in recent years–Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, and Anne Lamott’s Some Assembly Required, for example–are personal stories built upon a foundation of deep research. Whether your book involves a backpacking trip across the Himalayas or a battle with cancer or a chronicle of experiences as an educator or anecdotes of career-related experiences, there are endless possibilities for primary research. Decades-old weather records for most corners of the globe are archived online. Your local library likely stocks ancient, moth-eaten back issues of your local newspapers. State historical societies host census data from the turn of the century. In an age when you can access fire insurance maps from the 1870s and also have your DNA sequenced for a small fee, there’s no limit to what information sources are available to strengthen your work.

Not sure where to start? It may be time to lean on an expert. If you’re looking to write and publish your memoirs or a biography about an historical figure, there’s never a better time than now to inquire. Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com where you can chat with one of our publishing experts or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to speak to a Publishing Consultant.

 

Does Your Book Stand a Ghost of a Chance? Here’s How to Ensure It Does

Ghostwriter. WooOOOOooooOOO …!!!

It’s a mysterious-sounding job title, is it not? One almost imagines a shadowy, cloaked figure huddled in a dimly lit room, tapping away on a worn typewriter. All hush-hush …

Not so much. Ghostwriters are a poorly kept secret in the literary world and aren’t so mysterious anymore. Celebrity authors and bestselling writers use them and make millions off the fruits of their labor. Why? Because the initial expense of hiring a ghostwriter pays them back in spades when the quality of the book drives sales. And, because a ghostwriter can usually churn out a book sooner than a busy celeb or public figure can, that selling starts earlier than it would otherwise.

Everyone has a story but not everyone has the time, discipline or storytelling skills to turn their story into a great book. There are plenty of reasons you may want to get a ghostwriter involved in the creative process, and you don’t have to have a Hollywood A-lister’s budget to do it:

  • A ghostwriter can take your ideas from scrawled notes and half-baked ideas to a fully fleshed-out story and then a completed manuscript in a matter of months.
  • For authors looking to break into the English-speaking market, a ghostwriter is essential. If English is not your native tongue, a skilled ghostwriter can construct a story that appeals to your target audience and ensure that your ideas translate properly in English.
  • Flummoxed with your first-draft manuscript? Ghostwriters don’t just write from scratch; they are also qualified “book doctors.” You may only need them to assess an existing manuscript and rework it to make it the strongest it can be. That might be a little or it might involve a complete overhaul. How much you want your writer to do for you is up to you.
  • Sometimes a project is close to complete but needs a bit more polish than a standard copy edit is intended to do. This is a perfect time to hire a ghostwriter! Many authors mistakenly believe that a ghostwriter only writes complete books, beginning to end — but they take on jobs of all sizes. If your manuscript needs to be gussied up and you prefer more personal, tailored service, a ghostwriter is a good match for you.
  • There are additional advantages to hiring a ghostwriter through Outskirts Press. We’ll never “farm out” your project to a nameless, faceless text mill! We’ve contracted with a small number of hard-working, experienced ghostwriters with whom we’ve built long, trusting relationships.
  • We’ll put you in touch with a writer we know is a good fit for you, then you communicate directly with the writer to ensure that he or she is a good fit. Your writer will give you personal service and will work with you to ensure you get as much quality work done on your book as possible — within your timeline and budget.

Remember, no task is too big or too small for a ghostwriter to handle — it’s the level of personal service a ghostwriter brings to the table that truly defines their value.

Are you ready to publish your book? Whether you need a ghostwriter or not, our publishing consultants can help to guide you in the right direction. There are three ways to connect:

  • Call 1-888-672-6657 (OP-BOOKS)
  • Chat with us using the live chat option on our website
  • Make an appointment with a Publishing Consultant for assistance

 

Help Your Self-Help Book Along This September!

Self-help books are HUGE right now. All you have to do is walk into the closest bookstore or library to be convinced of this fact; books on beauty, diet, meditation, mental health, and other self-help topics routinely grace some of the most prominent displays. But your readers are not the same as other authors’ readers … so how do you write and publish a book that will move them?

We have a couple of ideas!

The first step to writing a successful self-help book is to know your competition, and to know your competition you’ll need to read widely in the genre. What kind of self-help book appeals to you? A celebrity lifestyle book, for example, tends to read as equal parts memoir and dietary regimen. That’s great … but there are lots of other models! There’s an entire subgenre dedicated to lifestyle books written by doctors (actual practicing medical doctors, that is) and they are entirely different. So too are the more topical, exploratory works that blend creative non-fiction with self-help elements. Run your hand along a library display or the health and fitness shelf at your local bookstore, and you’ll find dozens of self-help models you might consider for your own book.

Next, you have to consider how to plan for the long haul. After all, self-help is a lifelong pursuit, and it is fitting for the genre that writing one of these books will take a while. Gather your information, put it into practice, and live the experience you’re writing to endorse. Your readers will find your book compelling and authentic if they feel convinced that you’re not simply posturing but embracing the lifestyle you advocate that they too should choose! As much as or more than any other genre, self-help books require the reader to believe that what they’re seeing on the page belongs in their life, and can be achieved by tenable, easy-to-replicate steps. Once you know how the strategies you’re writing about feel from the inside, a process which is bound to take a while, you’re in the perfect position to write about them!

This is a niche genre … so plan accordingly. Plan to reach a small, targeted audience. And in order to reach that audience, you’ll need to know exactly who they are. You can’t rely on general feelings of affinity (“I love all fiction!” “I love all romance books!”) to sell a self-help book, as picking one of these up and trying it on is less like buying and trying on new clothes and a lot more like completely changing everything you eat or think and do. Most people who love science fiction are perfectly happy to buy twenty or thirty books in the genre a year, but people don’t tend to experiment with their lifestyle with remotely the same frequency. They do, however, tend to give other people self-help books as gifts on a regular basis. Knowing this is half of the battle later on down the road when it comes to marketing, but in the short term it’s helpful for determining what does and does not make it into your book. What would you want out of a gift? Something purely functional, or something with bright and glossy images to catch the eye?

Lastly, find a publisher who knows how to market and sell self-help books. We mean specifically, not just as yet another generic addition to their non-fiction publications. Take a look at their online catalogues or bookstores (ours is at www.OutskirtsPress.com/bookstore!) and check for a variety of non-fiction subgenres, including health and fitness, cookbooks, memoirs, and more. The more subgenres are represented, the more likely it is that this publisher knows how to appeal to those small, targeted audiences and can help you along the way! And of course, it’s also vital that you speak with the publishing company in person to verify that they are everything they say they are, as well as expert in the field and excited about your specific book.

And there you have it: several important ways to hone your craft as you draft your next self-help book! To see our staff picks of amazing self-help books from many of our published authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.

Would you like help choosing your best self-publishing option? Connect with Outskirts Press now in whatever manner is easiest for you:

Feeling Stuck? Launch a New Story With These Three Prompts

Perhaps you’re feeling a bit stuck this week, and the blank page is threatening to overwhelm you with its possibilities and its difficulties. Or perhaps you’re simply in between writing projects right now, and looking for inspiration. Whatever your reasons, you may be in need of a prompt … or three! And you’re not alone: in all of our years working alongside self-publishing authors, one of the most common questions we hear is simply: “What else can I try?” We’re here today in the hope that we can help spark your creativity, improve your writing, and perhaps even help you finish writing your next manuscript this summer!

To that end, we have come up with three writing prompts we think are particularly useful.

ONE: Invent a character.

Each story is anchored by its characters. Start with mentally picturing just one, one person or entity (depending on your taste in genre) who leaps easily into the canvas of your imagination–and describe what you see. Maybe this character has a memorable face, or peculiar taste in clothes, or an old injury. Not every detail may be important later, but you never know, so get it all down. Think of this character like a pin on a map, and that map is your guide forward into a larger work (if you want it to be). Now invent a second character. Then, consider the following questions: Who matters to these characters? What do they mean to each other? What are their dreams? What motivates them? What do they regret, or fear? How do they see themselves? What foods might they like? What kind of a home might they live in? What locations on that map might be important to them? What do they spend money on … or not? Do they adhere to a faith, or an artistic practice, or an academic discipline? Who else might have claims upon their time, or their hearts?

Not every question is going to have an answer, or an answer that will prove fruitful for further writing. But consider them all, and write down whichever answers help you understand these characters you’ve created. Now you have the first necessary ingredient of a story!

TWO: Place a scene.

Shakespeare is famous for writing scenic shorthand. Remember the beginning of Romeo and Juliet? “Two households, both alike in dignity, / In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, / From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, / Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” We may not all aspire to Shakespearean style and affectations, but we can learn a lot from a master like him, and the first thing to learn is that every good story begins with a scene, and it doesn’t take much to set a powerful scene. Romeo and Juliet, for example, opens with only three full sentences made up of fourteen lines of prose, all of which takes less than a minute to read aloud.

You might think of scene-setting as some monolithic venture which requires you to picture and describe every detail before the plot can move forward, but this isn’t how scenes work at all! There’s always room for a touch of lyrical description if your setting is particularly scenic, but that’s just window-dressing. Scenes are functions of plot, and microcosms in which your characters interact. The only necessary details are the ones which matter to your characters, and you’ve already mapped out what those details might be in the previous prompt.

Give yourself three to five sentences, right now, to frame your characters’ first interaction. Where are they? What time of day is it? Is it cold, or hot? What other elements of the setting will affect how these characters interact? Don’t try to envision the whole thing, not yet, not unless you fall in love with the place and want to file away a full description for later. It doesn’t need to be fancy, as Shakespeare proves, it just needs to provide a canvas upon which your characters move.

THREE: Kill your darlings.

Okay, so maybe you don’t need to literally kill any of your darlings. The expression is an old one, and it has its source in an old piece of advice sometimes given to aspiring writers. Faulkner said it, and so did Oscar Wilde, Eudora Welty, G.K. Chesterton, Chekov, and Stephen King … and surely at least one of these people is on to something. The idea is this: if some element of your book, a character or a passage or a place, is just unkillably perfect to you, a writer, it’s probably holding you back from writing an entire book of equal quality because you’re so hung up on its perfection. But in the interest of giving you a writing prompt which you can tackle in an afternoon, we advocate for killing your darlings for a purely mercenary, functional purpose: it will provide you with plot, and stakes. No story can work without stakes, and so often we forget to develop those stakes until we’re already halfway through a book. But in an ideal world, and in an afternoon’s writing session, those stakes have to be there from the beginning. So take your characters, or take your scene, and figure out who or what is at risk. Now, pick up your pen … or sit down at your keyboard … and kill your darling. Kill your darling with flair and rich description. Kill your darling with perfunctory simplicity. And then let whoever or whatever is left deal with the aftermath, on the page, in full sentences.

Now you have your first chapter, and it only took you three short writing prompts to get there! And if you don’t like it? Well, there’s plenty of time tomorrow to start over, and to start small, with a new character.

Will you try or have you already tried one of these prompts? We’d love to hear about your successes and to cheer you on. Look us up on social media and let us know how you do! You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook, or you can visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com to chat with a Publishing Consultant as well as call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish that manuscript you’re working on and get it ready for publication!