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How to structure your non-fiction

How to structure your non-fiction
This entry is part 44 of 70 in the series Spark

You have a solution. Is there a problem? How? Why?

See why we need some structure?

I’m working on the content for Spark Campfire and in the spirit of Learning While Teaching, I’m trying to put more structure into my, well, structure.

How does one organize a non-fiction book? Especially something where you’re sharing your knowledge with someone else?

Let’s see, you have a solution. That means you had a problem (or a pain or a challenge). Maybe others have that same problem? You can help them.

That’s about as simple as I can see it. I searched and found 27 Copywriting Formulas to organize your content. There is zero need to reinvent any wheels here, but I’m going to massage the wheel into another wheel. Why? Because I also like acronyms and I like visuals.

I especially liked Ray Edwards P.A.S.T.O.R. method, but it’s possibly partly because I think he’s a rockstar copywriter.

But I also love the simplicity of the BAB:

Before – After – Bridge
Before – Here’s your world …
After – Imagine what it’d be like, having Problem A solved …
Bridge – Here’s how to get there.

[from Buffer]

I’m going to make my own because I feel like it and because I want that visual. Ready? Here we go. This is creativity in action (it’s Friday morning early, by the way, in case you were wondering when I’m at my most productive and effective).

Ache Pain

There’s the whole Aspirin versus Vitamin debate which is so strong for me. Let’s say you have a headache. An aspirin will “fix” it very quickly. A “vitamin,” well, if you had taken your vitamins earlier and on a regular basis, you probably wouldn’t have this headache, but, yeah, well, that ship has sailed.

In other words, it’s a real problem for which you’re looking for a real solution. Pain is something you won’t forget. You might forget to take your vitamins, but your headache isn’t going away until you do something about it.

Other ideas:

  • Challenge
  • Problem
  • Ache
  • Irritate

Avoid Wait Delay Evade

Next up, we either:

  1. Avoid the problem (and it doesn’t go away) or
  2. Solve it.

Since we’re assuming that the reader hasn’t yet solved the problem (and maybe that’s why they’re interested in what you have to say), I’d vote for emphasizing the following.


  • avoidance
  • evade
  • delay
  • non-action
  • postpone
  • wait

This is why the person still has the problem/challenge and they’re probably going to continue to have the pain because they don’t want to fix it, don’t know how, or it’s just not big enough of a pain.

If our first letter is a P, we could use a vowel. (Vanna?) I’m going with avoid for now.


Ray Edwards calls one of his steps Story (or Solution). You “relate” to the reader by telling your own story. You’ve been in their same shoes, you had the same problem, and now you’ve solved it.


  • Associate
  • Understand


We need to get the meat of the matter here. We need to go ahead and solve the problem, fix the pain.

Here’s how you did it. Just like that.


  • Fix
  • Make better
  • Improve
  • Change
  • Decide
  • Act
  • Do


What transformation took place? How are things different now that the pain has been alleviated? Here we can tell our story and tell stories of others.


  • Testimonials
  • Tell
  • Transform
  • Share
  • Change


What can you do to help them? Or was that covered in Solve? What’s on offer? What do they need further?


For something completely different–oh wait, it’s the same

Now having spent the past hour working on this (and not jumping for joy with my results), I’m getting back to basics.

If I envision my student (in Spark Campfire) who just wants to quickly get their message across, then I come back to the basics as I understand them.

  1. Why
  2. What
  3. How

There we have it: 3 parts, super easy and quick.

  1. Why: why is there a problem? why do they have the problem? why are you the one to solve it?
  2. What: what is the solution?
  3. How: how do they implement the solution?

I suppose we could elaborate to get more detail and use more question words:

  1. Why
  2. If
  3. Who
  4. What
  5. How
  6. When

OK, I have to stop. I’ll come back to this as I build out the course. Remember, I need to keep it quick and simple and not scary. Which is why I like Why + What + How as the simplest, but maybe P.A.S.T.O.R. as a more elaborate structure.

But it’s clear, I need to structure my structure.

There’s So Much More

If Don Draper Tweeted: The 27 Copywriting Formulas That Will Drive Clicks and Engagement on Social Media There’s a formula for that. Many storytellers and copywriters have tested out the best intros and segues to draw readers to a piece of content. Their copywriting formulas just plain work—in blogpost intros, in social updates, in emails, and anywhere else you might happen to write online.

For Better Copywriting, P.A.S.T.O.R. Most people associate the term “pastor” with the preacher at church. While this is certainly true in most cases, the original meaning of the word “pastor” was actually “to shepherd”. And what does the shepherd do? He or she cares for, feeds, and protects the flock.

Series Navigation<< I just got off the phone with my niece (and why that’s important).Spark Campfire | I wish I knew my nephew >>

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