How to Write a Book, Part 2: Outline

Photograph: Hans Neleman/zefa/Corbis

I started this series of posts yesterday. If you missed Part 1, you’ll find it here.

I know you probably hate outlining. You were forced to create outlines in seventh grade. They were dull then, and they’re still dull.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, though: You’re a grown-up now. You don’t have to write a formal outline.

And here’s some even better news: your seventh-grade English teacher isn’t going to review your work. You’re not going to get a letter grade, and if you feel obstinate and uncooperative as you struggle with this assignment, no one is going to call your parents.

Instead, you can create your outline as a simple bullet list. Bing, bang, boom. It’s not any harder than writing a grocery list.

If you’re starting with a stack of sorted index card ideas, as I suggested yesterday, the bullet list will practically write itself. Just come up with a clever chapter heading for each main topic in your book, and then record all the sub-topics that you’d like to cover in that chapter.

Most of the preliminary outlines I develop this way wind up being a page or two long, typed and single-spaced in Microsoft Word.

Oddly enough, an outline at this stage will almost look like a book’s table of contents … because it is, in its very first form.

2 thoughts on “How to Write a Book, Part 2: Outline

  1. Pingback: How to Write a Book, Part 3: Your Ideal Reader « Shuffle

  2. Pingback: How to Write a Book, Part 4: Market Research « Shuffle

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