How to Create a Table of Contents

In Blog by yellowrose0 Comments

As a writer, you want to approach your Table of Contents as you would in the story mapping process of your book. Creating your Table of Contents offers you inspiration and gives your ideas shape. There are authors who never outline at all. They just sit down and write. But then they usually rewrite the whole book again afterwards. Instead of planning their books, they prefer to write a lot of drafts, discovering new aspects of the story each time. This is a fine method, but keep in mind that the less planning you put in ahead of time, the more rewriting you will likely need to do.

So, why begin by creating a Table of Contents?

• It can make it less intimidating to start writing.
• You can use it as a story map while you’re writing your book. You know what you have to write next.
• You can avoid writing yourself into a dead end. You can solve story problems before you’ve wasted a lot of time writing scenes that you would only change or cut later.
• You can set up your ending because you know what is coming.
• For certain kinds of books, some kind of outline or plan is almost necessary because there are many small details that have to fit together at the end.

Know yourself, and figure out the method that works best for you.

To develop a Table of Contents, however, you must arrange your information into a book structure. This is a good starting point, especially if you plan to write nonfiction and you’ve already compiled or need to compile before you can write. Memoirists also need to dig up memories and facts and then arrange them into a coherent structure for a story. Whatever your method of choice, when the time comes to create your TOC, you want access to the material you’ve accumulated to help you determine what content to cover in your book and in what order. Otherwise, you will lose a lot of time searching for missing material.

Firstly, spend some time thinking about the actual content of your book, the structure, order, chapter sequence and begin writing a basic story map outline for your book. Don’t waste time choosing the perfect words for your story map outline. The outline is just for you. What the reader cares about is the book, so put the loving attention there instead. Don’t become a captive to your outline.

Spend some time brainstorming freely, letting your imagination run, generating ideas, and writing them down. Carry a notebook around with you.

Many writers benefit from an outline including those who prefer to do as little planning as possible. Look at the scenes you’ve planned so far; take a mental note of your answers:
Are they in the right order?
What other scenes are needed to tell the story of your characters?
Fill in the missing pieces.
Take out any scenes that don’t belong.
Put everything into the best order for writing your book.

Use it to help you, but don’t hesitate to keep changing and improving it as you write. The story might take you in unexpected directions, so stay open to surprises!


Flesh out what you’d like to cover in each chapter in as much detail as you can. This will prevent you from becoming stuck later. Bullet points can keep it easy to follow.
The best things you can do as you create your outline is go back to what you know about your readers and their problems or interests, and clearly address those problems or interests in your book.

Think about it. When you buy a book in a bookstore, chances are you flip through the table of contents to see if the book interests you. If you’re like most readers, you’re thinking, “Is this book for me? Does it address my problem?” or you wonder, “Will this book help me get what I want?”

With these thoughts in mind, begin to flesh out your table of contents. You’ll probably need more than a day for this, so keep coming back to it.
Note: If you are writing a memoir, that’s a bit more complicated, because there will be many choices to make as you progress. A good place to start is a timeline. Fill it in with major experiences and you can later decide where to start, what to put in, and what to leave out even if it’s interesting—if it does not support the theme of the story.
You won’t make that mistake.

As a writer, you need to plan your work and work your plan. That means creating an outline and table of contents from which to work.
You determine if the content you have proposed will:
Reach your readers emotionally in a way they will relate to what you have written.
Tell a compelling story and entice them in.
Target your intended markets—be written for your readers.
Now let’s try automatically creating your TOC to get you started writing your book.

Click here for a detailed step-by-step guide.

Happy writing!

If you are ready to write your book and don’t know where to begin. A writing mentor can work with you each step of the way. To find out more email:

The only time to start something is, “now”.




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