Posts tagged structure
How to Select A How to Book Writing System: Understanding What’s Available
Video 3 of 4
Now that we know our needs, what is available. Again we’re going to create a framework but this time we’re going to try to place the available systems on that framework.
First off systems fit somewhere on the line from unstructured to structured. By this I mean that the system imposes a structure on you. Or to put it another way, creates an acceptable structure as part of it’s functioning. Unstructured means that the system won’t create a structure at all. It’s focus is on other things. It presumes that you, as the writer, will impose a focus.
The second dimension of importance is cognitive or non-cognitive. Think of cognitive as ergonomics for the brain. A cognitive system uses the brain’s own way of functioning to accomplish it’s purposes. A non-cognitive tool simply does what it needs to do without regard to how the brain works.
There are four basic tools or systems in use:
- Speed Writing
- Outlining aka the school system
- Structured cognitive
Speed Writing is a system developed by journalists to help them generate small articles very quickly. Pick 3/5/7 words that describe the subject. Then write for 5/10/15 minutes as quickly as you can, without stopping, without editing and without interruptions. Then stop. This system is non-structured and non-cognitive.
Outlining is the system you learned in school. Write down in order what you will write about. It is non-cognitive however it is structured although arguably not completely.
These are the two most common systems on the market.
Mindmapping (and to a lesser extend brainstorming) is the next most common system in use. It is a cognitive tool which involves drawing a circle for the concept and then lines for the ideas which grow from the concept. In more generic terms it is called a (single node) semantic network diagram. It is excellent for getting ideas out of one’s head and documenting the relationships between ideas. However, like the brain, it really doesn’t function well as a sequential organizer of facts.
Both of the non-structural systems have a problem in that neither is capable of organizing the facts appropriately for a complex piece of writing like a book. Therefore many of the systems built on the speed writing or mindmapping patch on outlining/school techniques to the end of the system. However, the core of the system remains the initial technique.
All of the three systems mentioned so far have a serious problem in that they are partial systems only and require extensive input by the writer. Effectively, they depend on the writer’s skill to perform their functions. As a result they are limited when functioning for increasing complexity. However, they are flexible and are capable of providing assistance for whatever type of writing (time or fact) being done.
Cognitive structured systems, on the other hand, are complete systems which help guide the writer to a successful conclusion. Unfortunately, because they are comprehensive they are not flexible. When selecting a system it is imperative for the writer to choose one based on the type of writing (time or fact) which they will be doing. They function well over the whole complexity dimension however, they shine in as the writing becomes more complex.
Cognitive structured systems are based on one of two tools. Time based systems use a time line and tend to be more complex with other tools being incorporated. Fact based systems tend to use a structured mindmapping tool. The LearningCreators’ system is an example of this type.
How to Select A How to Book Writing System: Determining Your Needs
Video 2 of 4
So you realize you need some form of system in order to write how to books efficiently and effectively. Great. You could just try writing until you discover your preferred system. But you’ll have to fail at writing eBooks several times first. Or you could go out and buy a system.
But what type of system do you need?
The first step in choosing a system is to answer that question. In this video we help you understand your needs by creating a framework.
Writing fits somewhere along one of three dimensions:
- Organizational Base (aka Time or Fact Base)
- Organizational Flexibility (aka Structured or Unstructured)
- Complexity ( aka Simple/Complex)
Writing is organized either on a Time basis or on a Fact basis for the reader.
Not all writing, however, is equally bound by the base organization. Time based writing, for example, can run from time-line focused (structured to the base) to a sequential focus (still time but the base is no longer the central focus of the structure).
As the writing moves from structured (by the base) to unstructured (by the base), the writer has both more flexibility and the need to examine and select a structure for presentation. In other words, if your writing is structured time based (e.g. fiction) then you must select a time based structure. Your system will need to reflect that. On the other hand if your writing is unstructured fact based (e.g. a collection of recipes) you will need to determine what structure you will present to the reader. Usually, this will be a fact based structure. The key is that it is imposed and therefore your system will not require an imposed structure.
The final dimension is that of complexity. As your writing becomes simpler – e.g. blogs or short articles – the need for structure reduces. As the writing becomes more complex (i.e. books) the need for structure increases.
Writing How To Book: Selecting a Writing System Video #1 of 4
I hope you enjoy the first in a series of 4 videos to help you select a writing system.
So why do you need a writing system?
First of all, I’m going to presume that you want to write a book. After all, if you weren’t interested in writing a book, you certainly wouldn’t need a writing system.
But once we’re past that bit we’re left with “What is a writing system?” and “What is it going to give you?”.
A writing system is a set of processes, tools and techniques which help you control the complexity involved in writing a book, and help you to effectively and efficiently write a book.
A good writing system will help you to:
- Organize the book
- Organize (structure) the information in the book
- Keep control of where the writing is going
- FINISH the book
In short, with a good system, you’ll actually finish, and it’ll be a book that meets the readers need for COD!
Next: What are your needs?
So over the last two weeks I’ve talked about the four types of books and why the Content Mapping System works for them – or doesn’t.
While the system isn’t a panacea and it doesn’t work for all books, it does work in most cases for how to books and why to books. In short, most non-fiction.
This is true because most non-fiction books are fact based regardless of their organization. Even if they are a simple collection, they still need to be organized. If they are a how to, they still need to be organized. So it doesn’t matter if they are sequential, fact-based or collections, they are still a set of facts that need to be organized. And the best system to do that is the Content Mapping System you can find here in video form (for free) or here in book form (not free).
A minor exception to the above rule is sequential based books. With sequential or process based books you need to add pretty pictures. In other words, flow or process diagrams. But the basic Content Map system works quite well and does allow for adding this type of information. (Yes, believe it or not it is a function of the tool. We don’t talk about it very much but it is part of the proper use of the tool.)
The major exception to the above are time based books. These are histories, (auto-)biographies and fiction. Because they are time based they need a tool which is time based … in other words a time chart based system. Sorry but the Content Mapping system just isn’t the right system for those books.
A couple of final comments.
First, an historical analysis is not a time based book. It is primarily a fact based book. Having said that you may want to use a time chart to help document the occurence of the actions which you are analysing. This leads to the second comment.
The system allows you to use pictures and diagrams when they communicate the information better than words. Don’t be afraid to use them! After all a picture is worth a thousand words. This also applies within your book. Sometimes words are not the best tools to communicate with. Sometimes pictures are. Never be afraid of diagrams. And don’t forget to use boxes … those little quick fact summary boxes you see in some books or at the side of articles. They help to seperate the book and to emphasize key facts.
So enjoy the Content Mapping System and learn to write books in less than 24 hours. Just remember that the system doesn’t work for all books, just non-fiction. It works great for how to books!
Enjoy, learn & get earning.
& the LearningCreators team
Have you wondered why we constantly repeat variations on the phrase
Writing How To Books
when we refer to our system?
There really is a reason.
When I originally looked at the different types of books, I categorized them into two types – fact & time. As you can tell from the first post in this series there are more. But fact & time are the two major breakdowns.
Most non-fiction books are fact based.
Fiction, on the other hand, is time based.
If you tell a story, which is what fiction purports to do, then you are describing something that takes place over and through time. This happened then, this happened now and this will happen.
Much of which is causally interrelated. (Hey, I like that phrase … one thing leads to another is SO overused don’t you think?)
Most non-fiction but not all. Histories and biographies (including auto-) are time based. They take place over time and while you may need to link the parts or explain the pieces or even make an argument, the defining characteristic is time.
Because fiction, histories and biographies are not a collection of facts but rather time based they require the use of a different tool.
Yes, the same issues exist. Information comes out of your brain in a disorganized fashion. It needs to be organized. The best way is with a structured brainstorming tool. So far cool. Exactly the same as fact based.
The difference is that the tool needed is a form of timeline (rather than Semantic Network Diagram). Why? Because you need to organize around the timeline and it’s interrelationships. Think of it as a Timeline Network Diagram with a few added bits. Why added bits? Because you still need to organize the facts you’ll state, and the arguments you’ll make.
That’s why we try to be so clear around our system. While the process itself is the same, the tool used is not. The tool we used is based around fact organization not time and facts.
So the question often asked is “Can you use the Content Map to design a fiction book and a biography?”. Surprisingly enough the answer is YES … Are you confused yet????
You see, the content map only works for part of the job (remember the added bits?). It isn’t the best tool for the job. A timeline based tool is.
That’s why we constantly say for Writing How To Books.
It’s not that the system doesn’t work for others … it’s just not the best system available. So why use it? Wouldn’t you rather use the best system for what you are doing? We would rather you did!