My book-writing process is the simplest one that I know of, and I’ve examined all the ones I have found. Nevertheless, one part of it remains challenging: Creating your structure.
If you’ve read my book, or picked up pieces on my blog, you know that the basis of the Joel’s BookProgram method is one simple rule: Structure first, then content. In case this is the first you’ve heard of it, here’s my favorite metaphor: If you want to build a house, you do not begin with a trip to Home Depot. For what will you buy? How many 2×4’s? How many pounds of nails? Feet of Romex cable? And so on.
To build a house–assuming you’ve got a place to put it–you need a plan. So your first stop is the office of an architect.
After extensive discussions to establish just what you are seeking in a house–talking about everything from type of construction, number of floors, bathrooms, how long before the kids move out, room for the electric trains, to the swimming pool, and much more–the architect will draw up plans. Only after they have been gone over, revised, and re-revised, can they be turned over to a builder for estimates–and ultimately, for the creation of shopping lists.
The book equivalent of a house plan is your structure. Any writing you do without having a complete structure in place–a detailed outline down to the sub-chapter level–is likely to be a waste of time.
Your book is really its structure. The structure determines the order of what will be said, in order to get your message across. So how do you create it?
Before you even start, recognize that this is the creative, artistic part of book-writing. And for many of us, that puts us in a place of emotional intensity. We may experience exhilaration, anxiety, frustration, progress, disappointment, and fulfillment–in rapid succession, and repeatedly. Recognize that this is the nature of the process, and if you are having these feelings, you are on the right track.
The two tools that I show you for use in this phase of your book-writing journey are clustering and “the diamond.” They are all I’ve found so far, and they are powerful. But there is one other form of help you can use: Feedback. Talk through your thoughts with a coach or trusted friend.
And if you come up with any other ways to make structuring easier, please share them with me!