Give your book order, an angle, and a table of contents

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Since you’ve got the core of your book ready in rough form, with its structure written on an envelope that keeps disappearing, you’ve actually interviewed a couple of people (sort of) who in fact knew something, and you know why you’re writing it and how it will end, it’s time to sort all of that information into logical sections called chapters!

I go into this process in detail in How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days, plus I tell you how to handle the publishing too.

You can do it on paper, of course, or if most of your contents are a huge pile of notes, examples from others’ books, doodles, and photos, you can put them into like-item piles—or you can do a bit of both.

Let’s say your book is a running diary of family events and happenings. Your table of contents might be eight sections with such thrilling names as: pre-1800s, 1800-75, 1876-1900, 1901-1915, l916-1939, 1940-1945, 1946-1990, 1991-present. Whew, that is exciting!

You get the idea. If it’s a book on gardening, it might be divided into seasons or geographic regions. Or if it’s how to fix a clock, the chapters might be the steps you must follow to get the damn thing ticking.

The purpose of chapters is to help the reader see where the book goes and how they can return to an earlier section—or even, heavens forefend—read ahead! Nor do you need clever titles at the outset, or ever. But they have to make sense in a step-by-step or sensible way. Titles are also great to use to give those piles of contents some meaning.

Incidentally, your novel doesn’t need headings for chapters, but it sure does need chapters or you might as well just start with the finale and save paper! Rather than a table of contents for fiction, you’ll at least need a detailed outline or you will kill off Cousin Charley before he’s even born!

One more thing—it’s important, too. You must determine the position that you as the author of this book will take in relation to the material and the reader. In other words, what is the angle your book takes toward its subject? Are you sharing expertise from having done or experienced something? Are you an information gatherer and explainer, a sort of distant storyteller without responsibility for what is said? Is the material to be shared objectively or subjectively? Why is this important? Because once mounted, you can’t change horses. Best to pick the right beast now and have a fun ride.

This is your roadmap, and if the book is chronological (The History of Brazil) it’s your time chart too. Then if you see that you overlooked the reign of the monarchs or some critical element was put in the wrong century, don’t panic. Write what you have, inject what you left out, add what would make the book better, and get the masterpiece together so soon it will rule the Amazon top book list.

Stay tuned here. I’ll keep walking you through the process of putting your book together and out, to sell on paper or in zeros and ones (like this blog).

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I just published two books, paper or ebook, about as unlike each other as possible. One tells what it’s like walking around with prostate cancer as it is curing, Surviving Prostate Cancer. The other is 100 Ready-to-Use Treasure Hunt Clues. (No, I did not discover my prostate cancer [now gone] while on a treasure hunt!) Shame on you.

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