There’s More Than One Way to Organize Your Manuscript

Most of us learned to outline using the model below:

I. Topic

A. Sub topic

1. More detail

i. More detail

ii. More detail

2. Detail

i. More detail

II. Topic

A. Sub topic

B. Sub topic

1. Detail

If you think in a linear fashion, this can work for you, but if you don’t, you probably use another system such as Tony Buzan’s mind mapping that involves placing the main idea in the center of your page, then having  topics radiate from that center point as you think of them. Then, as you look at your map, other ideas come and you fill in. You may want to watch this video to get an idea of how mind mapping works.

My point is most of us don’t think the way we were taught to organize our thoughts (formal outline form). In fact, since we’re creative beings and writing our interpretations of what we observe in life and through research, it’s possible that given the same information, two of us would organize it differently.

Thus, you’ll want to give yourself permission to test various ways to organize your manuscript. You may want to start with a list of ideas you want to get across to your reader. You may make a list of points or stories you want to include. You may make a list of logical order for your ideas/concepts/points/stories.

Sometimes we choose to organize things chronologically, and that works when you’re writing about a series of events.

Sometimes we’re taking a side on an issue, making an argument for or against something. In that case, presenting our most powerful or persuasive idea first works well.

Sometimes we write to simply entertain. If that’s what you’re doing, don’t front-end load your manuscript with the good stuff. Instead, sprinkle it around so you bring your reader on the roller coaster ride with you (sometimes uplifting and other times more sedate or sometimes suspenseful and other times a more even keel).

Keep your reader in mind. Keep your purpose for writing your book in mind. Test arrangement of ideas and concepts and settle on the one that makes sense to you, satisfies your purpose, and keeps the reader’s needs in mind.

Happy writing!

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