How to create a book outline with photos

How to create a book outline with photos

There are many ways to create a book outline, one of the more fun ways, especially if you are writing a memoir is to use photos. Watch the following video which shows your two great online tools.


Flickr is a social sharing photo site. It has lots of features and great flexibility. What I loved about this site is that it is easy to use and you have options for creating collections, sets and printed books.


Another favourite social site which allows you to create boards (like a cork board) and then pin images to them. Despite loving it, at the time of writing this article you cannot move the pins around.

Using social photo sites for your outlining

Find a site you like

A pretty obvious suggestion, however, it is all in the planning and knowing what your requirements are will help you to use a site, which you can not only use for outlining, but for other purposes.

Check the security features

Again, this sounds obvious, but you would be surprised at the number of people who didn’t realise that virtually everything that is posted online is in the public domain. When you are uploading make sure you make the photos private or secret. If you are happy for some to be viewable or even sharable, be very clear which they are and why.

Create your ‘book’

In the case of Flickr this would be a collection, into which you would create your chapters – sets, where you would upload your photos. To maintain consistency, give your collection and sets the same names as you would your physical book. If you don’t know your chapter titles yet, then keep it simple and call them chapter 1 through x.

Add in your photos

Either scan in and upload or upload existing digital photos and start playing around with the order. As you look at each photo, take yourself back to that time and reflect on what was going on around you, ask who were you with, what was on the TV, what happened just before or just after. Try to get a real sense of what the photo is conveying to you.


Play around with the photos until they represent an order that makes sense to your writing.

Ask good questions

Photos are an incredibly powerful way to kick-start your memory. Photos are treasures, moments of your life captured, milestones, birthdays, happy, sad, people long gone, parties you enjoyed, trips, holidays, houses, beaches, there is so much to be captured from your photos and it is not just the picture, it is everything around the photo and, as such, a brilliant way to help you to piece together your life.

Pick a photo, any photo and ask yourself these questions:-

  • What were you wearing?
  • Who were you with?
  • Where were you?
  • How old were you?
  • What happened that day?
  • What happened the day before / day after?
  • What sounds, smells, and emotions does this bring up?
  • What else does this memory conjure up?
  • Describe the place where the photograph was taken.
  • Describe the other people in the photograph and their relationship to you.
  • What happened right before this photograph was taken? After?
  • What surprises you about this picture, now that you really look at it?
  • Who is missing from this picture? Why?
  • What can’t we see in the picture?
  • If that person in the picture could talk, what would he or she be saying?

Final order

Once you have your book set out in order (for now) and have asked your good questions, take one final look and leave it for at least a day. The following day, make any final changes and then get ready to write.

Making a print book

The beauty of uploading to a site like Flickr is that you can create a printed book and with this, you not only have you memoir in pictures (and hard copy) you can use it as your guide as you write. Of course depending upon the nature of the memoir, a photo book makes a fantastic present.

Staying offline

If you don’t want to put your pictures online then follow the same process and use a photo editor on your desktop. There are lots of products such as iPhoto on Mac that will let you organise your photos and if you wanted a print book enable you to upload them.

Blurb for example lets you download a tool called Book Smart which lets create books on your desktop and then use their print on demand facility to print a hard copy.

Creating a scrapbook

And of course you can create a good old fashioned scrapbook. Print out your photos, have fun touching them, closing your eyes and getting a sense of each scene and then pasting them into a scrapbook, which you then use to stimulate your creative juices as you write.

Want to leave your legacy?

If this has stimulated your desire (and I hope that it does) to write a memoir, kick start the process with this method and then head over to Udemy and enrol on Writing your life story – turning memories into memoir. Readers of this blog can enrol using this coupon code this will enable you to take the course for $15 (normal price $97).

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