How to Create A Book Outline

Why Should I Create An Outline for my Book?

A book outline in a nutshell is having a plan for writing your manuscript from A to Z.  If you haven’t started writing or finished your book, the most likely problem is that all roads lead back to OUTLINING.

The last time you did an outline was probably in school and the way you were taught was boring and include – wait for it – Roman Numerals.

That was then and the old way.

The new way is to think of outlining like planning.

People make plans all the time. You’ve probably made plans for your weekend and didn’t give it a second thought. Planning does not have to be hard, although some plans require more effort than others.

As an example, planning to go to the movies does not require much effort. Pick a movie and go. Planning a summer vacation requires more effort.

Planning (outlining) a book requires a bit more effort, but it does not have to be “boring effort.”

Whether I plan a vacation or a book, I do so with excitement. That’s because the outlining process I use is straight-forward and keeps me from going off on some writing tangent wasting hours of time and precious life moments.

I’m going to share a Step-by-Step outline process from beginning to end and make it easy for you.

You’ve landed on this post because you need help writing a book and also a way to take actionable steps on the ideas taking form in your head.

You are at a crossroads and wondering how long does it take to write a book.  Should you create an outline or just start writing?










Thick Paragraph outlining explained. Click.

I’m a book writer and teach an outlining method for the New Writing and Digital Publishing Universe. This simply means today’s times in which people read shorter nonfiction books of about 60 thousand words and eBooks on electronic devices with about 25 thousand words.

I’ve helped hundreds of people in some way or other with their nonfiction book: outlining, researching, co-writing, rewriting, ghostwriting, developmental (structural) editing, and much more.

I hear from people every single day asking questions, something like this:

 I have a 14,000-word (or whatever word count) nonfiction book and I’m stuck and can’t finish writing.   


I have been sitting on a book idea for months and don’t know how to go about getting started writing.

I know what the outlining pain points are and it’s why I’m going to share a chapter outline example. I’ll also tell you the best types of books to create using the outlining process shared.



The outlining process I’ll share works extremely well for How –to books which are popular and similar to instructional manuals in that they tell the reader how to do something.

How-to books provide helpful instructions in a style of writing that isn’t overly technical and instead is more conversational.

Below is a sampling of different types of How-to books.  The list as you can probably guess could go on forever.

Sports How-to

How – to mountain bike, prepare for a marathon, canoe, hike, hunt, camp (find the best camping spots), fish, etc.

How- to books on, boxing, sport’s betting, karate, gymnastics, mixed martial arts, ballroom dancing, gym fitness, etc.

Hobbies How-to

Cooking or baking, gardening, farming, decorating, painting, repair something, quilt, sew, etc.

Business How – to

How to trade stocks, create an online class, create a law in Washington, create a living will, write a resume or CV.  How to increase productivity, start a nonprofit, a start-up, become an entrepreneur, get into a graduate program, pass a test or exam, have better time management skills, etc.

General, How – to

How to have better sex, get your guy or gal to marry you, have a better relationship. How to get relief from menopause, back pain.  How to stop worrying, be less shy, be more productive, use time wisely.  How to retire early, get rich, travel on a budget, enjoy a freedom lifestyle. How to get organized, declutter.

How to clean up credit? How to pay off your student loan? How to generate sales or leads for your business? How to establish yourself as an authority in your industry (Thought Leadership)? How to evangelize your social cause? How to campaign or run for office?  How to start a start – up? How to write your memoir, a self-help book, or a novel?

You could obviously niche down with your how-to book.  How to write a cozy mystery novel?

The How-to book is one type of nonfiction book structure and there are many others.

For example:

  • List or Tip
  • Life Event (Memoir)
  • Essay or Blog (Poetry, etc.)
  • Quote Book
  • Pain Solution
  • Anthology
  • FAQs
  • Interview
  • Big Concept
  • Benefit

Click here to find a more in-depth explanation of book structures.


The First step is to brainstorm by answering four (4) questions, without overthinking answers because material can be tweaked.

  1. Title of book?
  2. Subject of book?
  3. Target audience?
  4. Nonfiction book structure?

The Second step is to brainstorm by writing down everything that comes to mind regarding your topic. Pull ideas from your mind and dump them on paper. Braindumping is similar to mind map outlining because you identify the main point and capture ideas without cutting anything at this stage.

Some people like to use the mind mapping process when brainstorming. This is when you write the main book idea down in the center of a sheet of paper, and then jot down secondary ideas all around the main point.

Don’t slow down by stopping to look up stuff. Instead, make a note to do it later.

Pretend you are writing a book titled Best Way To Run With Dog.

Here are some brain dumped book ideas for the book outline template.

  • Proper running techniques
  • Proper equipment
  • Safety and injury prevention
  • Socialization
  • Snacks and hydration (for owner and dog)
  • How to build endurance for running
  • How dog’s breed affects running ability
  • Lighthearted chapter showing pictures

Nothing is right, wrong, or set in stone, don’t edit your brain dump.

The Third step is to brainstorm by doing research.  Essentially research is a more advanced phase of brainstorming.  The brain dump is ideas from the mind.  Research is gathering information from other sources like Google.

Google and other search engines will lead to web content for the outline.  Don’t just search the internet, do hands on research, meaning talk to people.

Regarding the dog running topic –  Talk to vets, people who run with their dog, people who own dogs.  Your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone who might know about your topic.

For facts, stats and figures try StatisticBrain, WoframAlpha and ZanRan.

The fourth step of brainstorming is getting organized by cleaning up notes and then creating a basic outline with an introduction, some body chapters, and a conclusion. Jot down a couple of sentences for each chapter.

INTRODUCTION Chapter tips:  Use an attention grabber, the WHY. Why should readers read your book and how will they benefit?  Introduce yourself, the WHO.  Who are you to write a book?  The, WHAT, what will a reader gain from reading your book?  Readers want to know (WIIFT) What’s in it for them?

BODY Chapter tips: You have leeway with body chapters, meaning as long as topics connect in a logical way, you’re good.  Below are body chapters that I brainstormed and performed light research for a book about running with a dog.

You can rearrange chapters as long as it does not mess with the flow of the book.

Body Chapters –

Breed influences. A dog’s breed determines it’s running ability. This means a dog’s size, physical features, and genetics matter.  Mixed breed and or hybrid dogs are good for jogging and running.  Working dogs usually can run long distance.  Not all canines are meant for running.

Best way to run with dog. Humans train before starting a running routine, dogs should train too. Also, train dog to respond to commands. Stop Fido.  

Build endurance. To build a run, first measure your dog’s size and length. Start slowly with the run, something like three times a week. You can eventually increase this to five times per week.  There are apps that can help with run times.

Dog equipment. Proper fitting collar/leash.  It’s suggested to use a three to six-inch leash which provides the proper amount of distance. You don’t want too much space between dog and owner. You’ll need a place to store items like keys, cell phone and poop bag dispenser.

Snacks & hydration. May be needed before and after the run. Discuss with vet.

Injury prevention. Check paws before and after run. Products like barrier wax and clogs prevent and or treat injuries.

Safety and Socialization.  Run in safe areas clear of debris. Assure that dog is comfortable around other dogs, crowds, etc.  Dog may need to be trained with socialization skills.

CONCLUSION Chapter tips: Give the last piece of advice, parting words, call to actions.  Perhaps share pictures of dog and owner running.  Recap key points.

The above outline was created using what I called “thick paragraphs” outlining method.

Ideas for outline/book content:

Answer frequently asked questions. Pretend you are a veterinarian and also a dog owner who is writing a book about running with a dog. In that case, you certainly get asked about running with a dog. Include the answers to frequently asked questions in the book.

Repurpose content. Have you given a speech or written an article on your book’s topic? Great, repurpose the content and include it in book.

Tell stories.  Your topic has been written about before. Therefore, you can make the topic fresh and unique by sharing personal and general stories. Sharing stories is a way that an author personally connects with readers.

 Jokes.  Jokes break the ice and liven up writing. Even if the book addresses a serious topic, there are places in the book to be upbeat.

One site where I previously freelanced, the majority of the work performed was creating outlines, below are some examples of outlines I created using the above tips.

  • Failure
  • Fatigue
  • Grief counseling for caregivers
  • Motivation
  • Shyness
  • Silencing inner critic
  • Online stores (eCommerce)
  • Social media
  • Smart phones
  • Protecting yourself from Identity theft
  • Changing jobs, careers
  • Climate change
  • Information courses, products
  • Dating
  • Developing leadership skills in kids and teens
  • New Beginnings
  • Business and Life Coaching
  • Epsom Salt
  • Essential oils
  • Coconut oil
  • Allergies
  • Marriage
  • Healthy hair (growing hair)
  • No poo, co-washing, shampooing
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Hirsutism
  • Eyebrow threading, eyelashes, esthetician
  • Manifesting your dreams
  • Law of attraction
  • Traveling to Papua New Guineas, Morocco
  • Employment and staffing agencies
  • Job search
  • Turbo charge your career
  • Rainy day activities for kids
  • Earning more tips
  • Heirloom vegetables
  • Vegetable container gardening
  • Women’s empowerment
  • Crowdsourcing, crowdfunding
  • Project management
  • Time management
  • Virtual assistance jobs
  • Nonprofit agencies
  • Publicity for authors
  • Amazon pre-order
  • Kids and vegetables
  • Spiritual cleansing

Happy Outlining.

 Got a book outline question, drop it in the comment section below?  You can also contact me at