And why is it important?

Finding my niche as a nonfiction Christian writer, has forced me to recognize and rethink tools that are needed for writing this genre. No matter how glamorous or outstanding your writing software is—without an outline as your substratum, everything else is totally irrelevant. Why? Unlike novelist, nonfiction writers must first sell their ideas. whether the manuscript is finished or not. So it is essential for them to have an outline making it easy in giving a summation of what their book is about.

A book outline is a roadmap or blueprint for your story. It tells you where you need to go and when in chronilogical order. It leads you in the right creative direction of your book—a guide you can follow to write your story. If you start writing without either a roadmap or blueprint, the process will be drawn out, haphazardly done, and sometimes not finished at all. However, if you are of the adventurous kind, and choose to write vicariously without them, you will be on a great adventure as you, hopefully, watch your book unfold without any detours or roadblocks.

Some writers detest outlines while others refuse to write without them. What type of writer are you and which do you prefer? Personally, I use outlines because they aid in the fluidity of my writing, keep my thoughts organized and also help improve my writing skills. Not only in my books, but also in my weekly posts.

There is no right or wrong way to do an outline—it all depends on the individual. The importance is formulating a pattern you stick to that works for you. That helps to keep you disciplined in the writing process.

  • John Grisham makes lengthy novel outlines which consist of 2-paragraph summaries of each chapter. He says that he spends more time outlining his books than writing them! He says: “The more time I spend on the outline, the easier it is to write the book.”
  • J.K. Rowling used hand-drawn charts on notebook paper to write her Harry Potter books. You can see a sample here.
  • William Faulkner wrote his outlines on his walls.

A nonfiction outline would go something like this…

As you can see there is no set in stone formula for constructing an outline—none at all.

A nonfiction outline would go something like this:

  1. Brainstorming Session – Write down all your ideas. Anything that pops into your head.
  2. Organize Related Topics – You can do this one of two ways: Create a mind map from your brainstorming session or create headings and subheadings from those related ideas.
  3. Process of Elimination – Anything that does not seem to fit the overall theme of your book or just unrelated ideas—cross them off the list and store them for a future project.
  4. Organize Your Thoughts – At this point you need to determine how to place your topics in order for maximum effect. Perhaps you may want to organize your thoughts based on the number of chapters you want your book to have. At any rate, this will take some experimenting to get the best results. Rearranging using sticky notes or index cards are great aids. You can take pictures of each arrangement until you find one that works.

“In order to write something big, it really helps me to think of the constituent parts. What are the basic units or elements? What are the chapters? That helps with my research — filling up my chapter files. And it helps with my drafting — writing one chapter at a time.” — Roy Peter Clark

Clark went on to say, “One reason why first-time novelists fail to complete their book is that they don’t plan properly. Sometimes, even just a one-page outline can keep stories from stagnating.”

K.M. Weiland, in her book Outlining Your Novel says: “In many ways, an extensive outline is a first draft.”

Here are a few things I have included as outline aids…

An outline is your greatest defense against procrastination, fear and writer’s block (if there is such an animal). With a clever roadmap or blueprint, you can create an incredible outline. Which will make the writing journey for your book smooth sailing. If you find you need any help. Please feel free to put the question in our comment section and we’ll be happy to assist.

So get back to those darn keys and keep it moving! Thanks for your continued readership and support. Until next week…Blessings and Peace!

© Rhema International. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission, from this blog’s author and/or owner, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rhema International.


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