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How to structure your book

I can only speak from personal experience here about structuring your book. I was very lucky in that Pearson’s enabled me to work through the structuring of my book in a way that worked for my creative mind. I personally think of lots of different ideas at once and dislike lists or spreadsheets, preferring mind maps to enable my brain to work in its most creative format. Bringing the publishers needs together with mine is what I will share in this lesson. The publisher will want to understand what will be spoken about in each chapter, and because there are many people in the publishers process it has to be worked in a way that any mind can successfully move the manuscript on.

How does that chapter connect to the one before and after?

How does it ensure the reader can take the actions that you say they will be able to?

What images, tables, graphs etc will you want to include to enable the reader to understand your book?

How does it ensure the reader can take the actions that you say they will be able to?

What images, tables, graphs etc will you want to include to enable the reader to understand your book?

Remember we think in different ways and your publisher will want to see how you are ensuring your readers with their different learning styles will be able to process your book.

However, where do you start?

Part 1 – Ideas

Get a large piece of paper and write down everything related to your book;

The subject matter.

Readers needs, ideas, worries, results, ideas that your book could cover.

Case study examples.

Solutions you will provide

Outcomes you wish to see.

Write everything and anything that is associated with your book and its subject. (At this stage do not narrow the field. Do not dismiss ideas. Write everything. It doesn’t mean that it will feature in your book, however, the deeper you explore the subject matter in my experience the better the quality of your ideas. And the wealth of additional content that you can start to appreciate too.

Do not be tempted to write a list or use your laptop. You need these ideas to expand and even the most structured laterally thinking mind can benefit from using mind maps. Do not feel that you are restricted to one colour either. When I first structured my book the different colours helped me to see what we talk about in Part 2 of this lesson.

Part 2 – Patterns.

Looking at the ideas from Part 1;

What connects the ideas?

Do you see any patterns to your words that enable you to group ideas together?

How many groups do you end up with?

For instance, in my own book, I started with 15 chapters and one of the chapters I had to fight for inclusion! And I’m pleased that I did because it is one that so many readers have said is a massive impactor on their success. However, I did overall trust my publisher (well they are the biggest non-fiction publisher in the UK!) and so when they wanted two chapters dropped we were able to see that most of the content could be utilised in other chapters because we had grouped the ideas together in the first phrase.

Part 3. Titles

As you group your ideas together you will be able to start creating working chapter titles. My chapter titles changed 3 times. And then reverted back to my 2nd idea. (I feel this is a very valuable example of why it is good to work with a publisher or 3rd party because they will challenge you and help you see better ways to lay out your work. Or a way to structure it that you might have dismissed.) Originally for my book, we had short titles and they changed to represent what we felt someone would “Google” to find solutions. This has been very powerful because it enables people to read the book in a way that suits them. Remember not all people will wish to read cover to cover, some will want a quick easy fix to a solution and then to revisit the content at a later date when they have more time.

Will your book enable this to happen easily and your reader to find what they are looking for?

How will you ensure that this can happen?

Part 4. What goes, where?

Structuring your book not only helps you to find the right publisher, it also helps you to understand your reader, your marketing and actually how to write the book. (Which you will see in Part 5 is very important when things are tough.)

At the start just get writing. Create as much content as you can. If you find as you are writing that you have ideas that you’ve added body to, however, you don’t know where it should go. Put it at the end of the manuscript in red and start a document that has short reminders (in a list format is fine) that relate to the additional content. This is also useful for adding additional ideas that you feel you would like to talk about and yet you have not sussed out where to put it.

Notes like; Mention the need to deal with writer’s block or where to talk about your confidence impacting on your results.

In this way when you get to the end of your first draft you will know how the book is starting to work and will be able to start to consider how or if to add this additional content. This is another good reason to have a third party involved because they don’t have the emotional attachment to your book, it’s content or the ultimate goal. Thus they will be able to be unbias in their views. (Ensuring you don’t just give it to your Mum or best mate who would say that it’s brilliant regardless. So choose your editor, critique and third party wisely!)

If you find that your book feels all over the place. Go back to Part 2 of this lesson and revisit what patterns are emerging. It was by doing this and not understanding my book on a deeper level, I took myself away from the book writing necessity and thought about where I naturally create content with ease. I realised that this was when I prepare a speaking engagement. I then considered “What makes my speaking engagements so powerful and work so well?” And I realised it is because I follow certain criteria, structure, patterns, ideas and consider my audiences needs as well as the organiser of the event rather than my own. By taking note of this information I was able to see the patterns of success for myself and worked out how to replicate them within my book for a reader. For instance people like to be able to see how something relates to them, and so as you will see below I added sections and one of these was created from this thought process.)

Part 5 – Writers’ block

Writers’ block hits us all. To get around it, first of all, except thatcan't write writers block writer’s block is part and parcel of writing a book. (And it’s a great way to an instant state of mind like meditation – suddenly you find there is nothing in your head at all!) When this happens keep writing is the first thing I would say. Even if you feel it is complete drivel, creating a habit of structure, accountability and discipline is essential. Especially if working with a publisher who will have created a deadline for you, and that can feel like it’s looming up in front of you very quickly! (Which can make the writer’s block worse as you create stress attached to writing.) So discipline yourself to keep going, regardless. Ask yourself if you are someone that is disciplined enough to just get on with writing every day or do you need to blank out time in your diary to ensure you stick to your deadlines?

Secondly, consider your environment.

Does it motivate you?

Is your chair comfortable?

Does your back ache from sitting at the desk for hours?

For me, I would revisit my proposal for the book and re-read the chapter outline. I would then get in the hot tub with a cup of tea and a small notebook and pen. In this way, I had it fresh in mind what was in this chapter and what I wanted to talk about. I would then create a mind map relating to this chapter. I would then on the page opposite work out what parts seem to gel together and what would need to come first. (In this way, I was able to create the analogy that became very powerful in my book. (In Fight the Fear each chapter is broken down into 4 parts – F; Fear E; Examples and exercises, A; Actions and R; Results. This acronym spells fear, which is the subject of the book. And is an easy way for readers to get the information that they need quickly and retain it.)

Once my mindmap was designed I would then return to the office or the dining room table (because it’s my favourite place to sit) and carry on writing, but not until I made a cup of tea! Now, this may seem minor or irrelevant, however, I realised that myself, like my clients and children find that we are very good at creating excuses to why we need to do something else, and for myself, it was get up and make another drink. Thus whenever I came back in from the garden and the hot tub. I would make a pot of tea, a jug of milk and a pint of water. That way I had no excuses that I needed a drink to rehydrate my brain so that I could keep going. And this really worked!

It is important to remember the power of flow. Research has taught us that if you are disturbed from a task it can take on average 15 minutes to get back “on flow”. As you re-read the last thing you wrote, check your notes for what was coming next, etc, etc. So if you allow yourself to be distracted that can take a lot of your day very quickly!

I also used aromatherapy oil to help me stay calm, motivated and uplifted. At the stage of writing your book, you don’t know if it’s going to sell or work for your readers. And those negative thoughts can trickle into your mind before you know it and start impacting on the quality of your writing. So oils really helped me. Consider what visual or sensory items can help keep you focused, motivated and writing.

A silence was preferential for me. So ask yourself do I work better with music or in silence? There are studies that show that classical music can stimulate the mind, so you could try different music.

Take every aspect of your environment seriously and dismiss nothing.

And if writer’s block becomes unbearable then leave it and do something related to your work or subject, matter however not directly linked to the book. Ideally, you should aim to do this other task for 10 minutes. Studies have also shown that we are able to create better solutions, faster when we challenge our brain in this way.

And a walk around the garden or the block can help too.

And lastly, ensure you turn all notifications off on your phone and do not have social available anywhere. It will enable procrastination and you don’t have time for that!

  • July 25, 2017