Want to know how to write a book that will raise your profile and give your career a serious boost?
In completing Step 4, ‘Refining Your Book’, you ended up with your book’s structure clearly laid out on your War Room walls – that was your last formal planning step. Step 5 is the first step in actually writing your book’s content.
Step 5 – Create a Formal Outline
“Outlining” is a critical book writing skill – it will make your writing faster and much more effective and is one of the best protections against one of the greatest of all writer’s enemies – ‘writer’s block’.
Once again in this post to illustrate key points I am using a business proposal example taken from my book ‘Winning Business Proposals’. A well written proposal is written in exactly the same manner as a well written book.
Figure 1 is an extract from a proposal where the proposal has been ‘collapsed’ so that you can no longer see the body text of the proposal, instead all that is visible are the headings – this is an outline.
It is clear that there are six sections in this proposal – in your book those sections will be your chapters. Look at Section 2 where the various headings and sub-headings haven’t been collapsed. Isn’t it interesting that even in the absence of the body text, even though all you can see is effectively the ‘bones’ of this proposal, you can still get a good feel for the messages the proposal is designed to communicate?
This is where all good books should start – with a clear outline that charts the development of the key ideas through the book, section by section, chapter by chapter.
The good news is that by following the first four steps of this book writing methodology you have already done all of the work necessary to very quickly and easily create an outline for your book.
Outline View in Word for Windows
I write all of my books using Microsoft Word for Windows – for the simple reason that Microsoft have made doing so extremely easy by building a powerful outlining tool into Word for Windows.
Search online and you’ll find that there are dozens of tutorials on how to use the outline feature in Word (here’s one on YouTube), and here’s a printable guide. You’ll find that there are MANY more such tutorials – and I’m sure there are just as many for all other word processing software.
Whatever software you use to write your book DO take the time to learn how to use this feature – it will make all of your writing very much easier in the future.
Creating your outline – step-by-step
This step is so straightforward – all you need do is transcribe your War Room content into your word processor. Take these five actions to do so:
- Create your chapter level outline. In Step 3 you sorted your war room topic groups into chapter groups and gave each chapter a working title. Transcribe those chapter titles into your word processor. You’ll end up with something that looks like Figure 2 (remember in my example ‘sections’ are chapters).
- Enter your topic group titles. Take each of the topic group titles and enter those under each chapter name.
- Enter any sub titles.If you have logical sub-topic titles within your topic groups enter them now. After actions 2 and 3 each chapter of your outline should looks something like Figure 3 below.
- Enter your core ideas. Now you are down to the level of the individual ideas you captured, one per Post-it, and organized under the headings above. Transcribe the content of each Post-it in under the appropriate heading.
- Polish the flow of your outline. The outlining feature in Word gives you great flexibility in working with your outline – you can collapse and expand levels as you work with them so that you can see how well your book flows. Figure 1 above shows the full outline of my proposal with Section 2 expanded and all other sections collapsed back to chapter names alone – as you work you can collapse and expand any part of your outline to make it easier to work with. You can also very easily reorganize your material to get a run order that feels right to you – moving entire sections from place to place until you get a flow of ideas that makes sense to you. Work through your outline, chapter by chapter and polish the flow of your ideas. Reorganize until you are satisfied that the flow from idea to idea, topic to topic, and chapter to chapter is smooth and logical.
Well done! You’ve just completed the first pass of the outline for your new book.
All that remains now is to do a final polish your outline. After that you’ll flesh out each of the ideas in your outline with a few lines of text – building your book’s content up from the idea level to the topic level, and from the topic level to the chapter level, chapter by chapter until your book is fully written.
In the next post in this series we’ll do a final polish of your outline so that you are ready to start writing (at last!).
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your book?
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