Getting the structure of your book right is critical to creating a book that works for your reader. When you get the structure right, your book will make sense, your message will be clear and you will find it much easier to write.
Why does structure matter?
The structure of your book helps you to organise your material in such a way that you are able to say what you want to say in a straightforward way. This ensures that your readers will be able to understand what you are saying to them and that they can implement what you tell them. The easiest analogy to use is that of a cookery book. Usually, cookery books are arranged into specific types of recipes: breakfast, lunch and dinner; starter, main course and dessert; fish, meat and poultry; cakes, biscuits and puddings. You get the idea…
What would happen if all the recipes were jumbled up and not organised in any way? It would be a very difficult book to use as it would be hard to compare similar recipes or to find a recipe you wanted in the first place. You would probably shove it back on the shelf and never look at it again (or even put it in the bin!). The recipes could be amazing, but very few people would ever discover that and so you are unlikely to have the impact you hoped for as a chef or cookery writer.
The same is true for any book. If you don’t put your material in a logical order, your reader will get confused and probably give up. You won’t make the impact you hoped to make and your work will have been a waste of time.
What is the right structure for your book?
There is no simple answer to this question, but if in doubt, use a structure that has already proven successful for other books and authors. For example, a step-by-step guide that takes your reader from beginning to end with a method or process; a collection of stories or parables as in the style of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series of titles; or perhaps a list of features, factors or other elements as used by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
If you are struggling to find a structure that works for your book, find a number of
similar types of books as yours and look at howthose authors arranged their material. What works well and what could work well for your book. Put your chapter titles or key points on postcards or sticky notes and move them around until the order feels right. Write a short paragraph describing what you are going to cover in each chapter. Put those paragraphs on a page without your chapter headings and if they make sense, you have got the structure right. If it doesn’t work, move it around a bit more or add or remove any parts that are interfering with the flow.
You may have to work at getting your structure right, but once you do, it will make writing your book faster and easier. You are less likely to come up against red herrings a glitches half way through writing your book and as a result you are more likely to finish it (and on time).
Structuring your book can be slightly daunting. It sounds very technical and difficult but it can be very simple and straightforward. If you’re not sure, ask someone else to take a look and give you some feedback. This will stop you from deliberating indefinitely and ensure that you keep moving forward.
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