What to do when your business book is a hot mess

business book ghostwriter business book coach

You’ve written Chapter One of your business book. A few thousand words on the page – that’s no mean feat.

Until you read them through the next day, that is.

Those paragraphs that made sense when you typed them in a flurry now look like they’re all over the place. It’s as if your points are jumping around like fleas in a jar.

It’s a hot mess.

What to do? You know your thoughts need re-ordering, but you don’t know where to start.

Even if you give it a go, you soon give up when you realise it’s impossible to hold everything you want to say in your head at once. What goes where? Cut, paste, drag – aaargh. It never works.

Luckily there’s a better way. It’s called ‘charting’, and it’s something I use as a business book ghostwriter every time I ghostwrite a book.

Charting is a straightforward way of re-organising your text so it flows in an order that makes sense to your readers. It’s systematic and, once you get used to it, really easy.

Even better, it helps you get far better results than hacking away on your own.

How to organise your business book chapter

You need two things: your draft chapter and an Excel spreadsheet (or you can use a Word document with a table in it). Your spreadsheet or table will have four columns headed ‘sequence’, ‘revised sequence’, ‘reference’, and ‘comments’.

This is a step by step process, and if you scroll down you can see an example below.

  1. Put a number 1 in the ‘sequence’ column.
  2. Take your manuscript and read the first paragraph. If you could summarise the purpose of your content in a few words, what would it be? You’re wanting to come up with a reference that only you need to understand, eg ‘reasons for change’ or ‘first step in how to change’.
  3. Enter this summary in the ‘reference’ column and add the number 1 at the end of the relevant paragraph in your manuscript (it helps to put it in a different colour). You can use the comments column to expand if you need to.
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 for every paragraph of your chapter, using a new number each time. Try not to go above 10-12. You’ll find many of your paragraphs use the same reference and number – this is what you want, as you’re theming the content and seeing how it hangs together. Without even realising it (how cool is that?)
  5. When you’ve finished, take a break and then look at your spreadsheet references on their own. It’s easier to see now what order they should go in so they’re clear and persuasive for your readers, taking them on the journey of discovery you have in mind.
  6. Enter the revised order in the ‘revised sequence’ column. You’ll now have two columns, each with a different set of numbers in.
  7. If you’re using a spreadsheet, highlight the whole sheet and go into ‘data’ and then ‘sort’. Sort your columns by ‘revised’, smallest to largest. If you’re using a Word document you’ll need to do this manually.
  8. You now have a ‘revised sequence’ column which shows the new order of your paragraphs, alongside the original number and the reference for each. In other words, you’ve re-jigged your entire chapter.
  9. Go into your manuscript and, by cutting and pasting, ensure all your paragraphs are in the right order.
  10. Edit your manuscript so the wording of the new order flows for your readers.

Here’s a short example before the re-ordering:

Sequence Revised sequence Reference Comments
1 How to change – step 1
2 Reasons for change
3 Difficulties you might face Need more examples
4 How to change – step 2

And after (in a more logical order):

Sequence Revised sequence Reference Comments
2 1 Reasons for change
1 2 How to change – step 1
4 3 How to change – step 2
3 4 Difficulties you might face Need more examples

You can see how the second one makes so much more sense than the first, and you’ve achieved it with no muss, no fuss.

Charting takes the angst out of re-jigging your content. Suddenly everything is clear, rather than being frustrating and confusing.

Do you think you’d give this a go with your next chapter? Let me know.

And if you’re really struggling with your book, consider applying for a free Strategy Session with me. I’ll help you get clear on your next step.

Ginny Carter

Ginny Carter is a business book ghostwriter and book writing coach. She’s on a mission to turn speakers, coaches and experts from aspiring authors to actual authors with the credibility to charge more for what they do. Do you want to get seen, heard and hired with your own book? Claim your free guide How to Stand Out as an Expert With Your Own Book here.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments
Douglas Winslow Cooper - November 17, 2018

Excellent idea, Ginny.

    Ginny Carter
    Ginny Carter - November 19, 2018

    Thanks Doug, glad you found it helpful.

Mark - November 19, 2018

Brilliant and sage advice. My book somehow got bigger on me, and now I’m currently having to reorder the chapters. Wish I’d done as you suggest!


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