How to organize your book content

Organizing your book before you write will make it easier for you to start and actually finish it. All you will need to get started are:

  1. a sheet of paper
  2. a pen
  3. 30 minute to an hour of free time

Here is how to get your book out of your head and, finally, down on paper.

What is the point of your book?

No, you can’t write a book about everything there is to vegan baking. Focus is key. What exactly about it do you want to touch on? Maybe you are particularly good at baking vegan cakes that don’t crumble when touched or are heavy and damp like Christmas. That subject, or theme, is what will make your book stand out among the thousands of vegan baking books on the market. Once you know exactly what point you want to make, you’ll have an easier time focusing your writing.

  • Your Turn: take 5 minutes to decide what the point of your book is. Don’t just say, “I want to write about gardening.” Too broad. Narrow it down to, “I want to teach people how to grow oversized tomatoes,” or “I want to write about five ways to grow organic vegetables in a small space at home.”

What do you need to cover?

Let’s play with our vegan baking example. You’ve decided to show how to bake egg-less vegan desserts that are remotely edible. Awesome. How many points must you cover? These could be things like, alternatives to eggs that have a similar effect on baked good or methods of stirring/folding batter that encourage a fluffy (and not a dense) final texture. Once you have a list of all the points, you can use them to create your chapter titles and headers.

  • Your Turn: make a list of everything to need to cover, and turn each point into a chapter title. If you have too many points, combine some of them, or nest related points under others as section headers within chapters.

What’s your style?

Your style is very important. Not everyone is going to like the style you choose to write in, so you will need to research the people who  are into the topic you are writing about. Rollerbladers are probably going to be a lot more down-to-earth and bubbly than, say, accounting students. So ask yourself, (1) who am I writing to, (2) what personality do they tend to have, (3) what are their pre-conceived notions about the topic and its tone, and (4) do you want to stick to the norms or challenge the way the topic is viewed?

Let’s go back to our vegan baking, whatever example. Most people who like baking and cooking are fairly relaxed and appreciate clear English (we’re dealing with food after all…keep it simple) and a bit of a light-hearted manner. Of course, you can make it very serious and technical if you’d like, with scientific explanations for every action in the book (I have seen cookbooks like this and it’s actually not that bad for analytical minds). Or you can stick to the style most books about food and cooking have, which is somewhere along the line from neutral to bubbly.

  • Your Turn: think about who you are writing to, and what atmosphere you want to create with your book. There is no right or wrong choice – it all depends on who you are going after and how many of them exist to support your choice.

Go ahead and start writing

There are a million other things you could get bogged down in, such as whether to use narrow or wide margins, how many chapters you should have, whether to get illustrations drawn or not, or what your cover should look like. None of that is important at the beginning. The most important thing for you to do now is to write. Once you’ve decided on your theme, main points and style, you have the why, what and how that you need to put your message in writing and create a manuscript. Once you have a manuscript, you can worry about editing.

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