A Simple 5-Step System for Structuring a Compelling Book


Do you have a book idea but are confused about how to structure it in an engaging way?

Perhaps you’ve gathered lots of content from previous blog posts, articles, audios or videos. You may even have some journal entries you can use.

Now what? How do you transform this mass of content into something resembling a nonfiction book?

I have a simple 5-step system for structuring your book I teach in my Create a WOW Book Program that I’ll share with you here.

Step 1: Take an Inventory

The first thing you’ll want to do is take an inventory of your content. Here’s how I do it. I open my spreadsheet software and make two columns. The first column’s heading is “Title” and the second column’s heading is “Topic.” In the first column, I put the titles of pieces of content I’ve gathered. In the second column, I type the main topic that each piece covers.

For example, I’m working on a book about “How to Create a WOW Book.” One of my previous blog posts is entitled, Conquer the Flashing Menace: How to Get Your Ideas Out of Your Head and Down on Paper.

So, I would put that title in column one. Then in the Topic column, I would type something like “Writer’s Block.”

Go through and do that for each piece of content you have. Review your list and bring some consistency to your topics. In other words, if I put “When You’re Stuck” as the topic for one title and “Writer’s Block” for another, I’d choose one topic title and be consistent. In this case, I’ve decided to put anything to do with being stuck under “Writer’s Block.”

Once you’ve put topics next to each piece of content, sort the list by topic.

Step 2: Create Your Outline

Organize the topics in your list to create an outline from the subjects you have. You do not need to use every topic. Be willing to set some topics aside for future books. Some people who’ve been writing for years may have so much content they could write multiple books. Keep your outline streamlined and tightly niched.

So, continuing with my book example, my topics are:

– How to Decide Which Book to Write
– Gather Your Content
– Conduct Research with Facebook Groups
– Infuse the WOW Factor
– Create an Outline
– Structure Your Chapters
– Work with Your Creative Cycle
– Writing Tips
– Getting Past Writer’s Block
– Editing Strategies
– Production
– Marketing

Step 3: Expand Your Outline

Now that you have an outline, take each topic (aka chapter) and create subheadings. You’ll use the content you’ve already written to help you decide on these subheadings. You may realize you’re missing information and need to fill in a gap somewhere.

In my example, here’s a more detailed outline for the “How to Decide Which Book to Write” chapter:

How to Decide Which Book to Write
– Content
– Business Tie-In
– Audience Demand
– Experience, Knowledge & Expertise
– Passion

Step 4: The Story Sandwich

The primary strategy that can help you structure your book and infuse the “WOW” factor is to use what I call The Story Sandwich. Here’s how it works.

Start each chapter with a story – preferably one of your own. This reconnects the reader back to you and keeps them interested. There is power in a well-crafted story that creates a connection with your audience. So start each chapter with a story.

Get to the Meat. Explain the principles gleaned from or illustrated by your story, and continue with the meat of your chapter.

Add Supporting Stories. Include more stories that corroborate what you’re teaching. These can be other people’s stories. For example, in my “How to Decide Which Book to Write” chapter, I could ask participants in my Create A WOW Book Mentoring Program to send me a written explanation of how they evaluated their book ideas using the 5 elements in my outline.

This does three things:

– Gives the reader real-life examples of the principles I’m teaching. People learn best by example!
– Helps me beef up the content of my book without having to write more myself.
– Builds in marketing-leverage from the get-go. People who have stories in the book will want to promote it.

Step 5: Summary and Take-Aways

Some ideas for end-of-chapter wrap-ups include:

– Recap what the reader should have learned in the chapter.
– Give the reader ideas for applying what they’ve learned to their situation.
– Include thought provoking questions.
– Issue challenges.
– Assign homework.

That’s it – the simple 5-step system for structuring a compelling book. Now it’s your turn. Take an inventory of your content and start sorting. I’d love to hear if you found this method helpful! Please post your comments and questions about the system below.

This article was originally published on The Future of Ink and is reprinted here in its entirety for our Magnolia Media Network readers.