creative writing

Do Readers Read Table of Contents?

A table of contents (ToC) is a tool for a reader to use as navigation within a book. They can read the story the writer wants to tell. It is also an organizational tool for the writer to help them categorize their material and keep it all straight.

A ToC is best used in nonfiction books where it allows the reader to understand, at a glance, the structure of the book and the topics available in each chapter. A ToC can improve the reading experience by acting as a preview of the book.

Every poem has a title (even a missing title is a title). In a poetry book, listing these titles in the ToC can help the poet portray their poems in a way that is the best appealing and attractive to the reader. It creates a theme which can become a poem.

ToCs in fiction can go one of two ways. In a collection of short stories, they are like a poetry book. The listed titles create a theme that joins the stories into a cohesive whole. By looking at the ToC, the reader can understand how the stories relate to each other. If there is no relation, there should be.

For all other fiction, a ToC is usually not needed. In the past, novels had titles and brief summaries of each chapter that are no longer used. In many ways, this style took away from the story and interrupted the pacing.

The exception to this is in some genres where chapter titles, listed in the ToC, add mystery, suspense, and help with pacing. However, this is a technique that can be difficult to pull off.

In my book, I had chapter titles I deleted in the final version. I realized they were more of a distraction and I left only chapter numbers that could be easily ignored. I couldn’t pull off the technique.

How do you feel about Tables of Content?

To Tell a Story or To Learn

Some people think the purpose of creative writing is to tell a story, while a grant writer is to explain what the project is about. One is to entertain while the other is to teach. This is true, but the opposite is also important.

I think creative writing and writing grants are linked by the need of a writer to entertain and to educate a reader. When the two are done together, the reader better understands the message the writer is telling. The writer and reader become connected by the same thoughts and ideas.

This does not mean the reader agrees with what the writer wrote. That’s a different subject. Many writers use words to express themselves, wanting acceptance by a reader. But the writer should be content with the reader understanding what was written, whether or not the reader agrees.

When I write a story or a grant proposal, I want the reader to enjoy what they are reading. I also want them to come away with learning something, whether in a story or a grant request. I’d like for the reader to end the reading with a connection to what I wrote. Even if they do not agree.

I think that the best way to write is through entertainment and teaching at the same time, whether as a story or a grant request. Success comes from how a writer combines a story and learning as a pair.

It is not easy to create a story and teach a subject at the same time. In the world of publications, most writing caters to one or the other and ignores the combination of both. Yet, the classics of writing and approved grants are accomplished when story and education unite.

The Long and Short of Things

This blog will help creative writers and grant writers. It is about the length of a chapter, whether in a story or a grant.

Editors talk about varying the size of sentences and paragraphs to maintain tempo or pacing. Shorter sentences and paragraphs increase the pace while longer ones slow things down. The opposite is true for chapters.

For creative writers, long chapters allow a reader to settle into the story through dialogue, action scenes, and/or narrative explanations. Short chapters focus on a single event and give the reader time to absorb the experience of the long chapter. As an example, a writer can use a long chapter for the climax where a lot of things happen to wrap up the story (quick pace). This is followed by a short chapter to wrap up the climax (slow things down).

For grant writers, the section describing the project generally allows the most number of words. This section is best divided into segments with headers, similar to chapters. Long segments provide important information for the reader to digest. Short segments allow the reader to take a break and hopefully understand the information in the longer segment better.

Varying the size or length of chapters and segments helps the reader capture the writer’s thoughts and provides a more readable experience.

So, how to do this? Of course, there is no formula or template. One way I would suggest is to think of a long chapter or segment as studying for a test. At some point, the student takes a break and sips on coffee or does some simple distraction to momentarily stop studying. This is the short of it.

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Writing

AI software is increasingly being used in many areas of writing as more of these tools are developed and improved upon.

Currently, the most effective AI software tools are for editing. And they are getting better and better. But even with a good editing AI tool, a human editor is still needed.

To me, using AI for editing is like when I went from a typewriter to a computer to write. Editing AI tools make my writing clearer, more in line with standard US English practices (i.e. punctuation), and highlights my weaknesses (I have some bad habits). In the competitive world of grant writing or publishing a story, AI can be a benefit like using a computer rather than a typewriter.

I would encourage grant and creative writers to invest in some type of AI software tool for their editing. Even some professional human editors are using these tools. And the use of AI will continue to grow. One day AI may even write grants or stories with the human used only for the final editing.

As an example, AI is already being used in news media to find and summarize internet articles for publication. The AI searches for patterns and popularity and then produces and distributes this data in a summary. Journalists and editors review the summaries for the final news article.

AI will continue to improve and become more of a needed asset for writing and publishing. Just like one day when we might go from typing to using voice recognition or even reading our thoughts to write with.

What do you think about using AI?

P.S. If anyone wants to know what software tool I use, send me a comment or an email.