THE IMPORTANCE OF OUTLINING YOUR NONFICTION BOOK
Usually the moral of the story comes at the end. Forgive me in advance for breaking protocol. The moral of this story is you will unlikely finish writing your book if you don’t first create an outline.
The end. You can stop reading now.
Don’t stop reading now I have an interesting story to share about outlining.
MY STORY. In late 2012, as a way to earn money from writing until my writing started to earn me money, I begin freelancing online through several third-party sites.
I wanted freelance work writing blog posts and nonfiction books. Those areas were saturated, so I niched down offering freelancing services doing work I hated, researching and outlining books.
The work was unsexy and boring.
It reminded me of my desire many years ago, to play tennis. Not professionally like Serena, but I wanted to exercise doing something I thought I’d enjoy. Tennis seemed fun.
Imagine my shock when during the first few weeks of tennis boot camp we stayed indoors learning tennis basics.
I was bored silly. I tried to pay attention and couldn’t because all I wanted was to go outside and grunt and smack the crap out of the ball.
We finally finished indoor training, and (yay!) it was time to go smack balls. I did a lot of grunting and running, but not much hitting the ball.
Should of paid better attention, huh?
Researching and outlining is the fundamentals of nonfiction book writing.
All you may want to do is write like all I wanted to do was smack balls. However, without first creating an outline you will probably fail at writing your book, like I failed at smacking balls.
Unlike that boring tennis class being taught by that boring teacher wearing the old-fashioned tube socks (He did too wear long tube socks!), outlining a book does not have to suck.
Somehow I don’t picture Serena and Venus’ dad giving them tennis lessons that sucked.
My book outlining service became popular quickly. Since the pay was low the only way to earn enough to pay a few bills was to create book outlines quickly.
I had to find a way to make outlining enjoyable. I had to find a way to make it work.
The breaking point came when the assistant of a college professor lured me into a complicated project. He told me that his boss, the college professor, wanted a quote for my services. The project as pitched seemed ridiculously hard so I gave a higher than usual quote.
The assistant quickly accepted, which should have raised a red flag, it didn’t and the nightmare begin.
I found myself researching a part of the world I’d never heard of and an ancient time period. Further complicating the assignment, I had to research ancient artifacts that were spelled different ways depending on the source.
This wasn’t typical research that could be found on the internet. I had to go to the library and dust off heavy books with tiny print.
I was able to cobble together an outline and received a good review. In hindsight, I believe the assistant hired me to do his work for the college professor.
It gives me chills reliving that assignment but several good things happened because of it like tightening the services I offered.
If a topic didn’t fall into a normal and modern topic category, I wouldn’t do it.
You know, normal categories; Blogging, Business & Entrepreneurship, Career, Culture, Creativity, Fashion, Finance, Fitness, Foodie, Freelancing, Entertainment, Gadgets, Health, Marketing, News, Parenting, Self-Improvement, Social Media, Technology, Writing, etc.
The above list is massive, as time passed I niched down even more.
Early on I accepted work turning unfinished and unorganized manuscripts into an outline that could produce a finished book.
It was astonishing the number of clients who believed they should not be charged an additional fee for me to read through their hot mess incomplete manuscript and turn it into an outline that could produce a finished book.
I stopped turning incomplete books into outlines because it was harder than if I’d started an outline from scratch.
ONWARDS TO SYSTEMATIC OUTLINING
I’m sharing my outlining process because whether you are writing your first book or your 5th book, whether you are writing for passion or profit, the only path to a completed book is with an outline.
It starts with research. I was not an expert in the majority of the topics for which I created outlines. I had to work quickly to earn a reasonable amount to make doing the worth the time required, so I automated as much of the process as possible.
I compiled a list of trusted sources to reference when completing the outline. This list consisted of books, websites, podcasts, official government agencies, sources where I could check stats so that the research process was made easy.
As an example, if someone wanted me to write a book on how one could prepare themselves in the case of a disaster, I would reference my compiled list and pick out a vetted source like the Red Cross.
If someone wanted to write a book on achieving good health I might search a health website that I trusted.
In having a list to access it made the research process easier.
On creating an outline. There are many ways to outline a book, and I have tried many, most made the outline process downright painful.
I suffered through the painful process of creating an outline for my own work because I was not churning out several outlines a day.
Before becoming a freelancer I had the mindset that although there were several ways to outline, outlining no matter which way it was done, had to be cumbersome.
Like. Hell. It. Did. If I was going to survive as a freelancer earning money from writing until my writing earned me money I had to figure out a painless way to outline.
I created a simple outline of coming up with 7-10 chapter ideas. With each chapter, I included a short summary that described the chapter and notes made while researching.
Because of the many limitations when freelancing through third party sites, I found that 7-10 chapters were ideal. Anything less than 5 being too few, more than 12 is too many.
On thick paragraphs. When completing an outline, I found myself writing passages of the book, which made it feel like the book was writing itself.
The process of me writing parts of the book was happening organically, and I let it happen. Writing passages made outlining not feel like outlining. Essentially my outlines looked like mini books, and many clients hired me to write the book.
I named my outline process the 7-10 chapter thick paragraph method.
BOOKS CREATED USING THIS OUTLINE METHOD
There are limitations writing through freelancing through sites. It’s best to stick with a pre-determined nonfiction book structure.
Most books created were short Kindle books (eBooks).
An eBook is a book with slight differences.
An eBook is an electronic or digital book. Many eBooks don’t have a printed equivalent, so technically, it is not a physical book.
Both eBooks and books can be written and outlined the same way. Repeat. There is nothing different you must do to write a book or eBook because they are the same.
This is also mostly true whether the book is self-published or traditionally published with the exception that a publisher may have special instructions per the agency.
You can have both an eBook and printed book.
A nice length for an eBook is 25 thousand words. If you want a physical copy of your book, make sure it’s between 45 -60 thousand words, which is totally acceptable in the new publishing universe for writing nonfiction books.
How should you outline? There are many ways to outline. Find a way that works for you. Keep in mind there is no “right” way to outline.
If creating your outline feels too big and too bad then it probably is, make it so that it works for you.
When creating an outline for your book have a target audience in mind. Look at similar books.
Finally, remember there is nothing worse than spending a long time writing a book that you can’t finish because you have not created a nonfiction book outline.
The moral of the story.