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How Do You Outline Your Book – And Why?

The Benefits of Outlining and How to Outline

Alun Richards
3 min readOct 13, 2020

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Attribution: Andrew Neel via Unsplash

Outlining is the second step in my TOPIC book writing strategy. If you’ve decided on your book’s title and genre, you’re ready to outline.

Why Use Outlining For Your Book?

You may have heard of outlining – but why use it for your book?

When you outline, you create a top-down hierarchy that ensures you don’t miss anything out. You are creating a placeholder for all the information you’ll develop.

Outlining helps with planning and organising. It also helps avoid overwhelm. You can see the big picture AND the detail of your book, and how exactly they relate.

What Exactly IS Outlining?

Outlining is a process of stepwise decomposition. You group your book’s concepts into related areas.

As you can see the whole book’s structure, you keep everything related in the same place, you don’t repeat yourself and you don’t miss anything out.

Outlining puts you in control and helps you organise and structure your information.

How To Outline Your Book

You start at the highest level and drill down to the lowest. First decide what chapters you’ll have. Name your chapters based on their content. Generate a list of likely chapter names, then arrange them into a logical structure.

For example, if I were creating a book on web design, I might have chapters on Types of website, Tools, Hosting and Domains.

Now take chapter one, Types of website in our example, and decompose it. So you might have WordPress, HTML sites and Simple website builders as sections in your first chapter. You’ll probably find you need go down another level, to sub-sections. And possibly further down again.

Repeat this decomposition process for every chapter. You’ll now have a list of chapter names, section names, subsection and perhaps sub-subsection names.

Using an outlining tool allows you to subdivide or combine sections easily. Or even move them to a more relevant chapter.

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Alun Richards

Alun Richards is an internet marketer and book coach who helps his clients to get more customers through publishing books and using the internet.