Develop a Working Table Of Contents

in FAQs

Once you have the Vision and Purpose for your book you’re in a position to write a working table of contents.

There are two key concepts here, ‘working’ and list.

Be assured you’re not creating a final table of contents – that will only come as you actually write the book. This is just a list.

Create a list

In fact, that’s the way I start and I make the same suggestion to my coaching clients who are writing a book. Open a new file and simply start writing down a list of everything you think you want to include in your book. (You can also do this with pencil and paper if you like, in fact if you use 3×5 cards you can literally shuffle them easily.)

table-of-contentsGive yourself plenty of time over a couple of days.  Don’t worry about order for now, just get your ideas down in list form.

Your goal is between ten and 20 or so main topics. If you find yourself with much less, see if you can subdivide the items; if you have many more see what you can combine.

Most books have between ten and 20 chapters. If you find yourself too much under or over go back to your Purpose Statement and make sure everything really belongs in this book.

Remember, these are only guidelines or suggestions, so don’t obsess.

Once you sense your list probably contains what it should, start bringing some order to it. Don’t be surprised if you find some things are actually subdivisions of something else – that’s fine, just indent or put a minus sign in front of those. Other topics may need to be split and it’s usual for you to remember something you left out as you’re working with your list.

An ordered list = a working table of contents

Once you’ve got a list that makes sense to you in both its contents and its order you’ve got a working table of contents. We call it ‘working’ because it will change as you go – that’s the way it works.

Congratulate yourself because you’ve now got the basic structure of your book down on paper.

Exactly what you do next depends, as so many things in writing a book do.

Some people love making rather complete outlines, others hate that approach and want to start writing. Either approach and everything in between works. If you’re not sure which is best for you, experiment.

Keep these facts in mind

  • Books don’t necessarily get written front to back. You can start writing any place you like. Obviously, as you near completion you’ll have all the pieces in place and in order, but it doesn’t have to be done in a direct line.
  • Your working table of contents is more than likely to change as you work with the material – that’s why it’s a working table of contents.
  • There’s no one way to get a book written, and, in spite of what you’ve heard, no best way that works for everyone. This is your book and you get to get it written in your own way.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, Ghostwriter and Writing Coach


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Moniqua Christensen June 28, 2012 at 6:18 am

Hi Anne,

I am having a hard time dealing with my ghostwriter’s timing of wanting to start the book on her schedule not mine. I have gone and am still going thru stressful events in my life, such as babysitting my good friend, while she visited LA and had alot of pain after her root canal in Chicago, and took care of her for the past week after she had root canal re-done in LA.

My husband and I have planned an Alaska cruise since April 2012, but his mom, who is 84, broke both of her femurs, had surgery, her dr. left town (without telling us),for a month after surgery and no ortho followed up on her. Then she was physically abused by a CNA in rehab facility, etc.

Now a month ago, I heard back from a ghostwriter I met, in 2009. She needs work and she showed me her work, “Ronald Reagan’s Road to the White House” and it was well written and we got along well. I explained project to her and she thought it was marketable and very interesting.

Briefly my book is about being a successful female agent for the Feds (despite numerous chauvinistic men I worked with and their many roadblocks they put in my way), how I overcame the odds of being the only women in my office and the first and my casework, which was very interesting, including undercover work.

The only problem I am having right now, is that the ghostwriter is pressuring me to sign the contract and give her a deposit, right now, before I leave on July 4, 2012, to enjoy the Alaska cruise.

She is charging me only $5,000.00 for a 50-60,000 page book and I appreciate it but I am too stressed to review contract, find lawyer to review it, meet with her when I got tons to do before we leave, 6 days from now. I told her this and she told me that she only had small window and that “it is now closed” and she won’t work with me on July 18, 2012, when I come back from the cruise, as she will be busy with other commitments.

She told me she would work part-time on the project and be done by October 1, 2012, if she started today, June 27, 2012.

I am confused and would appreciate any advice you can give me. I realize she is giving me a great price but I am just ovwerwhelmed and need a break. When I come back from the cruise I will be able to think clearly and be relaxed and ready to go.




annew June 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Moniqua, I have a personal policy of never signing a contract when someone is trying to pressure me. Her need for money is not your problem. Your the client or potential client and if her schedule doesn’t work for you don’t sign. She isn’t the only ghostwriter in the world by a long shot and you may find she actually can work with you after July 18 – why wouldn’t she unless she’s signing another contract – I don’t understand how one could work with you on the 4th, but not on the 18th… I understand that she might get too busy. If you really want to work with her offer her a small amount to hold the space open – that might work.

I agree that your book sounds like it could be a good one but I am surprised she’s charging you so little… that’s extremely low for a book of that length… I’m not sure what to make of that to tell you the truth.


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