How to Organize Your Book Content

Are you the kind of person who will write the ending of your story long before you’ve figured out what comes first? Yeah, I know that feeling. That’s okay if you’ve been writing for a while and are comfortable with working backwards.

But what if you’re new? You might not so do so well jumping all over the map. How can you organize your thoughts and ideas so you’ll be able to write your book more easily? Putting some method into your madness will go a long way in the book writing process.

Let’s look at a few ways you can stay on track and get through to the end of your draft. 

You will need:

  1. a sheet of paper
  2. a pen
  3. about 30 minutes

What are you writing about? (10 minutes)

Suppose you want to write about baking. There are a million approaches you could take. Are you going to write about baking in general, vegan baking, or baking for people who have had to go gluten-free? Ask yourself what you’re most passionate about and make a list.

The possibilities are endless, but your time and patience aren’t. Take five minutes and jot down all the aspects of your topic that you know the most about. Don’t think about it too much. If you’d feel comfortable teaching it to someone who doesn’t know jack about it, then write it down. 

Once you have that down, then take the remaining 5 minutes to narrow that list down to a few things you definitely want to cover in the book. Now you have your theme and the beginnings of chapter divisions.

How many chapters and how long? (10 minutes)

You have your list of things to cover and they’re all under one theme, so that’s one less thing to worry about. Now, you need to structure the chapters. Should they be long or short? Go to the library and flip through some books similar to the one you want to write. Make note of how those authors handled it and keep it similar (unless you want to strike out and try something new).

Look at your list of topics and break them down into subtopics. Give each a name and label it as a chapter. Take another 5 minutes to arrange them all in an order you like. Figure out which ones should come naturally after the other. Then, set deadlines for each one, so you can push yourself to write the content consistently towards your goal. 

What’s your style (10 minutes)?

How do you write? Are you bubbly or stoic? Technical or down-to-earth? Academic or opinionated? Long-winded, or short and sweet? There are so many styles and yours is unique to you. I can guarantee you that nobody writes exactly the way you do, so look within and get to know what your style is. 

A good way to figure this out is to free-write for a bit. Don’t try to make your writing sound like anyone else’s, just write whatever goes through your head. Let it flow from your brain to your fingers. Don’t censor, don’t adjust, don’t edit. Just write. Get a few pages down, and then read it over. You’ll get a pretty good idea of what your style is. It’s should sound like you in your head.

Once you’ve figured this out, you can go on to ask these questions:

  1. who am I writing to,
  2. what personality do they tend to have,
  3. how do they already view or feel about topic, and
  4. will I stick to norms or challenge the way the topic is viewed?

Not everyone will like the style you choose to write in, so take some time to  think about the people who will want to read your book. Picture them; get in their heads.  Then, using your style, write to them. Once you’ve decided on your theme, main points and recognized your style, you will have the why, what and how that you need to put your message in writing and create a manuscript.

So, in a nutshell…

How do you organize a book? Figure out what the point of your book is. Narrow it down a  list of subtopics you want to touch on. Turn these subtopics into chapter titles and rearrange them until you like how they flow. Finally, think about who you are writing to and how your writing style will affect them. Don’t get bogged down in the little things, like what margins to use or whether to hire and illustrator down the road. All of that comes later. Just ignore the distractions and then write. Open your word processor and let those words flow from your soul to the page. Don’t edit, don’t overthink; just write

Published by Kim-Lee Patterson

Kim-Lee Patterson is an editor and author from Ontario, Canada. Since 2011, she’s edited for a variety of clients, ranging from job seekers and students to business owners and book authors. Her versatile editing style and her ability to mimic other styles are some of the things that her clients love about her and her work.

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