Where do you get your inspiration from? One of my favourite ways to find inspiration on how to structure a book, is to study other books that have a similar story line to mine, or are written in a style that I want emulate. I call this Book Dissection, and I’d love to share some writing resources with you to help you evaluate your own style and voice.
Questions to evaluate include: what length are the chapters, what age is it aimed at, what style, eg third person, first person, one central character, are there two points of view, is it educational mixed with story or testimonial, what about fictional? What is it that you want your book to say? Who do you want it to help, and is there another book similar that you really admire? How can you tweak yours so that it is original?
Let me give you an example for some of the books that I am working on and have written and what has been inspirational to me in the process.
Dad and Me in PNG is my story, told from a fourteen year old point of view, in third person, of a mission trip. It chronicles, in a story form, my testimony of being filled with the Holy Spirit and difference that made in my life, even though I’d been raised in a Christian family. My hope is that parents will read it and realise that you can give your children tons of theological info but they need the Holy Spirit to come alive inside for it to become real, relevant and relational.
A similar style of writing is found in ‘My Seventh Monsoon’ by Naomi Reed, Ark House Press. It shares her story, although in first person, of her mission trips to Nepal. Our journeys are not terribly similar, though I thought perhaps our writing styles were, in that both books are easy to read, share a journey with anyone who is willing to listen and occasionally drop a carefully disguised theology bomb to provoke thought in the reader.
I have met Naomi briefly and heard her speak in person at a women’s conference in Moree, NSW. Her journeys have caused her to puzzle, like me over the differences in culture between Australia and third world countries, and how we can be living in such comfort while others struggle in such poverty.
My three current projects are vastly different in style, as I experiment to find my niche; the sequel to Dad and Me in PNG is a good example of this. The sequel is about how my husband Stephen and I met, and our five year courtship which was quite different to the norm. Books that inspired us at the time included those by Joshua Harris, ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ and ‘Boy Meets Girl’, and also those by Eric and Leslie Ludy. Last week I found another of their gems at the op-shop across the road from me.
‘When Dreams Come True’ tells the story of their courtship, which is similar to ours in their age differences, but the similarities end right about there. It was very interesting to read this book, as there are hilarious splashes of humour across the pages that just draw you further into the story. This book has three parts and the authors alternate in writing chapters.
Another of their books about courtship in general, ‘When God Writes Your Love Story’, has snippets of their story along with friend’s testimonies and Biblical guidelines to relationships which is similar in style to Joshua Harris.
Reading through these couple of books has lit a clear pathway as to how I can write my book in a unique style and outlined what I should avoid in order to stick to a purely testimonial story that spans five years, though this time it will be written in first person.
I am also writing the prequel to Dad and Me in PNG, which is written from various persons points of view, but still in third person. These are family stories from my childhood farm, and especially a lot of the hospital and healing testimonies that my family has. A good inspiration for this one was ‘Mercy Moves Mountains’, by Nancy Alcorn
I have not experienced any of the issues of the girls in this testimonial book, however, I believe the writing style is very similar. There seems to be many testimonies all written in third person about different girls, but as far as I can ascertain, all written by the one person.
This book has also inspired me for a fictional trilogy, not in the writing style but to use the content as a base for several characters. For this fictional trilogy, my writing style inspiration has come from Brock and Bodie Thoene. In fact, I have carefully dissected chapters in ‘Gates of Zion’ to help me understand their skill and mastery of weaving several characters whose lives all join to create an incredible and complicated plot masterpiece.
So, what do you want your writing to look like? How do you want your book structured? What style and person should your book be written in? Find a book you enjoy and dissect it! Write notes on the characters and anything that particularly stands out to you including humour, chapter formation, character detail etc. If you are starting a book or even if you are part way through, give this method a try for some fresh inspiration.
Another way to improve your writing are to read interviews with those who have written good books. I’ve learnt so much through interviewing various authors, whose thoughts you can find on this blog.
I also like joining writing challenges where you can practice writing for set amount of times on a particular topic and then all link up together to share ideas and community. Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday is an awesome link up, that I’ve been involved in for several years.
Do you ever get stuck with writer’s block? Here are a few of my favourite tools to get my brain moving again; writer’s block removalist at your service!
Another great mentor for writing, who has quite a few resources on her blog is Tricia Goyer. She has authored over 70 books, including testimonies and resources on Teen Pregnancy, Adoption, Parenting and some great Christian Fiction war stories. Her free e-books when you sign up to her email newsletter is about how to start finding time to write even with young children, and how to hone your skills. I am working through it at the moment.