Developing Your Table of Contents
By Debbie Elicksen
The title may
still not be there but you have an idea of what you want to write
Your next action
is to make a list of topics that you could include. For example, if
you were to write about romance in general terms, your topic list
would be more defined: budding romance (Kindergarten), childhood
sweethearts, first date, who pays, romance after divorce, romance in
the 80s, romance in the 1980s. You get the idea. You may have
already done some research on these. Of course, you’re going to
choose related topics and only those you want to write about.
Now, you have your
topic list, so all you need to do is look at it to see what comes
first. There is no scientific way of doing this. You will be
reworking it as you go along. It’s a way of organizing your content. Your topics might
not be full chapters. They might be sub-chapters. And you might even
put your Table of Contents together before you list the topics. It’s
whatever works for you.
If you are going
to do a proposal for a publisher, you’ll have to take this one step
further and describe what each chapter is about – a paragraph
description. Sometimes it helps to look at other books to see how
those Table of Contents are organized.
The Table of
Contents is fluid at the start. Some of it does change. You are
going to change your mind about what you put in it. Your chapters
could flow into each other or stand alone. It’s a personal choice.
Sometimes, it might be the publisher’s choice, too.
You’ll find as you
start to input your research and writings into the chapters that the
book will take on a life of its own. You’ll start to see if some of
those topics still fit, if you have to take some of them out, or add
But the bottom line is that while there is a standard on how books
are laid out and where the Table of Contents fits into a book, there
is no standard as to how the book is formulated. Working the Table
of Contents by figuring out the order to where things go is the
perfect exercise in organizing your book.
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