Tag Archives: publishing

4 Reasons Why You Need a Table of Contents

Ascentive presents: Writer’s Corner with Bryan Keithley

Table Of ContentsIn the digital age, many self-publishing writers question the value of the good ol’ Table of Contents. Similar to doubts about the end-of-book index (which actually has experienced a steep decline with ebooks), the thinking is: Why bother? With digital bookmarking and keyword search functions, who uses the Table of Contents anymore?

Well, there are four very good reasons why your book should not only include a ToC, but should start with a ToC. And here’s why:


Ease of navigation – Even though there are keyword searches, older readers in particular prefer to navigate an ebook from the handy Table of Contents. Well-formatted ToC’s should include embedded links to the chapters/sections of the book, which make it even easier to reach a desired section. You want to give the reader more guideposts, not less, and a ToC provides a simple and logical “nexus” of guideposts.

Readers judge your book by your ToC – If you use a service like Amazon to sell books, the “Look Inside!” feature will often be used by readers trying to get a very quick “handle” on the book—that is, if they get past the description on the product page. So, you should take special care to develop a comprehensive ToC with catchy (yet descriptive) titles to draw skeptical readers in.

Agents and publishers judge your book by your ToC – Many authors use self-publishing as a springboard to conventional publishing, or they self-publish while also pursuing literary agents and publishers. In these cases, book proposals will always include a ToC (along with a sentence or two description of each section). These busy book executives may give your ToC a glance and decide whether your book has merit or not.

The ToC is a good guide for your own writing – At a basic level, chapters divide a book into manageable chunks—whether that division is in terms of plot, theme, food types for recipes, periods in history, or anything else. For beginning writers feeling an ebook is a daunting task, a ToC is a great way to “reverse engineer” your book. Break apart your subject into discrete sections you can handle, and your book will be that much easier to write.

What do you think? Any other essential tips for novice self-publishers? Fire away!


Strategies for Adapting Your Novel to a Screenplay

This is a guest post from Bryan Keithley of FinallyFast Blog. Outside of his duties at FinallyFast he is actually a screenwriter by trade, so this is a topic near and dear to his heart.

You’re done with your novel, and you are of the opinion that it would make a pretty darned good movie. Should you consider adapting it? In a word, absolutely! Synergy is never a bad thing when it comes to your book property. Along with social media for promotion and establishing a writing blog to build an audience, why not build further momentum with a ready screenplay you can market to Hollywood producers along with the book?

Rather than tell you what software to use or how to format your script, let’s take a broader view and dive into general considerations you have to grapple with as you think about converting novel to script.

Compression – The chronology of an adapted script is often significantly different from the chronology of the original novel. Adaptation is a process of compression—things happening months or even years apart in the novel/nonfiction book are smushed together to “pick up the pace” for a 90-minute or two-hour film. Think about the timeline of your book, and how you might have to stack events closer together to increase dramatic interest for the screen.

Excision – On the topic of time, a book usually has significantly more subplots, events, and just plain narrative than a movie. You’ll likely need to simplify, and that means cutting out what might be entire episodes, subplots, or even themes. Dialogue is a natural target—characters in novels have much more leeway in terms of lengthy conversations than characters in films. Furthermore, you might find that several characters in your book are performing similar functions, espousing similar worldviews, etc. In a process called blending, you might find it worthwhile to merge those characters into one character for the feature screenplay.

Externalization – Written prose excels at being “in the head” of characters, whereas film has only limited ways to get inside the head of characters. So, you’ll find yourself needing to externalize thoughts, behaviors, and conflict. Show, don’t tell. If you describe at length a character being overwhelmed with anxiety in your novel, you might give him a nervous tic or have him pace back and forth in your screenplay.

Restructuring – Beyond the fairly cosmetic tasks of merging or cutting, you’ll need to find the objectivity and the courage to evaluate your novel in terms of the three-act structure and other conventions of Hollywood films. Think about the “hero’s journey” that often takes place in the Hollywood film. We are introduced to a single, willful protagonist whose life is somehow radically upset by some external event. Pitted against an equally strong antagonist, the protagonist goes about trying to restore what has been upset. By the end, a new status quo has been established, and the protagonist has usually grown or changed in some certain, permanent way. If your novel is missing this basic kind of through line, you may have to make creative choices to conform your story.

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