book outlining methods

Book Outlining Methods to Help Unscramble Your Brain

Previously I wrote about the steps of outlining and planning, but here I want to discuss my favourite book outlining methods, among other tips.

If new to book writing, you may be unaware that structuring an outline can help you step through the writing process without so much stress and strain.

I admit to being ‘seat of my pants’ style writer, as I had lots of time to let ideas bubble to the surface. But for most business-oriented writers, a timeline and deadline is needed—and so an outline can help you keep on track… and unscramble your brain.

Writing an outline is super-important for ambitious projects with many moving parts. The simple making of a table of contents is a good start, but we are talking more about WRITING TO A MAP.

Mind Mapping (bubble chart or the original one-word-per-strand map) is the start of a writing outline process. We may also use to find reader questions (the faster way to survey) if you have no idea what they want.

Then, we can move on to answering the questions and sub-topics that popped up. This doesn’t work with fiction; only with factual topics.

On the new book Outline document, fill out the case study ideas, the general points, perhaps the comparisons, in a paragraph underneath the topical chapter headings. Some will come to you later, so don’t worry, fill that in then.

When I’m coaching a writer, I go back to their Outline document regularly to see what else was a topic that was supposed to be in the book… or what structure it is now and what improvements could be made. I might suggest a Preface if the Introduction talks a lot about the reasons they wrote the book or the lead-up. I might work with the author to divide the chapters up more evenly if one is really short (without being for effect). More important though, is a logical progression.

When to use Chronology in a Book Outline

Sometimes, chronology can help for books with a memoir element. So, we’d need to put the years in brackets after the places or story names, so that I can help with ordering.

Once we have the story chronology straight in the memoir, then it will be easy to do a flashback at the start, for instance. You can also start with a flash forward to your recent glory days, and after that short chapter, jump back to the days just before you had the challenge. Then continue with full fleshing out of the difficult challenge, using the five senses.

One book I wrote which has a structure that worked was Sack Your Financial Planner (now an ebook How to Control Your Financial Destiny).  It progressively led from some interesting facts about Australian wealth, to common misconceptions, some of which were kinda funny, and then on to the specific wealth creation vehicles like property and shares.

I made a comparison with a hypothetical person’s actions: Jake versus Jarrod, which illustrated a point on how it can be better to invest in a leveraged property while still paying down the mortgage. As it’s time in the market, not timing the market that counts.

I had worked on this simple book over one year, using one morning a week (which was all I had free). This showed, because it was (in my opinion) well-structured and had been edited over and over. It was 30,000 words.

We just put up a new mini-course “Outlining Your Book in 3 Steps” as a members’ bonus, all with the one-off payment.

Summary of Book Outlining Methods

So, a book outline can help us form and go forward with our topics – but we also really need to ‘live’ or truly understand our reader’s viewpoint. This can be hard if we’ve forgotten how basically people think on your specialist topic, so it’s important to lurk in forums/groups and ask pertinent questions for research.

What do they know now? What are you building on? This can inform your subject matter much better than just coming from an expert point of view.

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