Shaping Your Book: 3 Tips to Create Order from Disarray

Shaping Your Book: 3 Tips to Create Order from Disarray

By Alexandra O’Connell

If you are struggling with organization—your book doesn’t have the flow you want, the pieces don’t seem to fit together, your points are muddy—you are not alone. The good news is that, once we fix the organization, other revisions tend to flow like a river going downhill: in the direction they were seemingly always meant to.

Here are three tips to get you to that downhill section. Writers of fiction and nonfiction alike can make use of these techniques. In all cases, make sure you have first saved a separate draft of your book that you have NOT made any changes to!

Tip 1—Play Tetris

You might have all the pieces you need, but they’re not in the right order. Play around with this. Anyone else remember Tetris, the video game invented in the 1980s? (I used to be obsessed!) Think of your chapters/sections as puzzle pieces in Tetris. Do they fit together better in another way?

If you like, you can do this in your head, though the going can get tough, especially if your book is longer. You can do this with paper, manually. Or (my favorite), you can do this on your computer with the program Scrivener. Microsoft Word isn’t your friend for cutting and pasting.

Tip 2—Fill in the blank

What if you don’t have all the pieces? If you go through Tip 1, and sections don’t align well, this might be the case. Mark the places where there seem to be gaps.

Also take a look at any extra bits that don’t add useful information or story material. Eliminate what’s not serving your book, and create new transitions—these can be as easy as writing one new sentence or paragraph.

Tip 3—Clean slate

None of us like to think about this one. It’s possible that rearranging the pieces and filling in the blanks won’t give you the result you need. Trust me, sometimes it’s better to start from the ground up.

Go back to your outline, if you have one. You can also create a synopsis, so you have a quick overview of your book.

  1. Does the outline/synopsis make sense? Tweak to include the most important points or story elements.
  2. Write one bullet point per chapter that clearly states the work that chapter needs to do.
  3. Clear the slate one chapter at a time. Write the chapter from scratch with this important point in mind.

You may need to do this for multiple, or a majority of the chapters. You’ll notice when the fog begins to lift.

The bottom line

Organization is the crux of a good book. Once you find the right structure, writing and revising become much easier. You don’t build a house in a quagmire; give your book the organizational foundation it needs to succeed.

About Alexandra O’Connell

Alexandra O’Connell is Your Resident Wordsmith, an award-winning book editor and writing coach. Find her at


The views expressed herein are not those of Colorado Independent Publishers Association, its officers or directors.  They are solely and completely those of the author. 
The Colorado Independent Publishers Association will not be held liable for any legal action resulting from information published in this newsletter, and the organization’s insurance will not cover any such action.


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