LIST OF CONTENTS IN A TRANSFORMATIVE NONFICTION BOOK
As you structure your transformative nonfiction book, whether it’s a self-help book, business book, life lessons book, or something else, here’s a tip: Don’t forget to keep a list of contents at the beginning of the manuscript in all drafts.
The list of contents (no longer called a “table of contents” but just “contents”) belongs at the beginning of your manuscript even before you begin writing chapter one. Why? Because you want to offer a roadmap to where you’re going.
What are you planning to write? How many chapters will you have? Will you take your reader on a hero’s journey or heroine’s journey of self-discovery, struggle, mastery, and triumph? If you’re writing a book of life lessons, what are the life lessons and in what order will you present them?
Check your contents list against the actual chapter titles before submitting to an editor and a publisher. Having the up-to-date contents list at the beginning of the document file provides guidance for the developmental editor or acquisitions editor at a publishing house, who will check the contents against what you had your book proposal (if you submitted one).
Will they find differences? Not if you double-checked your contents!
Chapter titles almost always change in the writing of a book—ditto the order of chapters. For example, you might split a chapter into two or combine two chapters. You might come up with a more clever chapter title, one that better captures what you wrote about.
Help your editor out by saving her the time she would spend cutting and pasting chapter titles and querying any differences.
Is there anything you want to change about the order or titling of your chapters?
Note that while it’s not strictly necessary to have consistency in chapter titles (or even header titles, for that matter), it can help the reader feel a sense of familiarity. Many of my clients have had double chapter titles similar to a title and subtitle combination, in other words, CLEVER CHAPTER TITLE: Subtitle for the Chapter Title That More Clearly Explains the Concept. If you can come up with clever chapter titles that also clearly explain the concept, fantastic!
Struggling with your chapter titles and order? You might want to check out my article on structuring self-help books.
And as always, if you need help pulling yourself out of the weeds while writing your book, contact me about my services.
Nancy Peske is a ghostwriter, developmental editor, and book publishing consultant who has done editorial work on books including bestsellers and award-winners for over 30 years.
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