How to Outline your Non-fiction Book

How to Create an Outline for your Non-fiction Book (Template Included)

Outlining a book is difficult. Many of us have learned how to outline a book in middle school, and never have brushed that skill ever again. All we remember when we hear the word ‘outlining’ is the glares of the teacher when we tried so hard to outline a story in school. 

Now it is time to revisit the process of outlining again. Don’t worry! It is not going to be a daunting task because it is no longer an assignment. 

Let us look at the process of creating an outline so you can successfully write your non-fiction book.

What is a Book Outline?

A book outline is a set of ideas and content that will go into your book. The outline acts like an agenda of major points and events that have to be included in the book you are planning to write. 

A book outline lays the foundation for an organized writing process. You can use the outline as a roadmap for your book.

Many authors have felt that without an outline it takes longer to finish writing a book. You might not essentially require an outline, but with an outline, writing can be faster and the quality of the book becomes higher. 

To outline or not might be the question in every first-time author’s mind, so let’s look at the reasons as to why you should create an outline for your book. 

Benefits of Outlining your Non-fiction Book

A book outline helps you start your non-fiction book and finish it efficiently. There are other numerous benefits when you have the outline ready, namely:

  • Write Faster: When you have an outline in place, you know what has to go into the book, which eventually makes the process of writing a lot faster. You don’t have to waste time thinking about what goes next. 
  • Gives the structure for your book: You have the base for your book ready when you have an outline. It becomes easy to build a book when you have a solid baseline.It helps you to start writing the book. When you have the ideas and structure ready, the writing becomes a lot easier.
  • No Writer’s Block: It also diminishes the chances of having a writer’s block.You don’t have to stare at the blank screen and wonder how or where to start your book when the outline is right in front of you. 
  • Early First Draft: The outline also becomes the earliest first draft. You can plan the writing process with the outline in hand.

Creating an Outline for your Non-fiction

There are many ways you can outline your book, and there is no one right way to do it. You don’t have to follow any rigid rules as you start outlining the book. You can start with a skeleton and then develop the outline as you progress.

Here are a few essential steps you need to take to outline your book:

1. Write Down your Main Idea

Before you dive into the process of writing, it is essential to have the main idea of your book ready. Write down the main idea of your book in one or two sentences. Once you have the main idea, later you can break that idea into smaller segments or find supporting ideas for it. 

Take time, think deep, and find the main idea of your non-fiction book. 

2. Find the Purpose of your Book

When you begin the outline, it is always better if you know the purpose of your book. Essentially, start by asking significant questions, namely, What, Where, Who, When, Why & How. This will help you find the solutions for the problem your non-fiction book is solving, and figure out the core purpose of your book. 

The chart below will give you an idea:

3. Choose a Structure for your Book

It is beneficial to choose a structure for your non-fiction book. If you look at many non-fiction books, they all follow a pattern. For instance, some of the business books have a chronological structure, self-help books have a problem and a solution pattern, whereas some of the books follow a compare and contrast pattern. 

Depending on the purpose of your book, decide a structure for your non-fiction book. 

4. Brainstorm Ideas for your Book/Mind mapping

Next significant step is to brainstorm ideas for your book. Go back to the main idea and start thinking of supporting. With the help of a mind map, get all the supporting ideas.

Mind map is one of the popular ways to outline a book. It is similar to the chart above. You can start with a key topic and then go to list the sub-topics, examples, anecdotes, etc. 

A mind map is a big circle in the center of the page with lots of connecting circles. In the center, you can have the main topic and let your ideas flow freely. Start writing all your ideas around the circle, and later start connecting the ideas to the circle in the center according to its significance.

5. Add Main Ideas as Chapters

After brainstorming ideas for your book, segregate the main points. These main points can form the chapters of your book. 

6. Create a Chapter-by-Chapter outline

It is one of the easiest ways to begin outlining. You can start by organizing the chapter titles or listing the different chapters you will need in your book.

List the chapters the same way you prepared the table of contents. You can prepare that table and then add the sub-topics you want to add in the chapters. Start with the first chapter, and then go step by step. Once you have finished listing chapters, and subtopics under it, you will have a detailed outline ready in front of you. 

If you are beginning to start writing your book, try outlining your book. It helps you organize the ideas for your book, and make the process of writing your non-fiction book easier and faster. 

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