Structure: The Roadmap of a Good Non-Fiction Book

December 1999
by Robin Quinn

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OK, so you have an idea for a book that’s exciting. You’ve done much of your research on the
topic, and feel ready to get started with the writing. Just what are your options for structuring your
book? This article will cover some classic structures that have worked again and again for nonfiction
authors.
I’m a firm believer in charting your course before the writing begins. It will save you time and
give your work flow and cohesiveness. A case in point: An author friend of mine likes to be more
spontaneous and as a result overwrites. Though she was published in the past year by a New York house,
it took her 10 years to complete her psychology book. I have to wonder how much extra effort she
expended because she didn’t carefully plot out what she wanted to write about ahead of time.
In contrast, this summer I wrote a soon-to-be-published book in just three and a half months. My
chapters were clearly in place before the writing began. Though the order of the chapters eventually
changed and a particular chapter emerged as a better choice for concluding the book, I knew what I had
to cover when I sat down and started to write. This was the result of conceptual work that had been
completed earlier.

Your Table of Contents
The Table of Contents is the basic outline of your book (in other words, its structure). It
provides a roadmap for you as an author and shows where you will travel in the realm of ideas. Your
chapters should accurately address the important…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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