HOW TO ORGANIZE A NOVEL
Updated: Nov 18, 2018
So you’ve finished your manuscript and you’re ready to start adding the other various parts of a book to your document. Title page? Check. Copyright page? Got it. Acknowledgements? Check. But that can’t be it, can it?
We’ve all read so many books, but very few of us have read them through the eyes of a publisher. Keep in mind, if you’re self-publishing, this is exactly what you are: a publisher! In order to give your book a professional feel, it’s crucial to include some of the following sections of a book in your manuscript.
Not all of the following are necessary. However, it’s important to consider them before sending your book off to print.
Also called leaves, these are the two or three blank pages you see at the beginning and end of books.
“What’s their function?” you say?
They serve to give space for an author to pen his or her signature. My own novel, If I Let You Go, has end papers; one page for signing on and one page for magic-marker bleed.
Not every book has leaves, especially paperbacks, and many newer books don’t contain a lot of blank pages in order to save paper. Not only does saving paper do good for the environment, but it can save self-published authors money on printing costs.
Title in the middle of the page, in whatever text you want. The rest of the page is blank.
You can find the book title and author(s)/contributor(s) here. Additionally, traditional publishers often feature the name of their publishing company and the city and year the title was published in. As a self-published author, this isn’t a necessity.
On the back side of this page, you will find the:
On this page, readers will find the copyright notice, the ISBN (International Standard Book Number), the publisher’s address, the year in which the book was published, and the Library of Congress Catalogue information. Many fiction novels also feature language that indicates that all elements of the story are fictional.
I bought a block of ten ISBNs from Bowker. It was a simple and cost-effective purchase – ISBNs aren’t cheap! That being said, it’s always a good idea to purchase your own ISBN rather than using one provided by CreateSpace or similar services. More on that in a future blog post.
Optional, but sweet. Many authors use this page to dedicate their work to friends, family, and lost loved ones, but it’s not a necessary component of a book.
The author uses this part of the book to thank those who influenced his or her work. Whether their spouse helped them out by doing the dishes while the author was in the agonizing midst of rewriting or their editor took on more than anticipated, this page can be used to thank a variety of people.
Depending on the writer’s preference, Acknowledgements may be placed in the back of the book. However, it’s more common for this section of the book to be in the front matter.
Table of Contents
If you’ve written off the Table of Contents section as one of the dying parts of a book, think again: the TOC is coming back into use in an unusual way. Having a Table of Contents makes it incredibly easy for a reader to jump to a particular section of the book without having to flip forward and guess at page numbers. If the reader wants to check something that happened around Chapter 12, all they have to do is click the link provided in the Table of Contents, and it will take them there.
A Foreword is a special introduction to a work, usually written by someone other than the author. Not every book has a Foreword and not every book needs one, but they can be helpful in preparing the reader for what’s to come.
They’re also useful in showcasing another writer’s skills – we’re in this together, so why not? If a reader sees that their favorite author has written your Foreword, they may be more inclined to read your work also. For this reason, if you’re a science fiction author, for example, it’s best to have someone in the science fiction community write your Foreword.
Have some valuable information the reader might want to know before delving in? That goes here. If you’re writing a novel that includes a mental health disorder, for example, you may want to include some information about it before the story begins. Again, however, this section is totally optional.
All sections up to this point are paginated differently than the Body section of the work. All pages should be in Roman numerals or unnumbered.
Just because we’ve moved onto the body doesn’t mean the meat of the book has begun!
The Introduction features direct notes from the author to the reader. If an author has written a letter to their reader, for example, it’s in the Introduction section. Note that it’s rare for a fiction novel to include a Foreword, Preface, and Introduction. Generally the Introduction is the most informal of the three, so it may depend on the tone of the work if the author chooses to incorporate this section.
This is the bulk of the book, the part you’ve been feverishly working on! Chapters may be numbered or simply named and sectioned off.
Sometimes it’s important for an author to leave the reader with some final words to take in before they close up the book and ponder it. Andy Weir left a very satisfying Afterword in the Martian.
Additional resources the reader might find interesting go here. For example, if the novel is about suicide prevention, links to a Helpline would best be inserted in this section. Fiction novels don’t typically include an Appendix.
It seems like an odd choice for fiction novels to contain a Glossary, but think about it: if you’re reading a genre like fantasy and aren’t accustomed to the world, do you really want to flip back and forth to figure out what a term means?
Many books contain variations of glossaries, as well, such as maps and family trees, in order to prevent the reader from getting lost.
If you’re writing non-fiction and you haven’t come up with all the ideas yourself, this section is non-negotiable.
Fiction writers: it’s unlikely you need a bibliography, but be your own judge. It’s possible.
Where was the chapter about Killer Wasps? *flips to the back of the book* Begins on page 53 and ends on page 77.
We’ve all done this, although maybe not to learn more about Killer Wasps. This section is the Index.
If you’re writing fiction, this is one of those parts of a book you probably don’t need.
Readers don’t just want to read a story, they want to read a story by you. You may think you’re boring, but your readers want to learn more about you. By this point, they’ve (hopefully) gained some respect for you because of your awesome Body section. However, if you have a weird obsession with pickle ball and your reader does, too, you may have created a reader for life. That reader might not forget you.
Make the bio honest, but memorable. It doesn’t need to be long.
End papers (see above)
This post should serve as a guideline in helping you decide what parts of a book you need to include before publishing. While these are common parts of a book, you need not use all of them. In fact, it would be very surprising if you did use all of them!
If there’s anything I missed or anything you would like to see as a reader, please leave a comment!
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