How to write a book outline

So, you wanna write a book.

Dare I use slang in reference to a book? Yes, I did. I went there.
One of the most valuable tips I’ve been given for writing a non-fiction book has been: make an outline.

Why you need an outline

It fights overwhelm
Nothing stops overwhelm in its tracks like having a plan.

It’s typical with any big project to be bogged down by the occasional Attack of the Overwhelm. I suffered from major analysis paralysis while trying to figure out how to organize the information in the book.

I knew all the points I wanted to cover, I just wasn’t sure how to organize it into a sensible way.

Having an outline gave me an action plan and tamed the Overwhelm Beast.

 

It keeps you motivated
With an outline, you have measurable mini goals.

Using your outline as a roadmap, you’ll always know what you’ve done and what’s coming up next.

Seeing yourself power through subheaders, headers, and chapters is super motivating. Each one of these headers becomes a mini goal. Challenge, accepted!

I get so much satisfaction from checking off tasks a list. An outline is just that – a comprehensive list. Let’s get to it!

How not to write an outline

What didn’t get passed along to me was how to write an outline.

So I tried to go about it logically.  I began writing the outline from the top down, but after I wrote the title it was just a downward spiral.

Staring at the screen. Flipping through my notes. Checking Facebook.

You know the procrastination dance.

Long story short, I spent several hours perfecting the art of how NOT to write an outline.

How you should write an outline

The upside of this story is that I developed a fantastic way to write an effective outline – painlessly!

We’re kickin’ it old school with pens, paper, and Post-Its.

Once we’re on track we can hop back on the computer – but ‘till then, power down!

Write out all your points on Post-Its

Whoop it up – have at Post-It party!

Write down every point you plan to discuss in your book.

Lay them out so you can see them all – it can be on a table, stuck to a whiteboard; whatever suits your fancy.

Group similar points

I took pieces of letter-sized paper and cut the pieces in half.

Then, I started grouping similar points together on a sheet of paper.

You will start to notice patterns emerge – and the chapters start to organize themselves!

Determine the connection

Look at your group of points. What connects all those points together? What’s the theme?

This is what your chapter is about. It might even give you your chapter name.  Magic!

Revise + reorganize

You’ll probably want to go through and organize the points in each chapter so the points flow beautifully from one to the next. You might also want to group subheaders and sub-subheaders.

Make it official

Now you can take it to the computer and make it all pretty and official.

Use a bulleted list to make your outline. Use indentations and different styles (like Heading 1, Heading 2, etc) to create it.

Book outline – complete!

Now you can get down to writing that book.  It’s so much easier now – fill-in-the-blank style!

Are you writing a book?  What tips have you come across in the process?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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