10 steps to creating a brilliant book outline for any non-fiction book
I’ve talked before about people who pants it when writing a book and those that outline and what the benefits are. So you will know that I love to create a book outline before I write a book. There are too many benefits for me not to do it.
My mum, on the other hand, is a pantser. In fairness, she writes fiction and loves to see the story evolve. I tried that when writing fiction and it didn’t work for me.
I think that the reason I like a book outline is that I can see the ‘story’ or plot of the book come alive.
I am very visual and I like a picture of what is going to unfold. I want to see the journey and I want it to make sense.
Over to you…
What is your learning style?
Think of a learning style in this context as someone who is either visual, auditory, kinesthetic or in combination with each other. Some people are also big picture and some detail.
I know when I work with clients and I present them with my book outline structure some squeal in delight and others say nooooooo.
The squealers get on with it. They love to dive in and work out, for example, the why, what, how and what if. They love uncovering questions and knowing the key messages.
They also love that once they have done this that they can allow their writing to flow.
Because it’s easy. They have done the hard work, now all that needs to happen is to trust that their muse is with them.
The ‘others’ need gentle coaxing. No document, no obvious structure. Although they love doing the bits, it just has to be in little chunks.
Either way, we get a book outline.
When you try to outline without considering how you like to do things you can sometimes come a cropper. Which basically means none of it will make sense to you. So, find out what works best for you.
When I outline, despite being visual and would like nothing better than lots of post its and coloured pens, I flex my style and follow a process that sees me starting with the scribble and then formalising it. So whole braining it – which we are doing all of the time, it just feels right and left at the time.
1. Get clear on your why
This one sounds easy, but often people write a book which is not the right book. Ask the 5 whys – read about why here. Get clear on this and the outline will flow from it, because it will make sense and marry with your message.
2. What is your book about?
Here we want to discover the essence of the book. What does your reader get from reading this book? I find writing a blurb (the bit on the back) helps me to get clarity.
3. What is the process your ideal reader goes though?
Think of this like you might have a plot in a fiction book. Create a timeline so that you can clearly see the journey you want them to take. Remember to meet your reader at the start of their journey and think of the outcome you want for them.
Remember that although you want an outcome – they will get whatever they need from this book.
Keep the process short, sweet and simple. You can write other books.
4. Who is your ideal reader?
You must always write for one ideal reader so that you make an emotional connection. It makes for a better book.
5. What questions is your reader asking?
This is not what do you think they are asking. It’s what are they really asking.
When I look in the osteoporosis forums I see the same questions. You will too when you look in the right places.
Write a big list of questions and put them on your timeline in an order that makes sense.
6. Sketch out a rough book outline
You have a timeline and questions. Next, brainstorm chapter titles and write a short synopsis in the style of – this chapter is about. This is not about detail, it’s more that you want to explore your first thoughts.
7. Add your questions to your outline
I always keep 3 questions I am answering per chapter in my outline synopsis when I am planning and writing. They keep me on track.
8. Map your story timeline
Just as you have the list of potential chapters, you will need a list of which snippets of your story go where. It doesn’t need to be much. Map it to the chapter titles and/or questions.
9. List what you can repurpose and what you have to write from scratch
This is what I call a knowledge audit. But rather go through all of your content, jot down what you think you already have and do a gap analysis.
10. Finish with a synopsis
Once you have mapped these steps out, write up a more detailed synopsis. The most important part is to leave it until you are ready to properly create a book outline.
Ok, I haven’t shared all of book outline secrets, but there’s enough there to get you going.
If you want more:
- Consider this 7-day plan your book challenge. It’s designed to help you to kick-start this journey
- When you know you need support, then please message me – a chat costs nothing, and we can check out if we are a good working fit
- Take a look at WRITE! Live or the online course
- You can always grab a copy of my book Plan your non-fiction book in a weekend on Amazon
The reason this works as a brilliant first book outline is that once you get it out, your unconscious mind will start to make connections. This makes your complete book outline process much more powerful.
What you might also want to try is a test write. Pick a chapter and see how it goes. What do you learn about your writing process?
101 questions to ask before you write a book
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