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 too. That’s okay if you’ve been writing for a while and are comfortable starting at the end and working backwards.
But what if you’re new? Maybe you’re not that new, but you don’t do so well at 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 a little 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. Cool, but there are a million ways you could approach the topic. Are you going to write about baking in general, vegan baking, or baking for people with celiac disease? Maybe you want to focus on cakes and muffins, or perhaps you’ll cover speciality desserts and savoury baked entrees as well.
The possibilities are endless, but your time and patience probably aren’t…so, time to focus. Take five minutes and jot down all the aspects of baking 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 squat about it, then write it down.
Once you have that down, take the remaining 5 minutes to narrow it down to a few points that you definitely want to cover in that particular book.
There you go. Now you have your theme and the beginnings of chapter divisions.

How many chapters and how long? (10 minutes)

So, now you have a list of things to cover in your book. They’re all under one theme already, so that’s one less thing to worry about. Now, you need to decide exactly how the chapters are going to go. Should they be long or short? Up to you. Go to the library and flip through books similar to the one you want to write to figure out what the averages are, and then decide whether you want to keep it traditional or branch out and try something new.
Look at the topics you’ve kept, and break them down even further into subtopics. Give each a name and label it as a chapter. Depending on how long each chapter is, you might have just a few, or many.
Take 5 minutes to outline these subtopics, and once you have a list of them all, take another 5 minutes use them 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, technical, academic, long-winded, direct, or short and sweet? There are so many styles out there and yours is unique to you. I can guarantee you that nobody writes exactly the way you do–it’s just for you to look within and get to know what your own 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 start writing whatever is going through your head exactly the way it flows 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. Out loud. Ask a friend or colleague to read over what you’ve written and tell you how it comes off to tell. Ask them to describe it. Between what you see in yourself and what others tell you about your writing, 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 over think; just write.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

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