First, you decided to write a book. After a lot of thinking, you’ve come up with a topic for your book, and you’ve spent some time thinking through what you’d like to cover in your book. Now it’s time to plan out your book. It’s a smart idea to have a plan to keep you focused when you’re writing. When you know exactly what you need to do to finish your book, getting it done seems easier. Having a solid plan will also save you time by keeping you from spinning your wheels and spending hours writing material that doesn’t even make it into your book. So, how should you start writing your outline?
I recommend starting to write your outline with a brainstorming session. Start by writing out the main goal for your book, either on a white board, a note card, or even sticky notes. What is it that you want your readers to get out of your book? Will your reader learn a new skill by reading the book? Will he or she learn how to make something? Knowing the path that you need to lead your reader along will help you as you write your outline.
Next, think about all of the things that your reader needs to learn to get to that main goal. For example, say you want to write a book that teaches your reader how to sew a quilt. You’ll want to make sure you cover how to find and choose a quilt pattern, how to pick out fabric, how to cut out the pieces, how to sew the pieces together, and so on. Write out each of these subtopics that you’ll need to cover in your book.
Once you have a good list of all of the subtopics you’ll be covering in your book, it’s time to organize them. I strongly suggest using note cards or sticky notes for this part because they’re easy to rearrange. Begin by writing each of your subtopics down if you haven’t already. Write as many notes as you need to make sure you have an accurate picture of everything you want to include in your book.
When you have all of your subtopics written out, start to group them together into chapters or sections of your book. In our quilt example, a chapter or section could be planning out the quilt. Another chapter could be all about supplies. Finding a logical way to group things together can take a while, so don’t rush it if you’re struggling. Come back a few hours or even a day or two later to revisit if you need to.
After you’ve organized your ideas and put them into a logical order, take a step back and think critically about your outline. Are there any gaps that you’ve missed? Any sections you could add to help with the flow of your book? It would be a great idea to ask a few friends to look over your outline to see if they have any suggestions for subtopics you might be missing.
Take some time to look at your outline with your reader avatar in mind. Have you missed anything that he or she needs to know? Will your reader be able to reach the main goal of your book with the information you plan to give him or her? It might be worth seeking out your blog readers who closely resemble your reader avatar and ask them if they have any feedback. They’ll probably be thrilled you asked!
Once you have your final outline, get cracking on your book! Remember, the sooner you start writing, the sooner you can start calling yourself an author.