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6 Steps For Writing A Book Outline

So you've decided to write a book, and you are ready to take on this exciting challenge! Yet when you sit in front of a blank screen, you feel lost, disoriented, and struggle to string your ideas together. These feelings are a sign that you should first consider writing a book outline.

Writing a book outline

Let’s look at exactly what is needed when it comes to writing a book outline and how to create a book outline in 6 simple steps

.But first, we'll discuss why having one is so important.

Why having a book outline is important

A book outline is a way to organize and write out the different parts of your book. Listing out the number of chapters and different elements acts as a guide for your writing.

It allows you to know what you are going to write about before you start writing. In addition, here are some other benefits of having an outline:

Writing a book outline helps you to organize your thoughts and create order

The challenge with being a creative thinker is that you often have so many ideas in your head that your fingers can’t type as fast as you think. This can cause your ideas to come out inconsistent or incoherent.

However, writing an outline of a book helps slow your brain down, and you can think of your ideas in sequential and comprehensive order.

An outline of a book creates continuity and flow

When you're writing a book outline you need to make sure your story flows. Think of the water pipes. For the water to flow smoothly from your sink and down the drain, all the pipes have to be connected.

Same with your storyline, all the pieces of your story need to be connected for the message to flow and come across clear to readers.

If you're wondering how to write a book outline that flows, think about having a clear start and finish to your story. This way, your outline will be clear to follow, and your story will be too.

Helps you create context and stick to the original context

Many writers fall victim to thinking that the audience or their readers know everything they know. With this misconception, your writing can turn out unclear. For example, writing a story with missing character details, forgetting different resources, or just not providing the right context.

In order to avoid this, you can write an outline and make notes and references to help you include the correct original context.

Having a book outline will prevent writer’s block

Writer’s block can happen at the beginning, middle, or end of your book writing. No matter if you've written paragraph after paragraph, suddenly, you can run out of words. This is why writing a book outline is important.

With an outline, you don’t have to think about what to write next. Instead, your book outline will tell you what you need to write about next.

An outline helps you write faster

An outline can supercharge your writing. Not only will it give you a strong place to start writing, but it saves your time on having to go back and erase parts of your writing that aren’t necessary.

Imagine your outline as your navigation system. Yes, you can get to your destination by figuring it out on your own, but that’ll probably lead to going down the wrong streets or backtracking. Instead, relying on your outline gives you a clear and direct path to writing.

What to include in your book outline

Now that you've learned the importance of a book outline, here’s how to create a book outline along with templates to help you get started.

1. Decide on an overarching theme and the reader take away

The theme of your book is the overarching message, idea, and why of your book. It’s the thread that ties your story together.

When deciding on a theme, reflect on themes commonly used in literature. Here are some examples according to Writer's Edit:

  • Love
  • Good vs Evil
  • Courage and heroism
  • Coming of age
  • Prejudice
  • Invididual vs society

From these common themes, you can brainstorm your unique storyline and decide what impression you want to leave your readers with.

For instance, do you want them to feel empowered and informed or create a story that readers can relate to? Once you have this figured out you may move on to the next step of the outline.

2. Ask yourself questions about what you want to accomplish with the book

With this next step, you want to think about your why. Why are you writing this book? Understanding this can help you decide how to outline a book.

Do you want to make readers laugh, tell an epic story or teach a lesson? Once you have a clear why think about the characters and context of your story.

How does the interaction between the characters and the background of your story work together to achieve your goal?

For instance, if you wish to write a book telling the story of a heroine with unbeatable courage, how will the time and place of the story communicate this message?

Jot down simple answers to the why, who, and when in relation to your book. These notes will help guide you on how to create your book outline.

3. Choose a book structure/genre

When it comes to how to create a book outline, writing the structure helps bring things together, and your book becomes more than just an idea.

The structure will consist of the components of your book, such as the type of book, how many chapters, and any additional parts you want to add to your book.

Writing a fiction book

There are several major categories under the fiction umbrella, and some of these categories include:

  • Sci-fi
  • Fantasy
  • Action and  Adventure
  • Romance
  • Humor and Satire

Writing a non-fiction book

Non-fiction books tend to fall under the category of:

  • Self-help
  • Cookbooks
  • True stories
  • Biographies and Autobiographies
  • Memoirs

Steps for writing a book outline

 4. Lay out the chapters in an outline of a book

With the theme of the book, the next step in writing a book outline is to lay out your chapters.

Start writing the numbers of how many chapters you want in your book.  You don’t have to title each chapter; rather, write the focus of each chapter or what you hope to achieve in that chapter next to each number.

Next, write key details of the chapter, such as conflict and resolutions, characters, plot, and how long you want the chapter to be.

Once you’ve laid out the chapters and have an idea of what each chapter will contain, make sure there is flow within the chapters. That way, each chapter not only contributes to your theme but occurs in a way that is easy to understand for the readers.

For example, you want to save the chapters of major resolutions and problem-solving for the end.

5. Fill in the details and description of what each chapter will be about

When your chapters are laid out, you can add crucial details to your outline.  In this part, it can be tempting to start writing, but it will be more helpful to write out the details in bullet points.

For example, you can list characters in the chapters,  the general plot of the scene, and the overall problem and resolution.

This will make it easier to write when it comes time to pull everything all together.

 6. Outline the conclusion

Congratulations, you’ve finally gotten to the end of writing a book outline. Now, all that is left is the conclusion, which can be one of the hardest parts to write.

It’s where everything comes to an end, questions are answered, and it’s the last words you’ll leave your readers with.

This is why it’s crucial not to skip out on outlining your conclusion, even though this can be tempting when learning how to outline a book. Here are some tips, according to Scribe Media, on how to do so.

Write a few sentences to summarize your book

Make sure that you aren’t introducing any new content and reflecting on the content you’ve already written.

 Insert a call to action if needed

These are great for self-help books or to help you connect with your audience by having them visit your website or connect to your social media.

List any additional resources

If applicable, list additional resources that the reader may utilize after reading your book.

Outline templates

CGA Book Outline Template
Click the image to download the pdf file

Now that you know the components of an outline and what to include, you’re probably thinking about how to write a book outline through a template.

Luckily there are templates that make creating an outline of a book simple. To help you do so, here are some outline templates to get you started.

 Simple two-column template

The simple two-column method is straightforward. You can draw it out or use the computer to make two columns. One is where you write the components of your book, and in the following column, you write a description for each section.

This is a great method for you if you want to create something simple and easy to organize your thoughts.

Introduction  Description
Chapter 1 Description
Chapter 2  Description
Conclusion Description

Snowflake method

The snowflake method is great if you don’t have a lot of ideas for your book, but you know what it is going to be about.  Here is how to write a book outline using this method.

Start by writing one sentence for the following parts.

    • What is the main concept in my book?
    • Who are the characters of my book?
    • What are the surroundings and environment of my story?
    • What is the introduction to my book about?
    • What is the first chapter of my book about?

Template example:

What is the main concept in my book? Who are the characters of my book? What are the surroundings and environment of my story? What is the introduction to my book about? What is the first chapter of my book about?

After you have written one sentence for each part, you will go back and add three to five more sentences for each part.  You can make a small goal for yourself to add five sentences a day for the next three days.

The bubble method

Bubble method template

If you looking for a visual technique on how to outline a book, then you can try the bubble method. You can draw this outline by hand or by using a graphic tool.

You start with writing the topic or theme of your book in the middle of the page and then drawing a circle around it.

From that circle, draw lines coming out of the circle that represents different parts of your book.  For example, you can draw lines to represent different chapters or lines for different characters.

In the end, you’ll have a visual representation of the contents of your book.

If you need additional help, we've also outlined some great books about writing for new authors!

Related articles on book writing

Are you writing a book? Check out these articles for additional resources.

Choose the best outline template for you!

With this new information on how to write a book outline, it's important to remember this. Find what works for you.

If you feel stuck or too restricted with one format you can always try another. The most important thing when writing a book outline is to explore the templates that work for you and help you turn your brilliant book idea into a book outline that will help you start writing.

Want to know more about book writing? Check out our awesome articles on becoming an author, as well as good questions to ask an author.

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