How to Prepare a Book Outline

Outline Your BookOne of the most essential steps in writing a book is preparing an outline. However, it is unfortunate that many new authors often overlook this all-important step. While a mental plan of where they want their book to go is important, without a strong, written outline, their visions can often stray.

Why is an Outline Important?

When writers have a strong and clear outline, they can easily understand where they want their book to go, and coming up with a plot line will be much easier once they begin to write. Outlines help authors “design” their books and organize their ideas, so that topics will flow smoothly and keep readers interested.


Beginning Your Outline

Before you prepare your outline, you will need to write a synopsis of your book. Even if you are not sure of how you want your book to flow, you should have some idea as to what you want your book to convey. You can create your synopsis by looking at overviews on the backs of other people’s books. Using these overviews as examples, you can create a brief synopsis of your own book.

Choose Your Main Ideas

The next step in creating your outline is to choose your main points and ideas for your chapters. You do not have to come up with titles for your chapters yet. So long as you at least know what each chapter will convey, you can add titles later. It is also essential to note that nothing is written in stone. Anything you do to your outline can be changed if you wish.

Organizing Your Outline

You will find that, in some cases, you will easily come up with titles for your chapters while you are writing your text. If this is the case, you can simply erase your chapter idea and replace it with the title. Chapter ideas or titles need to be placed in such a way that they will flow naturally and be easy to understand for the reader.

Creating Subtopics for Your Outline

Your outline should also include subtopics for each chapter, and these should also flow naturally within each chapter. The best way to create subtopics is to take a little time and jot down some points that you want to discuss within each chapter. Each point that you want to discuss must be relevant to the chapter you wish to include it within. With all of this done, you can now refer back to your outline while writing your book.

Outlines Are Useful Guides

Outlines hold many benefits for writers, but the best benefit is that they help authors stay on the right track while they are writing their books. Just as ideas may often change, you can change your outline as well. Outlines are useful guides that help make writing a book much easier. Even the most disorganized authors find that using an outline to organize their ideas help to make the writing process flow smoothly.

Useful resources:

Really, your outline does not have to be perfect – Mary Robinette Kowal

Filed in: Planning Your Book

2 Responses to “How to Prepare a Book Outline”

  1. Tracey P
    November 15, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    An outline really is key. I tried to write a fiction book but it kind of went nowhere without the outline done first. I’m having another go with a proper outline. I’m also having a go at a non-fiction book and setting out the contents page has really helped me to keep on track. It also splits it up into bite size pieces so I can write a chapter at a time and feel like I’m getting somewhere. But as usual I’m spending a lot of time reading your site!

    • Melissa Contreras
      November 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      Yes, Tracey. An outline will most certainly help as it will help you keep the big picture in mind and act as a sort of “compass”.

      If you are working on a non-fiction manuscript, check out this post for help.

      Good luck!

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