How to write an outline for a book: 6 simple steps

How to write an outline cover

Do you want to write a book but have been staring at an empty blank slate for several days, feeling stuck and unsure of where to begin? Writing a book can be an exciting and rewarding experience, offering the opportunity to share your story, knowledge, or creativity with the world. However, it can also be overwhelming, especially when it comes to organizing your thoughts, ideas, and the overall structure of your narrative. That’s where an outline comes in handy. What is a book outline? An outline serves as a roadmap for your writing journey, helping you to arrange your ideas in a logical sequence, identify key plot points or arguments, and ensure that your work remains cohesive and engaging from beginning to end. By breaking your book down into smaller, manageable sections or chapters, you can tackle the writing process with more confidence and clarity, making it easier to overcome Essay Helper‘s block and maintain momentum throughout your project.

How to write an outline for a book, and how will it help you reach the goal?

A book outlines a roadmap, a plan for your book. It helps you move through the story, following the order of the events and thoughts you want to share. It doesn’t matter if you are writing a fiction or nonfiction book. There should be logic and consistency in the facts and events covered. It is where the plan of the book helps. It is like a navigator leading you through the dark forest of your thoughts.

Here are some reasons writing a book outline is essential to reaching your goal:

  1. Organizing thoughts and ideas. It is the primary function that a properly designed book outline performs. With it, when writing book outline, you can map out where your story is going and what significant events you want to describe. Then, after creating a plan, you must state them in the correct order.
  2. Assisting in overcoming stops. From time to time, all authors face a blank slate of mind phenomenon ─ when you look at the screen and can’t write the first word. The book outline helps to resolve this barrier. It allows you to turn your main ideas into a story.
  3. Helping to finish the book. You may want to add more information when your story is almost finished. You can think for days if you said everything. However, if you stick to the plan, there is no such gap because you are always aware of what needs to be described.
  4. Correcting inaccuracies. There may be gaps, inaccuracies, and errors in the story. Proper planning helps to avoid these problems before writing. You can see that some story parts are missing and quickly fix them.

As you can see, writing a novel outline helps avoid many problems, so starting with a plan is a good idea if you decide to write your story.

Types of outlines you should test for your next book

Before discussing writing a book outline, let’s look at the strategies you can use. You can try each and choose the most convenient one because the usual Introduction-Main-Conclusion is not for everyone.

  • Classic plan. It is what we all know and see in different books. It is a sequence of numbers or letters and chapter titles. This way of writing an outline is suitable for highly organized people who know what they want to describe in Chapter 7 and what they want to leave for the events of Chapter 10. In this plan, you name key ideas without commenting on them and build all events around crucial ideas.
  • Summary. A few authors love this plan when they are preparing and outline for writing a book, but it is the most convenient approach for some. While outlining a story, you describe all the main events, connect them, change their sequence, and add details when writing a book. Ultimately, your outline is a mini-version of the text, shedding light on the plot without excessive details.
  • Cards. You may have used or seen this tool while learning a foreign language. Flashcards help not only remember new terms but also organize your thoughts. For example, you can write down key events on different paper pieces and then swap, rearrange them, and write your narrative. In this way, your text may change many times, but you will remember the main ideas.
  • Mind map. It is another interesting outline tool for brainstorming. Choose any mind mapping service or use paper sheets. For example, place your main idea in the great bubble and secondary ideas around it. Place heroes in bubbles of a different color and connect events and heroes with lines to create essential connections. Consequently, build a story from the schema you created.

Now, after studying the types of plans and what a book outline looks like, you already know how to compose them. Additionally, we will analyze this issue in more detail later.

What Does a Book Outline Look Like? 6 Key Steps for Creating a Successful Outline

Step 1: Lay the foundation of your story.

Start with the basics. Describe the main story idea and its characters. Write down the key events that will take place in the book and the main characters’ features. Refrain from dwelling on the details. Afterwards, you need to describe the general picture of your future book.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • Who were taking part in the events?
  • Where were the main events?
  • What is the result of these events?

Congratulations! You have the basis of the story, adding details to which you will write a book.

This step must be taken when writing fiction and nonfiction books. It is the first answer to how to make a book outline. Questions help build the story’s skeleton and make it easier for you to work with it.

Step 2: Describe your characters.

Describe each character’s appearance, personality, and movement throughout your book. It is an essential step to take before describing the main story. Otherwise, you can fall into the trap of having the story happen independently without the characters in it. Moreover, you can create characters looking passive, uninteresting, and unclear about their actions and why.

To correctly reveal the hero of your story, answer the following questions:

  • Who is this?
  • What is their character?
  • What do they look like?
  • What do they like or dislike?
  • What decisions led them to this story?
  • What kind of relationship do they have with other characters?
  • How do they act in critical situations?
  • What decision led them to the end of your story?
  • Why does the reader need to know about it?

Describe all the characters in your book according to this scheme, starting with the main characters. This way, you can add the exemplary character in the right place at the right time in your book.

Step 3: Describe the location.

If you need to know: “how to write a book outline for fiction”, don’t miss this step. The place where the events in your book take place is also crucial since it directly affects the character’s self. Do they have to wander through the forest or explore a fictional castle? Do they travel around your hometown or explore the depths of the oceans?

All these conditions will affect their decisions, state of mind, and results of actions. Therefore, this step is essential if you are writing a fiction book.

Additionally, describing the place of events in nonfiction literature is also crucial. At a minimum, your reader should understand where the research or events in the story occurred.

Step 4: Gather all the events, characters, and locations into one structure.

It’s time to work on creating the story! You can choose one of the ways to create an outline and write it down. It can be a mind map with the main idea in the center, cards, or a plan with numbers. You can use stickers, programs, or tables like J.K. Rowling did for her masterpiece.

jk rowling outlines harry potter books

Rearrange events, add details, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Afterward, you are taking an essential step for your book ─ laying out the story’s route.

Step 5: Develop scenes and details.

It’s time to breathe life into your book and spell everything in more detail. Think about the sequence of scenes and events and what characters’ decisions lead them to the subsequent results. Add small events that lead to the main action in the book. Finally, think about what in the characters’ behavior led them to each particular point in the book.

Step 6: Make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Hence, you understand how to write a story outline. Review your notes and check if everything is in place. Have you described all the characters, places, and events? Look for logic in the sequence of events.

If everything is correct, proceed to create a book. You have a solid skeleton to add detailed scenes.

How to make an outline for a book in different genres?

Of course, working on books of different genres will vary. Admittedly, the size and writing style of the story affects how you write the outline. You can learn how to write an ebook, a fairytale book for children, or even a romance novel and see the outline will differ drastically. At the same time, writing a nonfiction book without a plan is almost impossible. A romance novel is easier to write, but you can miss many important details without a plan. Remember that there is no universal way to write a book outline. Choose what suits you best.

Next, we will analyze the key features you need to consider. If you are writing a fiction book or memoir, you need to:

  1. Determine the story’s main idea.
  2. Discover and design the main characters.
  3. Describe the place of events.
  4. Add scenes and side stories.

Both professional writers and fiction ghostwriters use these steps. If you are looking for the answer to how to make a novel outline, try to follow them.

If you are writing a nonfiction book, especially a textbook, you need to:

  1. Determine the book’s central idea.
  2. Describe the readers: their experience, occupation, and why they should be interested in your book.
  3. Determine the book’s purpose: what should the readers know or learn after reading your story?
  4. Add characters and locations if necessary.
  5. Describe scenes or facts to reveal the main idea.
  6. Write each section structure.

When writing a nonfiction book, you must learn more about your readers. First of all, you must understand who they are and why they should be interested in your book. The more you examine this point, the easier it will be to find the right words to describe your idea.

Software to help you create an outline

Nowadays, there are hundreds of programs that can be useful for a writer. Even the famous ghostwriters use them. Let’s take a look at some examples.

The first group: programs for creating a mind map. It includes MindMeister, Miro, MindMup, and others. They help keep the main ideas and the connections between them in front of your eyes. The mind map is a handy story outline format.

The second group: programs for creating notes. The most popular examples list Notion, Evernote, Scrivener, and others to create notes on your phone or laptop. They help to capture thoughts quickly and organize them in the correct order.

The third group: applications for finding ideas. Sometimes, writers get stuck between scenes and need help finding an idea. If you are one of those, you can use artificial intelligence programs to generate ideas, a book ghostwriter’s support, or the Chapterly app.

Get credible help from our ghost writers!

Undoubtedly, you realize now how important it is to plan and think about writing a book. It simplifies your work and saves time. This article listed the basic steps for creating an outline and tools to help you.

Try to use them when creating your next story. If you need help in creating an outline or writing a book, you can contact Penfellow. Our book writers and publishers will help you with every step and challenge on the path of creating an effective outline!

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