What to do when your book structure falls apart

Previously, I started to discuss what you can do if you discover your book has turned into disaster for some reason and listed the five biggest disasters that can hit your book. Here they are again:

  1. The wrong message! You realise half way through your book that the whole (or at least a significant part) of your message, solution or method is flawed. Panic! What now?
  2. Someone stole my book! Someone much more famous, better connected (in business or marketing terms), funkier or more impressive publishes a book on exactly the same subject as you and even has the exact same title (or near enough). Aaarrgh!
  3. It’s all fallen apart! Your perfectly worked out book structure falls apart when you realise three chapters need t be 4000 words long and the other three are just 1000 words – and the other two chapters don’t have any content at all because you’ve covered it elsewhere. Eeek!
  4. We need your book NOW! You get an exciting email asking you to speak at a prestigious conference in TWO WEEKS’ TIME. Great! But, they ask you if you can bring your book along too as they want to sell copies IN VOLUME at the back of the room. The only problem is that you haven’t started writing it yet. Gulp! Do you accept?
  5. It’s awful, don’t publish it! You ask a couple of trusted contacts to give you feedback on your book just before you send it off to the copy editor (who you’ve booked for next week). Their feedback isn’t positive. In fact, it’s extremely negative. Your heart sinks. What do you do now?

All of the ‘disasters’ listed above are solvable. Agreed, they are challenging and they are scary but they can be overcome and even used to your advantage. Today, I’m going to deal with Disaster 3.

Disaster 3: My book structure has fallen apart

Encountering problems with your book structure is a fairly common problem and affects new and experienced writers alike. You start writing your book full of confidence that you have everything worked out. Then, as you begin to start writing you realise that the content you planned in one area fits better somewhere else. Your first reaction is to begin moving everything around but then you find even more holes and discrepancies. It’s a nightmare and you just feel more and more confused every time you look at your book. How can you solve this problem?

The solution to the problem

The solution is actually somewhat counterintuitive – keep writing your book according to your original structure. Even if it means repeating what you have said earlier in the book or if you think the material is in the wrong place.

Once you have completely finished writing, you can begin to revise your book and work out the best place for particular pieces of information. It may be easier and faster to ask an editor to do this job for you.

The role of the revision stage

While you are writing your book, you will come across many problems like this. From experience, I can tell you that stopping and trying to sort out issues with structure and content while you are still writing is a recipe for disaster. What you end up with is a half-written book and what is worse, it is a half-written book that you as the author are very confused about. When this happens, it becomes very difficult to finish the book at all, and that makes it very difficult to sort out – or for someone else to sort out for you.

The revision stage is there for you to sort out glitches, move things around, delete things and add things. If you get bogged down in this while you are writing, you will never finish. Even if you end up deleting material, it’s fine. You can use that material as the foundation for another book, for articles or even for a related product.

Understanding the function of draftsfirst drafts

It is difficult to continue to write a book that feels flawed or wrong in some way. But I urge you to carry on. I realise this feels wrong, and I know you will want to stop. But remember this is your first draft, and the whole point of this first draft is to get the basics of your book in place.  You will probably write more than one draft of this book. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will rewrite it, but you will edit and revise it until it is right or until you are ready to send it to an editor.

If your book is short (and I recommend that for your first book), you will minimise the number of revisions you will need to do and this will reduce the amount of time you spend working on the book. Finishing is crucial because you can build on the experience of this book when writing your next book.

The only time to stop

The only situation that I would recommend stopping is if you are significantly over-writing or if you realise your topic is too broad. However, I would still recommend finishing – but if you do that, re-set your word target and keep to it.

So, the crucial message when dealing with problems with structure is to keep writing because you can mend a finished book far more easily than a half-finished one. You are bound to feel some parts of your book are all wrong but this could be more about fear than the fact that your book has deep problems. Once you have finished your first draft, you can start revising, hire an editor to help you and begin the work of honing and finishing your book.  So, keep going and you will get your book published.

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About The Author

Deborah Taylor

Deborah Taylor is a book-writing coach and publishing consultant. Her goal is to make publishing easy, fast and fun so all entrepreneurs from coaches and consultants to therapists and trainers can get a book out there that will launch their business. Deborah has 15 years' publishing experience gained with blue-chip publishing companies such as Hodder & Stoughton, BBC Books, Cassell and Pearson. She has extensive editorial experience working with a wide range of experts from chefs and gardeners to life coaches and careers consultants. Deborah's goal is to get your book published, and having achieved that with well over 100 books already, she is confident that she can help you publish yours too.

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