Next Steps in Writing a Novel: The Table of Contents



I finally hammered out the Table of Contents (TOC) for my proposed science fiction novel (I’m stuck on giving the book a title at the moment). You wouldn’t think a TOC would be hard to put together, but I had to consider the appropriate “building blocks” for the book. What information would I need to present, and in what order, to create a cohesive storyline taking place over maybe a century or so?

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. Note that I’m not revealing the names of all the chapters:

  1. The Machine That Loved God
  2. The Maker Dilemma
  3. The Good Android
  4. Uncooperative Neighbors
  5. The Rescuers
  6. – – – – – – – –
  7. – – – – – – – –
  8. Vesper 21
  9. – – – – – – – –
  10. – – – – – – – –
  11. – – – – – – – –
  12. – – – – – – – –
  13. Epilogue

The Epilogue is somewhat controversial since it changes the end of the novel. Depending on whether I include or exclude it, the whole meaning of the story alters, and rather drastically, too. If I leave it out, I promise a lot of religious people, mainly Christians, aren’t going to like me. I think secularists, atheists, and the average science fiction reader would be more than OK with it, though.

If I leave it in, I automatically open the door for a sequel or two, but I’m not sure they are stories I want to write. On the other hand, if I don’t include the Epilogue, I still have a way to take the story forward, but again, I’d have to take Jewish and Christian views of the Bible and bend them quite a bit (more than I’m already planning to). I’ll have to think about it.

Whether I include the Epilogue or not, I’ve left room inside the novel’s storyline for additional tales, probably short stories. I haven’t decided exactly what span of time the book should cover. It begins in the mid-21st century, and I’m thinking maybe one hundred years to the end, but I haven’t detailed anything out yet.

I told my wife last night that I was thinking of writing a novel. I told her a little about it, leaving out the religious aspects (she’s Jewish and I’m a Christian — albeit a rather unusual one — and there are just certain things we don’t talk about). I think she was amused. She’s the “practical” one in the marriage and I doubt she has ever read a science fiction story.

Anyway, besides the TOC summary I’ve shared above, I’ve written more detailed outlines of each chapter and why I am including it in the overarching story. I’m hoping that the novel will read as a unified whole rather than just a bunch of short stories strung together. Of course the “time lag” between some of the chapters may make that impossible. On the other hand, I have a couple of rather long-lived characters who may serve to link everything.

Now that I’ve got this part at least provisionally finished off, I have to go back to my character bios and history for the novel and (almost literally) flesh things out. I need to get to know my characters better than they know themselves, which is a critical requirement, since I’m their creator.

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