Two and a Half Ways to Plan a Story

Pantsers* write a story with only a general thought of how their story should go. On the opposite side are plotters who outline their story, sometimes in detail. I think most writers are half way between these two and use both techniques to craft their story based on how they write.

When starting off, most writers have been thinking about what they will write for some time. They have at least thought up the primary characters and a plot. It’s at this stage, before writing, they are a pantser and a plotter at the same time.

For a pantser to begin writing their story, they need to structure it at least in their mind. For a plotter to outline their story, they need to discover it by writing out the scenes. Therefore, writers are both a pantser and a plotter. It’s how they apply these techniques that makes the difference.

A pantser will have something in their head to follow. A plotter will have something written to follow. They both follow a plan to tell their story.

I’m a half way writer. I have it in my head how I want the story to go and I write a few pages. Then, I write the ending. That way I know where I’m going, even if I end up somewhere else. When finished, I summarize each chapter in a kind of outline. This is so I can remember who did what before I start my edits.

Really, in the end it only matters that the story gets written.

* Some pantzers prefer to be called discoverers.

P.S. My book High School Rocket Science (For Extraterrestrial Use Only) is now self-published as an ebook and in print. Yeah!

Getting Help Writing Grants

What I’ve learned from self-publishing my book is for me to stop trying to do everything myself and get help. The same applies toward grant writing.

Grant writers need writing skills to complete a grant application. Yet, there are other parts to an application besides the summaries, narratives, and other written sections. Grant writers should take advantage of not knowing everything and ask for help.

For example, it is better to use a photographer when providing photographs. Clear, professional images can be a great way to highlight the application. Also, the grant application may require specific performance measurements. Instead of learning what these are, the grant writer could contact an expert in these measurements.

Another example could be when restoring an historic building. Sometimes an historian familiar with the time period and restorations can provide details that highlight knowledge of the project.

Still another example is when looking for grant opportunities. Searching the internet for a grant takes time. It is faster and more efficient to use a grant database that someone developed having exact parameters.

Of course, grant writers could rely on the nonprofit’s expertise. Yet, I found it is sometimes better to get information from an outside source. This gives a different perspective and allows for more diversity in the information. Using other sources can add detail I do not have.

Also, information from an outside source can create a grant application that looks more professional. This makes foundation board members happy. We want the money people to be happy.

Finally, I like to contact people with different expertise than myself. It lets me learn something new, explore other fields of community engagement, and gives me the chance to meet new people.

Many authors who self-publish have learned to outsource (like me). Grant writers should, too.

Self-Publish or Bust

After several months attempting to self-publish, I hired someone to do the interior formatting and another person to do the cover. While some authors hire someone to also do the uploads, I wanted to do this and control something of the process.

Of course, my first attempts to upload the files failed. This is when I realized something.

Self-publishing is two paths. One for e-books and one for print. I had been trying to do the e-books and print at the same time.

To create a physical object in print means defining three dimensions using jargon that is meaningless to most people. With e-books, I seemed to be working in one dimension, a simpler process.

As an example, most self-publishing packages use their software to format the interior as an e-pub. With print, I must upload a file meaning I make too many decisions any of which can go wrong for no reason.

For the cover, an e-book only needs one picture and the self-publisher’s software places the cover where it needs to be. Print has a front and back side and a spine that requires fitting everything inside a template. In print, everything must be exactly exact.

So, I refocused. After all, the purpose of self-publishing is to publish something. And my genre mostly read e-books, anyway.

It did not take me long to overcome a few obstacles and upload and publish my e-book on two self-publishing platforms. I am now working on publishing on two other platforms. My confidence has recovered, somewhat. However, I have not abandoned the print.

While an e-book is what people buy (at least in fiction), a printed book is what authors want. It is something that can be touched, smelled, and felt.

I’ll get my book printed. For now, I have my e-book out and more versions are coming.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I know, the title is an old cliché. Don’t worry, I won’t use any more clichés. This blog is about adding photographs into a grant request.

Many grant applications have an “other” category, meaning the applicant has the option of providing additional information. (If given the opportunity to provide more information, always provide more information.) I add pamphlets or posters or something linking back to the project. I always try to include at least one photograph.

The photograph(s) should involve people doing something directly related to the project. If requesting money for a product, show how that product is helping people. If needing funds for a service, show people receiving that service. The photograph should show the nonprofit making an impact to those in need.

However, be careful with photographs. Everyone looks at them differently. Some photographs can hurt the grant request.

For example, a service like a soup kitchen should show many people being served and not an empty cafeteria with one person. If asking money for a product, show it being used and not sitting on a table where it could look insignificant.

For a renovation project I’m helping with, I show contrasts of what the building looked like and the progress being made. It is important to be truthful, but I do not show the best side needing renovation. Someone may think the building doesn’t look all that bad. Also, I do not show a close up of rotted wood. People may think the building is too far gone and the money will be wasted.

So, just don’t send photographs. Think as much about the photographs as writing the grant. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. (I didn’t say I wouldn’t use the same cliché.)