If you’ve worked your way from the first post in this series then you’ve taken your book all the way from a series of ideas flying around in your head to a solid reality on the walls of your ‘War Room’ , and from there to a fully polished outline in your word processor. If you’re coming to this series for the first time I recommend you read the ‘Introduction’ first.
With the outline complete you are now ready to start fleshing out your outline with the book content – it’s time to start writing!
Step 1: Expand on Your Outline Points
Take each of the headings in your outline, one at a time, and begin to expand on the lowest-level points in your outline, assigning a few sentences beneath each of these outline points to explain them. As you complete each lowest-level point, work your way through that “thread” to the next level up, again writing a few sentences to expand upon and explain each point as required. At this stage, don’t be too concerned about knitting these separate points together – that will come later.
Continue to work your way up through the outline until eventually you have expanded on every point and sub-point in your outline with a few sentences.
When you have completed this initial part of the writing exercise, you will most likely have a mass of disjointed text presenting your ideas in a less than coherent manner. You may also have an unfeasibly large number of point headings. Your next challenge will be to address the flow of the section’s text, knitting the text together into a coherent message, under a smaller number of suitable summary headings to guide the reader through the logic of your book. You’ll start by cleaning up your headings.
Step 2: Revise Your Heading Titles, Reduce Their Number
Take each of your highest-level headings, one at a time, and consider whether the heading is clearly summarizes the points that you make below. If not , then change the heading to a better form of wording.
Work down from this point to the next-lowest level. Does this sub-point actually need to appear in your section as a heading unto itself? A simple rule of thumb: if removing the heading would not interfere with the reader’s understanding of the main point that you are making, then remove it, leaving its explanatory text in place as a separate paragraph. Too many unnecessary headings may be irritating and distracting for your readers.
Continue to work your way down through all of the points and sub-points in your section’s outline. Your aim should be to reduce the number of headings and sub-headings in your section to the minimum necessary to ensure that your section effectively communicates its message to your reader.
Don’t Rush This Phase
Take the time to expand your outline, point by point, and then to reduce the number of headings to the minimum required to clearly communicate your key messages. Don’t rush this phase – work through each level of your outline until you are satisfied that you have fleshed out each of your main points.
Once you have done this then all that remains is to ensure that each of the separate points you make under each heading flows easily into the next one, guiding the reader effortlessly through you key ideas and arguuments.
You’ll do that by using transitions – which form part of the final post in this series.