Most of my clients come to me originally to write their first book. The entire book-writing, publishing, and promoting processes are unexplored territory for them. So, it’s a great learning experience, but they also have some common problems.
A Book Is A Big Project
A book is a large project with a lot of points, several stories, and lots of moving parts. One of the things new authors have trouble with is keeping track of all of it.
It’s not uncommon for a new author to put the same material in several different chapters of their manuscript. Sometimes they’ll tell the same story more than once and in slightly different ways.
Essentially, you’ve got two choices. You can either prevent that from happening, or you can catch it in the editing and revision processes. I prefer prevention.
A couple of years ago, I developed a worksheet for one of my clients to help her keep track of what she put in her book. Since then, I’ve revised the worksheet a couple of times, and now I use it with all my clients and for my own writing. Here’s what the worksheet does.
A Description of My Chapter Planning Worksheet
The chapter name goes right at the beginning of the worksheet. Since I’m using a Word file, I put the name of the chapter we’re working on in the header.
Next, there are two related items. One is “Comes After” and the other is “Comes Before.” What goes there are the names of the chapters before and after the chapter we’re working on. That way, you can keep track of where the chapter goes in the book without having to look at a full outline.
The next section of the worksheet is labeled “Precursors.” That’s where we put the stories we’ve used, the research we’ve referenced, and the points we’ve already made in the book. Obviously, this is not the full story or the full description of the research. All we need is a couple of key words.
The precursor section grows with the book, and it’s a convenient way to keep track of what we’ve already said. That does more than prevent duplication. It makes it easy to reference stories or research we’ve used. It also makes editing the first draft much easier.
The next section of the worksheet is titled “Key Questions for This Chapter.” When you answer these questions before you start writing, it helps you write a better chapter more quickly. Here are the questions.
* What do we want a reader to be able to know or do when he or she finishes the chapter?
* What are the most important points we want to make in this chapter? List them in rank order.
* What’s a good story you have that shares the key message of this chapter?
* What research supports your important points?
* What other stories or examples will make this a better chapter?
You can use this form to write better chapters and reduce the amount of editing and correction you need to do later. If you’d like me to send you a copy of a Word file for this worksheet, just use the form at the end of this link to request one.