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Develop Your Book’s Structure
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How to Develop Your Book’s Structure
By Melinda Copp
A man came to me last week because he needed help writing his book. He told me that he’s had this project on his to-do list for years, but he just couldn’t seem to get started. He’s literally been staring at the task—start writing my book—almost every day, and when he came to me, he still hadn’t done it.

But who can blame him—if I woke up every day and saw “write a book” scratched on daily to-do list, I’d never bother with it. Why? Because the point of the to-do list is to get things done, and there’s no way I could write a book in a day. However, I could write a chapter.

Breaking down the task of writing your book into a series of smaller jobs and assigning a topic to each section is often a more effective way to begin than trying to figure out the whole book at once—it breaks the process into specific tasks.

Break the Whole into Pieces
Whether the book is fictional, informative, or biographical, you can see the steps necessary to complete it much easier if you break the overall structure into shorter pieces. Think of your book like a cake: eating the whole thing at once is impossible, but taken piece by piece you can make real progress and devour that cake relatively quickly.

Switching to a healthier example, if you’re writing a book about the origins of citrus fruits, you can devote one section to oranges, another to lemons, and another to grapefruits. Even this simple breakdown helps give the project a plan. We are no longer dealing with citrus fruits as a whole, but three separate categories of citrus fruits we can deal with one at a time.

Work One Piece at a Time
With the chapters of your book separated, you can proceed to outline what you want to include in each one. Especially for instructional works, it can help to think about your book as just a series of shorter articles. Use the first paragraph or two to introduce the key phrases or topics and draw the reader into your material.

Back to the book about citrus fruits, we might divide the chapter about oranges into a history of oranges, how to grow oranges, and the nutritional value of oranges. Once the outline for the chapter is planned, you can add sub-categories as well as specifics and examples. The history of oranges could be divided into Asian and North American oranges. Not only will these sub-divisions make the work more manageable, it will also help to keep your ideas organized.

With a narrative work, especially fiction, the process is slightly different, but still involves a breakdown of topics. Instead of beginning in the planning phase, writing the first chapter or scene right away can set the tone and set up the story. After you make a few decisions about the characters, setting, and situation, you can proceed to outline how the rest of the story will happen. What will happen in each chapter? When will the problem become apparent? How will it be resolved? What is the role of each main character?

For memoir, you can try plotting key events from your life along a timeline, choosing key events that show your story. Then as you’re writing them, you can play around with the order for dramatic effect.
Put it All Together
Writing a book can seem like an intimidating task to undertake—and diving into the project without knowing where to start can be very unproductive. But if you break the project down into smaller, more manageable parts, you can make the work faster and enhance your end result.

About the Author:

Melinda Copp is a writing coach, ghostwriter, and book editor who specializes in helping aspiring authors reach their writing goals. Sign up for her free e-zine at www.FINALLYwriteabook.com, and get a free special report!

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