Two Big Benefits of a Simple Structure

Your manuscript will be easier to read—and to write.

What I mean by simple structure is a flat structure—just 2 levels of content in your manuscript:

  • Chapter headings
  • Chapter subheadings

A variation on this is:

  • Part headings
  • Chapter headings

In either case, there are only 2 levels of content for you to create—and for readers to consume.


For examples, go to Amazon or Google Books to look up the tables of contents for:

18 Minutes by Peter Bregman

The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida

The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

Recovering My Kid by Joseph Lee*

Platform by Michael Hyatt

Contrast such books with those that use a complex structure—part headings, chapter headings, chapter subheadings, followed by sub-subheadings and sub-sub-subheadings. The full table of contents for such books would look like an outline with many levels of indentation.

In contrast, a flat structure is a thing of beauty—sparse, lean, and yet capable of holding everything you want to say.

Again, the benefits:

Ease of reading

It’s hard for people to remember the differences between multiple levels of headings. Many readers will just skip them.

Ease of writing

With a flat structure, you don’t need complex word processing or outlining software—such as the bloated and buggy Microsoft Word. A simple text editor will do. (Examples for the Mac include TextEdit and iA Writer.)

In addition, it’s easier for you to remember what level of content you’re creating at any given time. There are only 2 options.

Two caveats

I’m not saying that you’ll want to write every book with a simple structure. It’s just an option.

You might even find that creating a simple structure for your book yields so much clarity on your topic that you can naturally transition to a more complex structure. If it feels good, do it. Then get a few people to read your manuscript and ask them if it flows logically.

A flat structure can make the task of writing simpler—not simple. I doubt that finishing a book manuscript will ever become effortless.

Annie Dillard observed that “Every book has an intrinsic impossibility, which its writer discovers as soon as his first excitement dwindles.”

A simple structure can decrease that impossibility.

* Full disclosure: I worked with Joe on this book.