A Silent Killdeer Publishing — An Independent Book Publisher

Remembering the Point

by Russell Dyer
published:  nov 30, 2017;  revised:  dec 31, 2017;  readers in past month:  951

When writing chapters of a non-fiction book, it’s important to remember the point of the chapter. It’s also good to anticipate questions the reader may have while reading the chapter or article. Otherwise, the reader will be frustrated and become disenchanted and stop reading. One poorly written chapter, especially an early one, could lose the reader.

Linear Presentation

Although in previous articles we suggested avoiding an outline and instead just writing and seeing where it takes you, that is primarily for creative works. For non-fiction or technical books, of which we also publish, you may do better to have a basic outline in mind. Even if you write moderately freely during the initial draft of a chapter, you should afterwards impose some structure or order to how information is presented.

While the brain may store, sort, and recall information in ways that are non-linear, we tend to read books in a linear way and we generally prefer to take in information in the same order. You have to take your reader from one point to the next point.

There are some topics, though, that are difficult to explain sequentially, that would be better to learn in parallel. However, that’s not the nature of books: chapters follow each other. So we resort to providing information in layers, perhaps mentioning as we go that there is more to what is being explained and additional layers will be presented in subsequent chapters.

The Point & Questions

Once you have written a rough draft of a chapter and maybe revised the text at least once, stop and consider if maybe you lost sight of the point of the chapter. If the chapter was meant to instruct the reader about one component of whatever you’re writing, ask yourself if it did that properly and fully. Consider whether the chapter you’re revising brought the reader from the point made in the previous chapter to the point to be made in the subsequent chapter. Were the points you intended to make explained clearly? If not, think about how to do that.

Try to anticipate questions a reader might have. You have the advantage of knowing about what you’re writing. However, the reader isn’t privy to what you were thinking when you wrote the chapter. You may need to ask someone to read the chapter — preferably someone who is not a expert in the topic, but at the same level as your would-be readers — and see if they have questions after they do. These questions will help you to realize that you were not clear in what you wrote — unless their questions are answered in the next chapter. In which case, you’re probably building reader interest well. But your readers should not have questions that go unanswered and leave them confused.

Learn by Examples

To learn all of this better, try reading an article in a favorite magazine or newspaper. See if the writer ever truly and clearly explain the main points of the article. Quite often you may find that there are several observations and quotes thrown together, but the reader has to piece them together to make a conclusion. Some readers may not be able to do so — or they might draw a conclusion different from what the writer intended.

Reading articles written by others, and looking for the core items, will help you to assess the organization of chapters and books when you write. Writing from the reader’s perspective helps in making a better books. Remembering the point of each chapter, and anticipating and answering the big questions is important to get the reader to read the whole chapter — and remember its content so that reader can be prepared for the subsequent chapters.