Everybody has different ways of planning, plotting and manipulating information. So when you start planning the content and structure of your book, you should choose methods that play to your strengths. Most people work with one main, or two particularly strong elements of the VARK (visual, auditory, reading/writing, kinaesthetic) spectrum.
Lucy, as a writer and editor, majors in visual/reading/writing processing, so works in words, on paper or screen, in a linear format with headings and sub-headings to plan her books. Knowing that she won’t get it right first time, she likes to leave lots of white space between lines and paragraphs, wide margins and room everywhere for more notes and crossings out.
‘When you plan your book, you put the key question on a large sheet of paper and explore all of the connected questions people in your micro niche might ask.’
Daniel Priestley, Key Person of Influence
Joe, as a graphic designer, is primarily visual. He enjoys mind-mapping and using physical elements to arrange the outline of his books. This is his favourite way to map out a book visually so it’s easy to plot progress and plan his writing:
- Get a massive sheet of paper or loads of squares of scrap paper and a big table, so you can re-order stuff easily.
- Map out your main big picture themes and topics first. These will become your primary headings, chapters or sections. Leave the essential elements such as foreword, acknowledgements, praise, introduction, about the author etc, out of this map – you can add those later.
- For each main topic add sub topics. These will be your secondary headings or sub-chapters. Write these as if you’re writing a headline for an article, which will come in handy when it comes to promoting your book anyway.
- Optionally, for each sub topic, map out any sub-sub level topics. These are often just keywords to enable you to further split the subject down into manageable chunks for your audience.
Eventually every book structure has to be turned into a list. That is the nature of printed and, for the moment, e-books. So whether, like Joe, you like to mind-map first, or go straight to list, like Lucy, your book structure will end up as a linear plan, and it is best to get it into this format before you start writing, as a really detailed contents page. This form of document will also show you where you’re strong on content, where you may need to carry out further research, and where you risk going into too much detail. Make sure your plan allows for a certain amount of flexibility as you may well find you want to change the placement or order of some aspects when you start writing.
You can see how the map for Lucy and Joe’s book, How To Write Your Book Without The Fuss, shaped up by viewing the Contents pages – though the writing “blueprint” was much more detailed than this.