Crafting nonfiction is more than just splattering the words onto the page. A critical key to success is figuring out what format—aka which template—will best fit your book’s message.
That’s why one of the early lessons you learned in GPDP was about the five manuscript templates that determine a book’s structure. Choosing the correct template gives the book what Claudia calls “Slinky™ flow,” which easily takes your reader from page to page and concept to concept. Here’s a quick reminder for choosing the best template for your book:
1. Linear template—This template has the simplest, most straightforward, flow. Decide on your key points then organize them in a structure that flows easily from point to point.
Claudia points out, “This template is perfect for linear material like biographies, histories, true-crime exposés, or technology and engineering titles that naturally unfold in a sequence, be it chronological or otherwise.” By the way, fiction usually goes in a straight line, too.
2. Modified straight-line template—This is a little more complex than the linear template. Your material still needs to flow from A to B to C, but the material includes key digressions, like flashbacks, that take the main focus a bit off the straight-and-narrow.
“This structure is great for memoirs, humor, and creative nonfiction,” says Claudia. But she warns it works best “ONLY if…transitions or subheads let the reader move smoothly off and [then] back onto the main track.”
3. Cloverleaf template—Books developed with this template take a more circuitous route. Your thesis is the center and different theories flow from it, eventually wrapping back to validate the primary thesis.
Claudia says this kind of premise-then-prove construction is “useful for possibly the widest number of titles.” First among them, as she puts it, are “Business books, business books, business books. Did I mention business books?”
Health, fitness, and self-help genres also use a cloverleaf template, as do “written debates, legal briefs, scholarly/academic papers, advertorials, and any sort of entrepreneurial book trying to hammer home a specific principle.”
4. Radial template—This is also somewhat circular, but there’s a major difference between this structure and the cloverleaf. In the Radial template, the main concept is still central, the rest of the book demonstrates how the concept actually helps.
“A lot of books,” Claudia says, “could use EITHER a clover leaf OR a radial template.”
More than simply saying, “I think everyone should learn how to fast twice a week,” or “Smart business leaders know they should interface with their staffers on a regular basis, and blogs are a great tool for this,” a book fitting a radial template offers steps or examples that prove how fasting twice a week could help or why blogs are a good biz tool.
5. Pyramid template—This is the least commonly used template and works best when a single theory becomes more and more complex. It’s ideal for books about any aspect of STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math.
“Think of every math book you ever read,” says Claudia. “If you don’t get the ideas in the first chapter, the equations in chapter 6 will likely make your eyes spin in the back of your head.”
This quick summary of nonfiction book templates is just a tiny insight into what makes a book as enticing as possible.
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