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I have an vision of what to put into a manuscript but I do not know how to put it together. Is there a specific structure to follow in creating a good manuscript? For example, do I use the Introduction, Body, and Conclusion method?

From your question and description, I'll assume the book in mind is nonfiction. If so, the structure you mention is fine, but here's how I work: I do not let the structure bother me too much before I begin. Instead I write down ten to fifteen vital points or subjects I plan to cover in the book. I shuffle the list around until it's probably in the order in which I want them in the book, but I know I may change the order later, too. I then use the list as my chapter outline. With this method, whenever I sit down to write, I can look at the list/chapter outline and write any chapter or portion of a chapter that speaks to me at the time. I know exactly where I want to place that information in the book, and I build the book in steps this way, working in no particular restrictive order. I don't feel obligated to start writing at the beginning, and I don't worry that I will duplicate information or forget to cover an important subject. I can write any chapter in any order I want. When I finish fleshing out each chapter, I decide whether the book needs an introduction and/or a conclusion. Rarely do nonacademic books need a conclusion, in my opinion, so that's one less thing to worry about.

I don't work well with strict structure. It curtails my creative juices. Working in my way, I have structure as I work, but I have plenty of freedom within the structure. Let me know if you use my method and if it works for you.

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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