Need to get your writing organised? A book outline is a must
Good books don’t just happen, they are designed or should I say outlined. Outlining chapters give us a clear structure, a pathway from one chapter to the next, gives us direction, helps us to connect each chapter to the overall theme and helps us to answer questions that our reader may have and most importantly makes your book easier and faster to write.
There are several ways to get to the outline, my favourite is Walk the line. It is powerful because it engages with so many of your senses and it is physical. The act of moving and and focusing inwards produces some amazing results.
I designed walk the line when one of my clients was stuck on a personal life story. Intuitively I knew that an NLP timeline, or at least a variation of one would be just the ticket. It worked so well, that I played around with it and these days it is one of my most powerful outlining tools.
Walk the line – the book flow
This is a walking and making sense process which will really help cement your chapter outlines.
Get a number of A4 sheets of paper, post it’s and coloured pens. If you have a friend or partner use them to ask you questions about each chapter and to do the writing for you. If you are on your own, get a voice recorder. Find somewhere quiet to work and some floor space. I find that videoing the whole thing very useful too.
Discovering your book outline
- Using one sheet of paper per chapter, write down the first possible title. Don’t worry if it does not look right, just write it down, quickly and without much thought
- When you have done that, start laying the A4 sheets out on the floor
- Either lay them in a straight line or in a circle
- As you step onto each sheet, pause to reflect and to get a feeling, sense or image of what the chapter might be about. Give each sheet a chapter (do not write chapter numbers on them) title
- Using post it notes, jot down any words or ideas that come to mind and place these onto that chapter page
- As you step onto the next chapter consider if and how they logically flow into each other. Can you feel the connection? Make a note of any connecting words or ideas
- When you get to the end, look back and review the flow of your chapters and keep amending, until they really resonate
- Walk around looking at them, getting a bird’s eye view
- Keep changing them around until everything looks and/or feels right and makes sense
- When you are happy, put anything that does not seem to fit to one side. (Keep what you have discarded, they may prove useful)
- Do a final layout of chapters. You may want to change titles as you go along
- Leave your chapters on the floor for an hour or two or even a day so that you can reflect
- When you come back to them. Walk the line again. Fully engage your senses and as you step from sheet to sheet, you think about what the chapter is about and try to get a feel for it. If you find it difficult to feel then use another way (seeing, hearing, thinking) to make sense of what the chapter is about
- When you are happy that you have it (for now), gather them up and file them away in your book bible (a folder with everything you need for your book)
You are then ready to bring your outline to life.
CAUTION: IF YOU ARE WRITING AN EMOTIONALLY SENSITIVE BOOK, DO NOT STAND ON THE CHAPTER SHEETS, OBSERVE THEM BY WALKING ALONG SIDE. YOU WANT TO BE DISSOCIATED FROM THE CONTENT.
You now have the essence and a big picture of your book.
When we work together one to one, your book outline will be nailed before you start to write, after which writing is so much easier.