Writer's Block

With the help of a cartographer, an artist, a theorist, and a magician 

Structure – the order, organisation and connections between parts of text – has an important role in your reader’s journey and heightens their understanding and enjoyment of your writing. Getting the structure to flow in a logical, clear, smooth run is therefore high on the priority list of any author.

But if you’re finding it hard to organise your nonfiction writing or are struggling to structure your long-form piece, don’t worry – we’ve put together some interesting approaches to help you out of your muddle. In this month’s blog, we’re looking at the different techniques you can play with to help you discover the right order and flow for you. 

  1. Map it out – the cartographer’s approach. A flow chart of ideas, opinions, connections and themes to help you develop your structure.
  2. Doodle it out – the artist’s approach. Put words aside for a while and see your book/writing ideas in pictures to help you organise your thoughts.
  3. String it out – the theorist’s approach. Make yourself a murder wall of your content ideas and watch the clues pile up to reveal the structure.
  4. Magic it up – the magician’s approach. Don’t plan. Just write. Then watch the magic unfold on the page.

Try a map – the cartographer’s approach

If you’re a visual person and like to know in advance where your writing is heading, you might find answers in the cartographer’s methods of finding your structure. Plan your journey ahead. You might already know where your writing will start and end, but what route will it take? 

To see if the cartographer’s approach works for you, start with the first idea that comes to mind for where your trip/text might start. Then from that starting place, try mapping out a series of interlinked points on your page, tracking one topic, idea or opinion to the next, sometimes taking detours to subsidiary points, but always returning back to the main route.

When you feel you’ve reached your destination, take a look at the point map you’ve created. Does your journey take the most logical course? Does it take in all the different points of interest on the way? Is there an alternative route that might be clearer, more picturesque, with less traffic holding you up? 


Once you’re happy that your map reflects a strong, inclusive, coherent structure for your writing, you can use the information you’ve curated any way you choose to help you develop your book or piece further. You could use it to create a chapter plan, a table of contents. You might flesh it out to gain a deeper understanding of what each section might cover by taking each ‘place’ on your map and filling up half a page with content ideas on that subject. A map is a great starting point to bigger things.

Try doodling – the artist’s approach

If you’re a wordy person who loves to doodle too, the artist’s approach to finding organisation and structure might be worth a try. To unveil the structure of your book, it can sometimes help to clear your head of words and letters that might cloud your view, and see your ideas in pictures. 

To follow the artist’s way, grab something large you can scribble and sketch on. Then, instead of writing down your ideas for how your book might evolve, draw them. Doodle the people, the places, the ideas, the events, the opinions. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Not even recognisable to others! Just scribble down images and symbols to help you visualise all the elements of your piece. 

Then, when your page is full, spend some time with it. Delve into it. Pick it apart with your eyes to reveal the layers of story, emotion, theme, pattern, logic. Once these layers start to be exposed, you can embark on marking out structure. You might colour code similar elements, number sequences, string arrows between connections. However you choose to rationalise it, a structure will appear. 


The artist’s approach can be especially helpful when you need to step away from the chronology of an event and just see the relationship between elements in your story/ideas. Drawing it out helps you break elements apart, so that you can put it back together in a different order, under new themes, with a fresh perspective.

Try a conspiracy wall – the theorist’s approach

We’ve all seen them. Those pinboards in crime dramas that cobweb across the incident room or conspiracy theorist’s wall, stringing photos of suspects with possible places, evidence and accomplices. Well, now’s your chance to make one! 

Instead of discovering the murderer, you’ll use your noticeboard to reveal the structure of your book or long-form writing. Gather your materials – any notes you’ve made so far, photos of things you want to remember to mention, post-it notes to write ideas on, string to show the connections. Then go for it.


One of the best things about this form of structure reveal is that it’s adaptable, iterable. You can try it one way, then easily unpick it and try it another, until you feel you have what you need.

Try some sleight of hand – the magician’s approach

Some writers just want to get down and write. No plan, no structure, just free flow. 

And this is where the magician’s sleight of hand might come in. If you’re one of those writers who writes first and assembles later, this is for you. 


Write. Write it all. Empty the recesses of your mind until there’s no trace of your book left unwritten. Then, when it’s all out on the page, rough and ready to be moulded, that’s the time to create some magic. Some parts will vanish before your eyes. Others will move mysteriously to new places. Yet more will transform from a wilting weed into a fresh bloom with just a little tap of your magic wand. And then the big reveal – structure!

Look out for more blogs on nonfiction writing and wellbeing for writers each month. And if you need a little motivation and to develop a regular writing habit, why not join us in the Writer’s Forge for our online accountability sessions? It’s working for us!