Tips on writing a book outline

Organization of work on a book is a laborious and mysterious process. And when there is no writing experience, sometimes you do not know where to start.

Of course, creative people have different methods for processing information, but all the necessary actions can be combined into several groups – important steps that will help you overcome the initial chaos in the mind and feelings.

Step one is the idea. The idea is a signal to action. It has many guises of an interesting character, a magical world, unexpected events, an occasional dialogue between heroes, an amusing creature, magical skill, and technical novelty, etc. The idea is an insight, after getting which, you decide that you want to write a book.

Step two is active interest. The idea should not only be interesting, it should draw attention, and not let go. If a curious character in the form of a brutal werewolf or a quick-witted thief visits you once a week when you’re washing dishes, this does not mean that you need to write a book about it. But if he is with you day and night, doesn’t let you work and sleep, pulling you into his adventures, telling his stories – then yes, this is your foundation for writing a book.

The fact is that if you find something that is just interesting, it fades away pretty quickly. The first emotional influx of inspiration will pass, and you will get bored with a dry printed work. And then the story itself will bore you. And you will abandon the book.

Do not grab for the first idea that comes into your head, take the story out, and learn more about the character. If you find a simply interesting idea, you can write a short story or sketch about it, which then weave into the plot of the book. But to write – to work – it is necessary over what has hooked you up for real, that does not let go, and requires attention.

If such ideas do not come to you, but you want to write, try to find interest in the story yourself, think about how it can attract you. For without interest the work will not proceed.

Step three is the work with the material. Creative people are inherently receivers. And all information comes in various ways:
  • Through insights
  • Through random associations
  • Through reading
  • Through seeing and then borrowing
  • Through reflection

And it is this information that is the basis of the material that must be processed.

However, before you get down to work, you need to accumulate a sufficient amount of material.

To sew a doll, you need to buy the materials necessary for the body and costume. And to write a book, you need to accumulate text fragments and mentally form the image of heroes and the world, come up with approximate events and make a plot out of them.

Working with the material is a very individual matter but the more it gets bigger, the better. Therefore, you need to keep records: either in notebooks, or in a computer file, or on paper napkins, whatever is more convenient for you. And it’s important to record everything – from short phrases to long dialogues, from the description of the character’s appearance to the strangeness of his character. And it’s also important to periodically review the records and add notes.

The material for the book is divided into two parts:
  • Theory – these are schemes, tables, maps, and lists, in which the features of heroes and the world are given, in which stem episodes of the plot are taken into account, names of characters, geographical names, a system of magic or social relations, political moves, etc.
  • Live text – scraps of episodes, dialogues and monologues, sketches of legends, and the history of the world or heroes.

After that you need to proceed to step four – process the material. When you have accumulated enough information, you can start processing the material and writing a book.

Preparing a plan

After you have prepared both morally and physically, you need to draw up a plan for your book.

There are many opinions on this matter since there are such writers who write what comes to mind. After, they add puzzles (sketches) into a single picture. Typically, in the process of writing a book, the story changes several times. And what was conceived earlier completely disappears, and on the sheet are completely different actions and heroes. This is interesting on the one hand and seems to be easy, but on the other hand, this approach can lead to the fact that you just get confused in the plot intricacies and stop writing without even a quarter of the book. It is impossible to constantly keep in mind all the nuances of the plot, as well as the sequence of actions.

There is no need to write a detailed outline for 30 pages. It is necessary to draw the tree of the plot, along which the character will go. By the way, at this stage, there is no character. It is still ripening in your head. Later, this tree will grow with new storylines and eventually you will have a completely structured novel (story).

Writing a book outline not only simplifies the writer’s life but also allows you to not forget about the little things and docking in the plot (this refers to the detailed plan, which is written for each major branch separately).

In addition, the plan will allow you to complete your creation. It will show where and when the hero (heroes) need to steal this and that to go to the writing of the final stage of the book.

Writing a plan

First you need to describe the plot in general terms. For example (for fantasy):
  • The hero lives in our world, he fails everywhere, he doesn’t have a girlfriend, and he thinks that life sucks. But then something happens, and the hero gets into the parallel (other) world. There he grows stronger, becomes a magician and fights evil. There he finds the love of his life and becomes a king (a wandering knight, chief magician, etc.). In the end, he saves the world from the main villain and everything is fine.

This is just a typical plot for a fantasy novel, isn’t it?

You have outlined the plot of the story. Next, build a tree (in fact, this is the future content of your book):
  • Introduction (about the world where the character lives)
  • About the hero (What does he look like? Where does he live? What does he do?)
  • The accident that transfers him to another world
  • Adaptation in the other world (describe that world)
  • Training and learning
  • Adventures in the other world
  • About the main villain and why he is terrible
  • Deeds of the hero
  • Love
  • Fight against the main villain
  • Victory and awards

Here is the approximate plan of your book. Subsequently, this skeleton will have more details.

About the character

Write about the character, where he lives, and what he does.

Include details such as:
  • Name
  • Profession
  • Sports
  • Character
  • Hobbies
  • Skills
  • City, country of residence, etc.

The accident

Write about where it will happen, under what circumstances, who is the participant other than the hero, etc.


Where did the hero get? (describe what he sees), the mores of the world, what kind of king (government), who is a villain, is there magic, etc.? A number of ridiculous situations with the hero.

In general, you can continue in the same way. There is no need to write a lot in the plan because you risk turning the plan into a story and become a hostage of the first thoughts. And they can change and grow. In addition, it is necessary to write as many events around the main branches of the plan as possible. Later you will see how these sketches will find their body.

It is very important that your plan has a clear structure:
  • An exposition
  • An opening
  • A culmination
  • A denouement

The conflict of the character, that is the struggle of the main character with himself/herself, is also necessary, or with the villain, or with the environment.

An opening, culmination, and denouement

For art works the term plan is rather inappropriate. Rather, it is a plot. The logic is as follows:
  • At the beginning of the book it is necessary to introduce all the main characters
  • Indicate their relations among themselves
  • In general terms show what the story will be about

This is the opening. Further through the events and dialogues bring the heroes to some event that will shake everyone, and the main character will answer the main questions. And in the end, invite the reader along with the hero to celebrate the victory of the good or accept the inevitable evil.

The approach is universal, it can be safely used for books-memoirs, instructive stories, and fairy tales with morals. There can be only one instruction here – write. Let the story manifest itself. Catch the buzz from the process itself and write every day, at least for a little bit.

If you don’t understand what it means to let the story manifest itself, there is nothing surprising in this. To overcome these feelings, just write.

A problem, solution, and outcome

So, you want to share your experience and in general you understand what your book will be about. But you need to start somewhere, somehow nice bring the reader to the fact that here is a wonderful technique, see how it works. And for this you need to find a problem. You need to open up, so to speak, an abscess of society and show the drama, which contains the problem in an unresolved form.

To do this, tell your story, give examples of friends, add recognizable images from movies or literature. Show the reader that it is normal to flounder and be weak. It’s normal to have problems, not to be able to understand something and not understand it.

  • Say that you were exactly the same and did not know how to behave with people. Read for example the book by Greer Childers “Body Flex”. At least a third of the book she devotes to a story about how terrible her life was before finding answers. And it’s really interesting.

The more people recognize themselves in your story, the higher the value of your subsequent advice. And they will learn, no doubt about that. If you are sincere, and not afraid to uncover the inside, readers will respond with confidence.

How to write a chapter

The inner filling of each chapter is the micro-model of the book as a whole. Similarly, you identify the problem, show how it is solved, and summarize.

For example, in the book about healthy nutrition you have the chapter called Water. You write about the fact that people, alas, underestimate the benefits of water, that this is the basis of the foundation of a healthy life and the essence of the being in general. You give arguments for, you finish with examples from real life.

In sales there is a term called cases, that is, successful examples that worked to solve the problem. Your task is to sell the idea of drinking water many times a day. So, tell exactly how the water helped you and three other friends to lose 3 kilos per month without diets and grueling training. Give a practical exercise or exhaustive recommendation: drink a glass with a volume of 200 ml 5 minutes after waking up and wait another 15 minutes before breakfast. Do not boil water or add lemon.

If the chapter is exhaustive, write it in the last lines of it. If you want to develop the idea further, show the relationship of water with something else, then say further we will look at how water affects... No need for spectacular techniques, super-original turns. It’s simple.

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