Getting Started for Authors Tip: Collecting Stories to Support Your Message

The 31 Days of Author Tips features the advice from Jenn Grace and other authors, publishers, and people in the writing industry. From hearing Publish Your Purpose Press Founder and CEO,  Jenn T. Grace, you’ll learn the basics of the writing process as well as more intricate details and tips not found anywhere else. You’ll learn how to be better prepared when you set out to write your story. Whether you are writing a memoir or any non-fiction where a piece of your story is shared, you’ll be better equipped for success after having listened to these tips.

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Author Tip Transcript

Guest Tipster: Fern Pessin, Manuscript Strategist

People get visions and thoughts for their book at all kinds of odd moments, in a variety of places. When your mind is open, creativity and inspiration can leak in, sometimes in the shower, at a restaurant, talking to friends or co-workers, at the movies, etc. Write down your thoughts when they come to you. Capture them on a piece of paper or a napkin or a scrap, in a note on your smart phone, onto your computer, text them to someone or construct an email to yourself, etc. at the moment they come as these thoughts can become the basis for content for your manuscript.

Store all the notes and scraps in one place (some place you won’t throw them away) so that when you’re ready to write, you can find them. Some options for storage:  cardboard box, trans-file box, an in-box on your desk, a suitcase, a file box, or scan and put in a folder on your computer, an accordion file; whatever works for you.  Be prepared to grab that “box” if a fire or flood comes your way!

If you have many small pieces of paper, you can tape the small pieces onto index cards or collect them on larger pieces of paper to ensure they don’t get lost in the jumble.

If having too many scraps of paper feels overwhelming, consider collecting or placing or typing and printing all the scraps, pages and ideas onto a uniform page size and then file them in a binder. In a binder, you can sort as you go (by topic, character, concept, chronologically, etc.) This will make chapter construction when you begin writing, much easier.

You might consider carrying a small notebook, notepad or journal with you to collect ideas as you go through your day.

If you scan all your pieces of paper and ideas, or take a picture with your phone camera, and then download onto a flash stick, you can carry that with you so you don’t risk losing your content collection if something should happen to your storage system or home or office. And, naturally, always back up your computer onto an external drive and in a cloud storage system as well. Losing your content when planning a book would be like losing your photo albums from childhood – you may never remember every nugget of brilliance you have thought of over time.

To make it easy to locate specific items later on, when finally writing, save using keywords. You might use an app or software program like Evernote to chronicle and categorize things you collect, or the Notes program on your computer.

Tips for gathering additional information and stories

A well rounded book offers credibility.

Create a list of trigger topics to stimulate discussions with other people that can supplement your data or memories. For example, gather friends/family to discuss something that might have happened in the past or a particular place in common. Present a specific program, event or program to co-workers to stimulate their thoughts and recollections, etc. 

Use trigger questions to inspire yourself to tell a full story.

  • Write your story to someone in your target audience so that you see one person in your mind, to which you can focus on what you want to say.
  • If you can’t write it out, tell your story into a recorder and have it transcribed later where you’ll be able to edit.
  • Or tell your story to a friend or loved one and record yourself telling the story to help inspire a more emotional tone in your writing vs. technical and chronological story telling.

Use your existing information: podcasts and webinars, articles, speaking and presentations, etc. and anything else you’ve put out in the world to include as content for your manuscript. Have content transcribed into a word document that you can cut and paste as needed.

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