How To Write an Outline

Writing a book is a huge task for any writer and it can be a challenging and difficult progress. One way to organize the time you spend working on your book and to complete it in less time is to write a comprehensive book out line. This can be applied to both fiction and nonfiction books.  When you have an outline you’ll be able to see how your book is going to progress and you’ll be set to fill in the gaps as they occur.

An outline is like a plan you would do for anything else in life only this applies to your book. If it’s nonfiction you’ll need to do research and in many cases you’ll do research for fiction as well. You’ll need characters, places, locations; plot, scenes and other things planned out before you sit down and write. If you have a concrete idea of what you’ll be writing you can finish the project with fewer headaches. While many authors don’t use an outline it can be a valuable tool. In this article we’ll examine the outline and how you can apply it to your writing.

Characters in Fiction

Before you begin that next great novel it’s a good idea to outline who your characters are. Where are they from? What do they like? What are their dreams and goals in life? Try to answer as many questions as you can about each character and fully outline them in a character sketch. You can do this for each character both major and minor ones. There are many novel software programs that will help you perform tasks such as this with relative ease. As you do this you’ll gain a better understanding of how your character will fit into your book and it will be easier to decide which ones will work and which you can scrap or set aside to put into different projects. Keep a file on each character as a reference for the book.

Outline Places, Things, and other Information for your Fiction Book

It’s a good idea to outline the places your characters will be in your book. This can include real life places or fiction ones such as a far away planet in a distant galaxy. Outline some of the things they might use such as a weapon or vehicle and make sure you understand how those items work yourself. In the case of a fictional item outline a history of that item.  Do this for each thing or place that occurs in the book or when you come up with new elements in your story.

Outline Chapters and Scenes

Perhaps the most important part is to outline each chapter and scene in the book. You’re not writing the whole thing here just a general idea of what is going to be in each chapter. You can then organize each chapter and scene or delete those that aren’t working for you. Try to outline the entire book and each scene before you sit down and write your manuscript. You can then refer to your character outlines, places, and other information for your book as you write.

Nonfiction Outline

A piece of nonfiction will require extensive research so you’ll need to do some outlining here as well with the information you have gathered. Put the data into different paragraphs and see if you have any gaps in what you want to write about. For example, you might be writing about an ancient culture and have all the economic or military data on them but might be missing some important religious information. If you have an outline you can see where you need to do further research. You can make notes in the outline about what additional data you need to dig up or who you might contact to conduct an interview with. The nonfiction work is the same process as a fiction book just with much more information gathering so your outline can really help here. You’ll be better able to break the project up into manageable chunks with the outline instead of just writing randomly on your subject matter. Your outline is your book just in an incomplete form. It should have the basics of each chapter you want and a brief description of each chapter. Then you can take that information and expand upon it to finish the whole manuscript.

Your Book Outline Matters

A book outline is an important step you should take before you sit down and write that book you have always dreamed about doing. You'll save yourself time and headaches if you have a very good idea about what you'll be writing about before you try and complete the piece. Make an outline of everything you feel is important to your book and then break it up into maanageable chunks you can digest and finish. Take your time and you'll learn how to write a book outline and each time you do it the process will be easier than the last.