How To Write a Book Outline

Writing inspiration comes at the most inconvenient times.When you don’t know how long your creative energy will last, drafting an outline can seem counter productive.You can use outlines to get out of a writing rut.A skeleton outline can help clarify where more research needs to be done.Post-it outlines help put things in sequential order, and can help you remember what step you need to take next in the process of assembling your story.

Step 1: Establish your starting point by deciding on a subject.

The first thing to do is to decide what you’re writing about.Do you want to tell a story about Abraham Lincoln, or about a magical land?Write down a list of exciting ideas you’ve had, or ask yourself what inspired you.Determine the logical point to start at once you know what you want to write about.A story about Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather wouldn’t necessarily benefit from a specific one about him.The circumstances behind his birth are unimportant when the book starts.The dragon egg that changed his life was found in the forest.

Step 2: Introduce the question or problem in your book.

This is what will push your reader through your work.Don’t be too aggressive with your introduction.Adding too much will make your reader impatient.If you are writing a novel, you should give a one sentence explanation.The dragon egg marks Eragon as both a dragon rider and a family member of the evil king.If you want to write a non-fiction book, ask yourself why.It is important for you to assure your readers that you will answer the question why we care about Lincoln’s log cabin.

Step 3: Understand where you want to end.

The phrase “begin with the end in mind” can be used here.You want to know where you are going as you write your book.Consider the message you are trying to convey.If you want to teach someone how to tie their shoes, your goal is to help them tie a knot.Make sure the steps get you to the goal.

Step 4: You can make a table of contents for your book.

Whatever you choose to focus on, the amount of sections you use can be as much as the chapters in a book.You can either write it out on paper or create it as a digital document.As you can, be specific.The six parts of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” give both the reader and the writer an idea of what to expect.

Step 5: List your moments of rising action.

The major plot points drive your story forward.A general idea of what happens when is all you need.Consider what concepts, ideas, or events are critical to answering your question for your non-fiction subject.This will help you expand later if you note where you need to do more research.

Step 6: Plot points can be found on your table.

This will be the beginning of a road map to your conclusion.Every point or concept should build on what has already been done, and lead toward the next step, but also to the end of the book.Meeting the rebel group, the Varden, would fall closer to the conclusion of the book than finding his dragon age in the first section.

Step 7: With your narrative, flesh out each section.

It means starting to write.As a step-by-step guide, use each chunk of your table of contents.Break it up into smaller pieces if you realize you have too much in a section.Your reader is also likely to think you have been focused on one area for too long.Don’t be afraid to trim your ideas down.Not everything works.Your plot can progress well without taking a detour up the evil wizard’s mountain.Readers don’t always want to go on a long journey.

Step 8: Look at your premise.

You don’t want your premise to be too detailed, but it should be more than “a prince saves a princess.”Establish what your characters are doing, why they’re doing it, and how that meshes with a conflict.If you’re stuck, look to your favorite books and movies.Think about how you would summarize their story by focusing on the main character, understanding what their goal is and establishing how that conflicts with their world.

Step 9: A one-paragraph plot summary is what you should use to expand your premise.

Information about where your characters are starting, how they began, and where you want them to end up can be added.Right now, all you want is the basics.A young farm boy named Eragon is hunting in the woods when he discovers a dragon egg, which he believes is a rare blue stone.The dragon was born after tending to stone.The dragon riders were eradicated by the king of Alagasia.He looked at the young boy who was forced to flee his home in order to find refuge with the Varden.He is assisted by an old man who knows more about Eragon than he lets on.

Step 10: You can breathe new life into your characters.

The vehicle from which your story is told is your characters.The story will progress if they interact with the world that you have created.To make each character different, try to make them different from pre-existing characters as well.Think about the story of the character.While the focus of what you’re writing about will most likely center around one character in particular, fleshing out each character’s personality and history will set a precedent for how they move about your story.

Step 11: Your sentences should be paragraphs.

Consider how each of your characters influence a given plot point and how the plot points influence their story in turn.Take your paragraphs and turn them into pages.As you grow your sentence into something bigger, you want to take the concepts introduced in your paragraphs and expand them as well.

Step 12: To expand, expand.

Take each sentence, paragraph and page step by step and turn them into something bigger.Turn the pages into chapters if they cover an important event in your plot.When you can start crafting a narrative, instead of just including the barest of details, is when.

Step 13: There are four sections to your wall or board.

The act of your story will be represented by two boxes.50 percent of your story will take place in the second act.

Step 14: The major scenes should be written down on sticky notes.

There is no need to have every plot point mapped out.If you have a general idea of what needs to happen, that’s fine.The beginning of “Eragon” can be broken down like this: Eragon finds a dragon egg while hunting in the woods, the king discovers his secret and he is killed by the evil Ra’Zac.

Step 15: You should arrange your scenes chronologically.

If you want to build a solid path through your novel, make sure each scene logically leads into the next.If you are working with multiple plots, try to organize by color.The story may get confusing if you include too many plots.If there are gaps in your story, you want to make a note of them.The world around your characters can be affected by certain events.To see how that might bridge the gap between events, look to those characters and their motives.

Step 16: Check your board for flow.

If you want your exposition to be as long as your second act, don’t worry about making sure each act has the same amount of scenes.Make sure each scene logically leads into the next, and that each act gives way to the act that follows.The introduction of the book takes place in Carvahall, where Eragon spends less time than on the road to find safety with the Varden.At the beginning of each book, Harry Potter only spends a small amount of time with the Dursley’s.His adventures take place at Hogwarts, where most of his time is spent.

Step 17: Use the sticky note as a guide to start writing.

You should write out the events of each post-it until you get to the next idea.You can follow it up by writing it down.Don’t be afraid to go ahead.Feel free to take a step forward if something isn’t clicking right.Future versions of your characters might answer questions about their past.

Step 18: Write your premise in the center of the document.

This is going to be the main focus of the map.Make sure you really narrowed down what you want to write about because everything you add must tie back to this.

Step 19: Major plot points can be added to your premise.

The events that will get your character from the beginning to the end are what you should consider.Do they stay at home?They might lose an object.As you work, ask yourself these questions.If you want to understand your topic better, you should use the branches that are related to reality, like physics or history.

Step 20: Smaller branches were created to focus on individual details.

Information like the lead up to the event, impact, and how characters or real-life people reacted to it should be included.Plot points should be taken from rough or vague ideas to a more detailed play-by-play of the event.Make each character their own branch.If you have trouble figuring out how a character might react to something, you can use a separate branch.Explore their personality, their background, and how they got involved with the plot.Think of it as an in-depth interview with you.

Step 21: Look for weak or out of place branches.

If you want to tell a story, cohesion is important.Pruning something from your tree if it doesn’t lend itself well to the main topic is a good idea.You can try to fix the problem spots.

Step 22: Use your narrative to flesh out each branch.

If you connect points with thin lines, you will use your words to establish the flow of plot.Any parts of the story that don’t seem to flow well should be removed or reworked.