In 5 Easy Steps, Outline a Nonfiction Book.
In 5 Easy Steps, Outline a Nonfiction Book.
There is no getting around that. If you’re writing nonfiction or outline a nonfiction book, you’ll need a book plan.
If you’re a panther (one who writes by the seat of their pants, like me “Book Publishing Company“), you can get away with having a general notion of where you’re going and how to get there for a book.
Nonfiction, on the other hand, requires a book plan.
Acquisitions editors at potential agencies and publishers expect it in a pitch. They want to know where you’re headed in each chapter.
I’ve authored 200 books in the last almost 50 years, 21 of which have been New York Times bestsellers—a third of which are nonfiction. I’ve created an easy-to-follow book outline technique that I feel will assist you in organizing your work.
But First, A Word About Your Subject…
Make the mistake of writing a book on something that might (and should) be handled in an article or blog post.
You’ll need a book-worthy subject. Can it withstand at least 12 chapters?
What exactly is a book outline?
You can still do this if you’ve forgotten the fundamentals of conventional outlining or have never felt comfortable with the notion. Your book outline should be used to help you, not the other way around.
You don’t have to conceive in terms of 20+ pages of Roman numbers, capital and lowercase letters, and Arabic numerals unless that’s what your project requires. A bullet point list of sentences that summarize my idea works well for me.
If the term “outline” offends you, don’t even use it. However, create some form of document that gives guidance and structure while also acting as a safety net to keep you on track.
A Successful Book Outlining Strategy
If you lose interest in your novel somewhere in the Marathon of the Middle, it’s because you didn’t start with enough ideas. A novel plan will disclose such a flaw ahead of time. You want to know that your framework will get you through to the finish.
The image below shows how I think a novel should be organized. It could also be used for nonfiction with a few small changes.
The same pattern may elevate average nonfiction to something extraordinary. Arrange your ideas and proof to create a big payout, then deliver.
In a memoir, autobiography, or biography, you or your biographical topic becomes the main character. Make a story of your life like a novel, and the real story will come to life.
Even if you’re creating a simple how-to or self-help book, adhere to this framework as much as possible.
Make early promises, causing readers to expect new ideas, secrets, inside information, or something significant that will wow them with the full result “writing services“.
While you may not have as much action, dialogue, or character development as a writer, your crisis and tension may stem from revealing where people have failed in the past and how you intend to ensure your readers’ success.
You may even make a how-to project seem difficult until your unique approach pays off the setup.
In 5 easy steps, outline a book. Always consider your outline to be changeable. You may move items about and extend or compress it as you go.
Your outline should respond to:
What’s my ultimate goal—what is my message?
What am I attempting to persuade, enlighten, educate, amuse, or move my audience about?
What chapter-by-chapter progression order best meets my purpose?
Begin with a one-page road map that provides a high-level overview of what you want your book to become.
What should be included:
- One Sentence Summarizing Your Message
This may also be your Elevator Pitch, or what you’d tell a publishing professional between the moment you meet him on the elevator and the time he gets off.
Consider the larger picture. This is not your book, but the concept that inspired it.
What message can you convey that has the ability to impact people’s lives? Because it transformed your life, it should be one that you are enthusiastic about.
People like being informed and amused, but they never forget when they are moved emotionally.
When our oldest son departed for college, I authored as You Leave Home: Parting Thoughts from a Loving Parent for him.
My elevator pitch is: “I want to convey my absolute love for my kid when he leaves the nest.”
Gift books for graduates are many, so what made mine stand out and get excerpted in United and American Airlines’ in-flight magazines, as well as score a guest spot on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio programme?
Why did this book speak to tens of thousands of parents who were going through the same thing?
The message’s emotional content
By professing my love for my kid, I connected with the hearts of other parents going through the same difficult time.
Aim for the heart naturally, by allowing it to spring up from genuine passion.
Your Readership Prospects
Resist the urge to declare it’s for everyone. We would want to believe our message is for all genders and all ages, but agents and publishers see it as idealistic and naive.
Three of the best-selling nonfiction books of all time were initially directed at specialized audiences but were later marketed to the general public:
Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, has sold over 30 million copies and continues to sell around a quarter million copies every year. Businesspeople are the intended audience. Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was published in 1989 and has sold over 25 million copies in 40 languages. Businesspeople are the intended audience. The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren’s 2002 sequel to The Purpose-Driven Church, has sold more than 50 million copies in 85 languages. Adult Christians are the audience.
Imagine a single reader to help you decide your target audience.
What’s their issue (perceived need)?
What kind of takeaway value can you provide?
What is the most persuasive strategy you can use to contact them?
When my mother was among the demographic most likely to purchase inspirational literature, I saw her as my target reader. I’d succeed if I could make sense to her.
If you’re still unsure about your audience, look in the mirror. Write the book you’d want to read.
Be specific as well. If your book is about your life as a veterinary surgeon, your major audience will be aspiring veterinarians, followed by practicing veterinarians, and lastly, animal lovers.
Investigate the number of individuals who fall into these groups so that you can inform agents and publishers about the prospective market.
3.0 How will you deliver your message?
Assume you’ve told two buddies about a personal situation.
“Here’s what you need to do…” says the first.
“I was in your shoes once,” the second says, wrapping his arm around your shoulder. “Let me tell you what I discovered and how I benefited from it.”
Which do you think you’ll listen to more?
That second technique is known as the “Come-Alongside Method. It doesn’t come across as preachy because readers can figure out and use the lesson on their own.
A well-told tale conveys a message considerably more effectively than a narrative synopsis.
Consider the reader first.
Each chapter is summarized in one sentence.
Think in steps to ensure that your chapters flow logically.
Begin with a promise—a setup that will eventually pay off.
For example, if you’re writing a how-to book about time management, your first few chapters should dangle a carrot, either with a story about a chronic time waster who became a consummate success or by simply implying, “Stick with me and you’ll be a time management pro by the time you finish this book.”
Then list the following chapters:
Provide background information on your subject; assess current ideas and viewpoints; examine case studies; demonstrate your discoveries and experiments; include expert interviews; now, summaries your chapters to help you categories your study.
Fourth: Technology and Time Management