Tag Archives: book outline

How to Structure Your Book Outline

How do you write a book? One page at a time. Then again, some days it’s one paragraph at a time, isn’t it? I can relate!

But where do you even begin writing all those pages? That’s the real question. The task can seem daunting at the beginning.

Well, here’s a guideline you may find helpful. It’s a matter of starting out with a simple outline in point form and building it from there. I’ll use a non-fiction “how to publish a book” template as an example outline only because there are usually more points in a non-fiction Table of Contents than there will be in a fictional novel.

First and foremost, I divide my book into sections:

Section One: The Types of Book Publishers

Section Two: Understanding Copyright

Section Three: Book Sales and Marketing

Section Four: The Publishing Process

Section Five: Today’s Book Printing and Non-Printing Options

Now that I know there will be five sections to my book, I want to fill those in further within my outline. What will I be talking about within each section? It’s now time to write the titles of each chapter in between the above outline points:

Section One: The Types of Book Publishers

– Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Publishing Your Book

– Traditional (Trade) Publishing

– Vanity Publishing (Book Production and Formatting for Self-Published “Indie” Authors)

– Supported Self-Publishing (A.K.A. Assisted Self-Publishing, Hybrid Publishing)

Section Two: Understanding Copyright

– An Elementary Introduction to International Copyright

– Copyright Simplified: Understanding Publishing Contracts

Section Three: Book Sales and Marketing

– Traditional Sales Techniques

– Contemporary Online Sales Techniques

Section Four: The Publishing Process

– How to Write a Book

– How to Submit Your Manuscript to a Publisher

– ISBNs and Barcodes

– Publishing Agreements

– Professional Editing

– Professional Graphic Design

– Fact Checking and Indexing

– Professional Proofreading

– Book Reviews

– Distribution

Section Five: Today’s Book Printing and Non-Printing Options

– Ebooks

– Print-on-Demand (POD)

– Digital Printing

– Offset Printing

There you have it. You have your book’s rough outline now. It’s as simple as that. Some sections and chapters will be heavier than others, and that’s okay. You may also want to fill in more points for each individual chapter as you go along. That’s fine, too.

Once you’ve done that, you can now set up your writing schedule and deadlines for completion of the book based on this outline. Guesstimate how much time you think each individual list point will take you to write. One hour, two hours? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s up to you. You’re simply trying to figure out roughly how long it’s going to take to finish this book so you can plan for it.

I recommend setting a goal for yourself to write at least one hour per day, six hours per week, every single week to completion of every point on your outline. This is a totally achievable goal that will help you stay on track because it gives you a flexible but consistent writing schedule to follow each week. Everyone can set aside one hour per day—even the busiest of people—if they really want to. And this schedule even gives you one day off every week!

As you write, the points on your outline may change a wee bit. You may think of additional chapters to add in, and that’s fine. My only caution to you is DON’T EDIT YOURSELF EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU SIT DOWN TO WRITE. You can waste hours upon hours by fixating on one sentence or paragraph, trying to edit it over and over again, rather than just moving on and writing the next one. Don’t do it. That’s when you’ll get stuck in a loop, unable to move forward. The idea here is to write something new every day so that you can move forward and finish the book—not edit it to perfection. There’s no such thing as perfection.

“If I waited for perfection I would never write a word.”
~Margaret Atwood

Let another editor polish your book for you once you’ve finished writing it. Take your own editor’s hat off. Put it away. In fact, shove it into the far back corner of your closet, close that door, and LOCK IT! The only hat you need to be wearing is that of the writer. Are you ready to complete your own outline now?

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