While writing a nonfiction book, it’s helpful to know these 8 book chapter structures that work. This knowledge will help y0u create your book much faster and more effectively. Choosing a structure and sticking with it will help you by reducing the number of decisions you have to make when writing your book. You’ll know how to shape the material as you share your knowledge with your readers.
When a book is organized well, it helps the reader to stick with it and to make use of the content. There are some tried-and-true structures. New authors (and even seasoned scribes) do well to pick a chapter format that is effective.
8 Book chapter structures that work
3B Chapter Structure: Benefit, Barrier, Belief
It takes this form: How to (insert the benefit here) without having to (pose the barrier here) even if (state the belief here), and the chapter title could be exactly that phrasing.
- Add benefit – What’s the benefit of this chapter? What insight will your readers gain?
- Add barrier – What barriers or obstacles are your readers facing? What is their problem? What do your readers currently believe right now?
- Add belief – What belief(s) or inner thoughts are your readers telling themselves about your topic?
3E Chapter Structure: Expositing, Equipping, Engaging
Here is a very effective chapter structure. It’s what I call the 3E Structure: Expositing, Equipping, Engaging. When authors use the 3E Structure, they tell a story or explain something, give useful information to the reader, and then direct the reader to take action. As you can see in the examples below, which both use the 3E Structure, the same recipe can be done quite differently by different people.
You can see the 3E Structure used in my client Susie Tomenchok’s book The Art of Everyday Negotiation without Manipulation.
It starts with a story that captures the reader’s attention and sets the stage for what’s to come. Humans love stories. It’s in our nature, and there are some helpful books on that, which you’ll find on my website under Recommended Books.
Then the chapter contains information for the reader, and the chapter ends with an Ask Yourself section and a Take Action section. By including these, Susie Tomenchok engages her readers and helps them move along the path of transformation she wants them to walk. Negotiating is becoming easier for them, and that is her book’s goal.
4D Chapter Structure: Define, Describe, Depict, Direct
Another variation is the 4D structure:
Define. (What is it?)
Describe. (What does it look like?)
Depict. (Can you give us examples?)
Direct. (What are the action steps?)
TAC Chapter Structure
Topic (Present the topic.)
Argument (Make your argument.)
Conclusion (Give your conclusion.)
This structure is great for books that are designed to persuade or to present legal or similar information.
TRACE Book Chapter Structure
Topic: Present the topic, issue, or question the chapter addresses.
Rules: Share the rules, situation, or lay of the land.
Application: Show how the reader can apply the information.
Conclusion: State what the outcome would be.
Engagement: Give the reader action steps to take.
This is a very versatile structure and works well for books designed to help readers make a change in their life. Note that when the TRACE method is used, sometimes one or more of the letters will be left out, and the letters will not always be applied in the order given here.
There are also chapter structures that don’t have any fancy names. Here are some examples:
- Storytelling or narrative
- Chronology or in order from how things start(ed) to how they end(ed)
- How-to or step-by-step
Some books have certain elements within the chapters, such as a section with questions to ponder or actions to take. School of Grit by Brad Ritter has Pack Your Rucksack and another section called Challenge, for example. Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work and Life You Love, another book I edited, has a section titled Countdown to Work I Love.
Out of the book chapter structures that work, the structure you choose and whether or not you insert elements like those will depend on what you want your book to be like.
Give this some thought. Pick. Then stick with it.
See this post on two great ways to find time to write more.
If you need any help with your books, blog posts, or podcast content, reach out to me at Jennifer@HarshmanServices.com
PDF of book chapter structures that work
Just click the link if you’d like to download a free copy of my PDF of 8 Book Chapter Structures that Work. Then you’ll have it on your computer and can access it at any time.