How to write a book outline for your nonfiction book

The outline for your nonfiction book is perhaps the most important part of the pre writing process.

Why? Because you are making it easy for you to write your book.

It really is as simple as that.

Plans are nothing; planning is everything. – Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) Thirty-fourth President of the USA

Planning unlocks the unconscious mind and enables what you know you want to say pour out. It triggers both a creative and a logical process to get to work. It starts with creativity, This is where you just get everything out. It is followed by logic, where you make sense of everything. Next take action. When the planning is complete it is time to write.

The beginning is the most important part of the work. – Plato (BC 427-BC 347) Greek philosopher

Oh where to start? I don´t think it matters where you start, only that you do. Post it notes and a blank wall are your best friend. Write words, anything, just get them out. I call it an ideas wall. Spend a week making word love with your ideas wall. Each time you pass, pause and write a word. After your week of words, Take a day off for reflection. When you come back start organising your words into your outline.

Reduce your plan to writing. The moment you complete this, you will have definitely given concrete form to the intangible desire. – Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) American speaker and motivational writer.

Brilliant advice. Once you have mapped out your book outline, get it into a WORD document and start putting some flesh around it. I use the what, why, how and what if formula at this stage.

  • What is this chapter about?
  • Why is it important for my reader to know this?
  • How will I share my message or get them to take action?
  • What are the benefits of reading this chapter or the consequences of not reading and taking action?

How to write a book outline for your nonfiction book

Find a process that works for you which mixes up creativity and process. Map it, reflect and write it out.

Let me know what works for you


Write a non-fiction book your way

Plan, plan, plan

The key to getting your book started (and finished) starts with a good plan. By creating a comprehensive and workable plan, the rest, as they say, will follow.

  • By planning, it makes writing your book easier
  • With a plan, you are more likely to publish your book
  • Planning will help you stay on track

About you as the planner, writer and editor

Have you ever stopped to consider how you like to learn, what steps you take in getting things done, why you work the way that you do?

In order to be more productive and effective, you need to understand yourself and the habits or patterns you have formed.

When working with you as a book coach, my job is to get the best out of you and to do that, I have to understand your learning and thinking style. When I ‘get you’ I can plan individual strategies to ensure that you get yours books planned, written and published.

It is vital that when you begin to write your book you understand your preferences, as this will help you not only get started, but also actually finish and be published.

Which are you?

Are you most comfortable, planning, writing or editing?

I ask this because aspects of planning, writing and editing your book will be easier for some than others, because each of us have preferences for the way in which we think, learn and do.

I am often gently ‘berated’ by my copy editor / proof reader Pat who I have given permission to tell me as it is. I believe it is important to recognise what you are good at and leave the rest to ‘the’ experts.

To get your book written – you have to write

  • You could write your book yourself and this is incredibly satisfying. There is nothing quite like getting to first draft.
  • When you get to first draft you could work with a developmental editor and then a copy editor and proof reader.
  • You could talk at the screen with Dragon Naturally Speaking and then work with your team to finalise.
  • Hire a ghost writer who will interview you and help you to craft your book, along with their team.

Write a non-fiction book your way

I am the ideas person, I love to write, I don’t mind editing and pulling it into shape, however, like all writers I need people on my team who will help me get published. I make no apologies that I am not brilliant at everything!

My team consists of:-

  • Accountability buddy
  • Cover designer
  • Editor / proof reader

Your team may consist of different people, but whoever they are, make sure you trust them and give them responsibility to be totally honest with you. Leave your ego at the door, you will get a much better book.

How will you get your non-fiction book written and published?


Writing a book online and blending it with other approaches

One of the challenges I come across in my book coaching business is how to provide different ways to deliver my content.

One way is providing a blended solution, which allows you the writer to take a bit from everything on offer and use it to your best advantage.

I wonder how often you have stopped to consider how you actually learn. Learning is something that we all take for granted. From the moment of conception we have been learning. Every step we have taken in our learning journey is stored in our memory banks, waiting to be called upon as the need arises. Once you have learnt something, you cannot unlearn it. Ok you may forget temporarily, but it is still coded and available for use.

There are many theories about how people learn and types of learner, I put myself into the category of an activist; which means that I like to learn by doing. I can learn by myself or with others, however, I learn better by watching and discussing with other people, so workshops always get a thumbs up. Online learning has surprisingly become a favourite of mine, the beauty of being able to pick something up as and when, is helpful and empowering. I adore books and get lots of information in that way.

For me to get something done it needs to be chunked in such a way, that I can digest it and then take action. That is I do, learn, try, reflect, get feedback and try again. It works for me. What about you?

Take a moment to consider how you like to learn, what process you might go through.

It’s a recipe

Think of it like a recipe. What are the key ingredients and the steps you take to bake that perfect cake? Or in this case write the right book for you, right now.

Blended learning is a set of ingredients which go to make up your perfect cake. You don’t have to select all of the available component parts, just the ones that work for you.

Imagine these two recipes:-


1 writers retreat

6 coaching sessions

4 Google hangouts


Writing a book online programme

8 coaching sessions

1 workshop

These are examples of different ways to achieve the required objectives – get your book written and published.

The implications of adopting blended learning are that:-

  • Your budget is optimized as you are not wasting money, shoe horning yourself into programmes that don’t engage you
  • When you are engaged you will take action
  • If you lack the confidence to join in workshops, you can use other methods to help you get your book written – use an online programme

What I now have is a variety of ways to help my authors get their books written. Instead of telling 10 people the same thing, I can now send over a link to the online programme and it can be viewed when it is convenient.

If online learning leaves you cold, imagine instead that it is an additional resource that your book coach can offer you. When you are laid awake wondering how to do something, you can simply log on and watch from the comfort of your bed.

Publish your own book. How will you publish?

So many people want to publish their own book, but are confused with the choices available.

How to publish your own book is an important question—one that often results in confusion for the poor self-published author. Mostly it comes down to not knowing how and what it will cost. There are many routes and many flavours, because this is an ever-evolving industry. Fortunately, for you, there is not a one-size fits all and you can follow different pathways depending on your needs and ultimate outcome.

I spend quite a lot of my time explaining what the pros and cons of each are to my clients. You need to review them and make a decision based on:-

  • why you are writing your book?
  • what it is you are publishing?
  • what you want to do with your book, once you have published?

Let’s look at the options, after which you can do some quick research and make an initial choice. You can change your mind later.

Publish your own book – publishing choices

Your own website or blog

Typically, you will publish your book as a PDF and either give it away for free or sell it via a shopping cart.

Self Publish (1)

You put your manuscript onto a self-publishing platform, like Lulu / Blurb / Smashbooks / Book Tango.

Self Publish (2)

You put your manuscript onto Amazon CreateSpace (Print on demand) Kindle Direct Publishing (digital – Kindle) platform and they manage and enable your books to be printed and distributed.

Printer / publisher

You give your manuscript to a printer / publisher and they will take your manuscript, convert it ready for print, and handle your warehousing and distribution. They will additionally format your manuscript for print and digital, and then upload to online platforms such as Amazon.

Hybrid Publisher (supported self publishing)

You place your manuscript with imprints such as Balboa Press (Hay House) or Author Solutions (Penguin). Hay take your manuscript and depending on your package will provide a number of services and publish you.

Agent to publisher

This route depends on your agent. They will want a book proposal or possibly the completed book and then will find the best publisher for you. Terms will depend on negotiations.

My favourite route

Self Publish (2) with Amazon

  • Level of control: You create and manage your own accounts and Amazon provide some support to ensure that your book can be printed
  • Typical process: You upload your manuscript and cover. Amazon do technical checks, but do not check your manuscript editorially
  • Royalties: After Amazons share – all yours
  • Advantages: Your book is available from Amazon worldwide. They also offer a whole range of additional services. Amazon are the most well-known platform for books – more opportunities to sell

Whichever route you take, you will still have to build your platform and be prepared to market and sell your book.

Guy Fawkes, a fly on the wall and telling the tale

Imagine the scene on the 20 May 1604, at the Duck and Drake. Five conspirators gathered together to discuss how to assassinate King James and replace him with Princess Elizabeth. You a fly on the wall being privy to this most daring deed. What might you make of it? Would you be in agreement or against such a plan? How would you connect to the values of the dastardly plotters?

What if you, the fly, were able to follow each man on his journey to create what might have been a catastrophic event. What would you report? From which persons perspective? How would you craft the tale of derring do?

If you were a journalist you would, I imagine, stick to the truth as far as you were able, given the evidence available. If you were writing fiction, you would embellish the story and craft a tale to entertain the reader, all the way to the end – a fully quartered body distributed to “the four corners of the kingdom”.

As a writer of non-fiction you are neither journalist nor novelist, yet stories told in just the right way will add a certain something to your book.

Stories in non-fiction are a great way to get a point across, by enabling the reader to make an emotional connection to the tale that you are telling.

You can share:-

  • Real life experiences – yours
  • Real life experiences – others

When telling stories it’s important that you steal from our fiction friends. Remember that we humans live ‘stories’ every day and then when our eyes close we dream in stories. Stories are what connects us.

  1. Read fiction so that you can learn how to write stories
  2. Find stories that resonate with you. Ask why they do. Strong storytelling compels the mind to listen
  3. Remember that every story has a beginning, middle and end, so if you start a story in a chapter, remember to end it
  4. Every story has a turning point – something that changes the protagonist – this is what your reader will identify with. Ask what the turning point in your story is?

Each of us has a story that can move others to emotion and action. As you learn the skill of storytelling, you will be able to tell stories that compel your readers to ‘stay tuned’ to the adventure. An adventure that could include elements that identify you, them and the action you want them to take.

Books speak to both heart and head and to connect to your reader. you are looking at how you convey a sense of shared values and how you build trust. Well written stories will engage people in way that helps them to interpret why they should change their world. It provides a level of motivation to change and take relevant action.

Going back to Guy

His story might cover how he came to choose to express his values, to the extent that he was willing to risk his life to change the way that the country and government were being run. Your focus might be on his childhood, his upbringing and various choice points he made throughout his life. The story of his life would communicate and help your reader to understand why he acted as he did.

His story would then share the reasons he acted as he did ‘in the now.’ He had a challenge to face and was determined that this was the only way. More choices. You can see clearly what he wanted his outcome to be and what his vision of the future was.

In connecting the back story to the now, you can explain why he was called to make the choices he did, what his challenges were and how they were overcome.

Of course sadly Guy’s tale didn’t have a happy ending for him – but you get my point. Challenge – choice – outcome.

Adding relevant stories

When you have the outline for your book and have chosen the chapter framework, now is the time to consider which stories where.

  • Ask why would you put that story in?
  • How does it link to the rest of the text?
  • What action do you want your reader to take once they have read and connected to it?
  • How do you want them to feel?
  • Identify the challenge, choices and the desired outcome
  • Practice reading your stories to colleagues and friends – do they get it?
  • Read other authors books who use storytelling and de-construct them so that you can understand why the stories work. Then work out how, you can make yours resonate with your reader.

But most of all listen for the stories that are going on all around you every day – what makes them good stories? What about your stories – who is listening and interacting – ask why?

Happy storytelling and don’t forget to light some sparklers and have a ball.




Pre planning your business book, questions to ask

Got a book to write and don’t know where to start? Start with some pre-planning.

Here are a range of questions which are designed to get you thinking about your business book plan.

  1. Without thinking what is the book title?
  2. What is is about?
  3. Why are you writing the book?
  4. What will it do for your business?
  5. What will it do for you?
  6. Why would anyone read it, what do they get out of it?
  7. What does your reader learn?
  8. What research do you need to do?  Who can help you? How will you do your research?
  9. Which customers can you ask to be case studies?  What benefits did they get from your work or ideas? What innovations did they implement?
  10. What photos or illustrations do you need? How will you get them?
  11. How will you test your plans or theories?
  12. Thinking about the flow of your book, list each of the chapters?
  13. Now you have the chapter list, what will each chapter cover (be brief)?
  14. Who has the data, information and knowledge to make this book possible?
  15. What makes you (or your colleagues, or your business) an expert in this area?
  16. What makes the book stand out from it’s competitors?
  17. If you could visualise your book on the bookshelves, which other books would it nestle alongside?
  18. Someone walks to the area of the bookshop which sells your kind of book, describe the person, let your imagination run wild.
  19. You’ve decided to use your book to promote your business, how will this book help?
  20. What is your marketing strategy for this book?  What is the cost? Who will do the marketing?

Yes lots of questions.  Just take your time, brainstorm or journal over a week or so, you will be really pleased that you stopped to think.

Sharing the heart of your brand in your book

Before you start to write a book, especially one which you will use to promote your brand, you need to get connected to your heart.

At the centre of your brand is you and your heart. If your heart is not in what you are doing or things don’t seem to be flowing then clearly something is not quite right, and you will never write the right book.

Your brand is after all, your authentic, really, amazing, truly talented self. It is still the small child that went out to play without boundaries, who explored the woods and followed rainbows.

Rainbows aside, getting to the heart of your brand can be tough. Some of the best ways that I know are to use visualization and creativity techniques. These will work depending on the kind of person you are and how open you are to trying new ways to explore you. So remember to adapt anything to suit you and have some fun.

When you visualise your brand, think of it as the book of your life. Add into the mix, all of your incredible knowledge, skills and experiences. Smile as your recall what you know, connect to the true inner you and be clear that you do have something that needs sharing.


Have a pen and paper ready to write down what you ‘see’. Clearly read this through a few times to understand what to do – or record it so that you can guide yourself through the steps.

  • Get into a comfortable place
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths
  • Imagine a large heart in the sky
  • Colour or decorate it in anyway you fancy
  • Imagine coming from the heart centre are words that describe you, your brand and your book
  • As they emerge from the centre they will want to either fly off of wrap themselves around your heart, let what ever needs to happen, happen
  • When you feel that you are ready to stop, check in with your physical heart by placing a hand on it
  • Breathe in your brilliance and connect your heart to your visualized heart and your brilliant words
  • Draw your heart into you to and say thank you
  • Sit quietly and process, when you are ready, write down what came up for you
  • Only you will know how this exercise resonates with you and the meaning of the experience. It is important that you do not judge, merely accept and then leave and reflect. Once you have reflected do the following:-
  • Draw a heart at the centre of a page and write about you and your brand in anyway that feels right.
  • Reflect and ask what next?

The words, I hope will give you a sense of what book you will want to write. It may not make sense just yet. Trust the process, maybe sleep on your words. As you go about you life over the next week, notice what you notice. I am sure by this time next week, you will be brimming with ideas.

If you would like to share, you know where to find me.

Halloween, fairy dust and your book

Halloween is a time say goodbye to summer, prepare for winter and to remember dead, saints and other martyrs. It (possibly) has Pagan roots and has connections with Samhain, one of the most celebrated Pagan festivals. According to some, Samhain and Halloween are the same, simply dressed up (sic) in different ways. Samhain is a great time to think of kicking out the old and bringing in the new.

On the eve of the New Year (for witches), consider what spells you could cast, that would help you to focus your energies on creating the book of your life. Or at the very least the essential skills and inspirational message that you want to impart to your followers.

Ask the fairies to bring some mischief into your life, stir your intentions and help you to connect to the deepest parts of you. When you go to sleep on All Hallows Eve, sprinkle some fairy dust, ask for help and in the morning be ready with your pen.

New Year new habits

Knowing that it’s a great time for you to start a different kind of New Years resolution, what might you do to kick start your book project?

This is a wonderful time to look to the future and consider how, what you know could be used to help others to kick-start their lives. By sharing your knowledge or life story, it lives on – which is part of what All Hallows day is all about – remembering the dead. That’s not to say that your work is dead, simply to say that unless you get it out of your head and share it, it might as well be. And if you do get it out, it can be remembered and used long after you have popped back to the soul place. Your piece of immortality.

Create writing rituals

Now that you have decided, New Year, new book, it’s time to think how will you get it written. For me, I like rituals. Processes that make my writing life easier. Rituals from getting my environment right, how I write, how I edit, how I might publish and all of the things in between that are designed to make my writing life simpler and stress free.

Take and use this opportunity

Personally I never make New Year (Jan 1st) resolutions, it feels commercialised and a waste of time. Because I know that ‘everyone’ is setting goals, I want to rebel and say sod it. What better way then, to use this opportunity to celebrate the cycle of death (the old you who can’t be bothered) and rebirth (the new you that feels motivated). This is a wonderful time to connect with you and honour what you have to offer the world through your words.

What will you write?

When I ended my marriage earlier this year, I made a promise to myself that I would, once my writers retreat was completed write my first novel. This marks a time for me to wrap up the old and prepare for the new in my life. I have in actual fact been sorting stuff out for the past few months, but now I feel a sense of excitement, knowing that I can have fun, write and pave a new way forward.

Who is with me? I start writing on Nov 9th.

If you can lick it – reuse your knowledge

Between 1947 and 1956 an amazing discovery was made along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, writing in the form of scrolls hidden in secret caves. It is thought that either a Jewish sect called the Essenes wrote all the parchment and papyrus scrolls or that a number of communities compiled them, hiding them around the outbreak of the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66-70). The scrolls which contain stories about biblical figures, bring new light and understanding to our knowledge of both Judaism and Christianity. The importance of the scrolls is that they provide us with a knowledge map of how the bible may have been compiled and was shared from generation to generation.

There is a sense of amazement when the discovery of lost knowledge comes to light. New understanding enables us to artfully re-use, re-cycle, rework, casting a pathway that propels you through the labyrinth of your own data collections, gathering together vital pieces of information, forming new knowledge, wisdom and new creations – your book.

People often get into a bit of a muddle when it comes to what data, information and knowledge is, so let’s get clear:-

  • Data – individual attributes
  • Information – collection of data, made meaningful and provides answers to “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when” questions
  • Knowledge – the application of data and information and provides answers  to “how” questions.  The stuff that sits in our subconscious
  • Understanding and learning – the bit that happens when we begin to appreciate the “why”
  • Wisdom – what we get after we have evaluated everything.  The vision from which innovation occurs

In the world of knowledge management there is also a handy formula – Tacit knowledge + Explicit knowledge = knowledge

  • Tacit is what is in your head and needs articulating
  • Explicit is what you already have – i.e. you can lick it

If you have been around for a while, you will probably have enough material on your blog or on your computer to write many books. Turning your unique knowledge into a saleable asset, says more than any business card ever could.

In a nutshell, you can:-

  • Transform existing data, information and knowledge to add value to the processes and operations of the business, to enable growth and innovation
  • Use existing knowledge to provide a competitive advantage for the business
  • Use what you can lick to write a book

You are now faced with the knowledge challenge…

The knowledge challenge

Knowing what you know can be a challenge. What has already been articulated (and what is in our heads) needs documenting and mapping out. It is often more efficient to map out the stuff you can lick first.

To make sense of your knowledge you need to locate it, create a map of what you want (your book outline), where it is and how to access it.

The knowledge map and audit

A knowledge map (your book outline) is useful way to organise related information in a structured manner that facilitates comprehension by showing the connections between the information pieces.

The knowledge audit is discovering where everything that you already have is. Your job is to find out what you have and where it is.

Imagine you are writing a book on better health for menopausal women. You may have knowledge, information and data on better health as an overall subject, followed by types of diets, foods, nutrients, digestive system, reproduction, etc.

  1. Map out the parts. This can be done with post it notes, mind mapping software or as a list
  2. Think keywords and start a search on your computer
  3. Move what you find to a relevant location or at least mark it up on your knowledge audit sheet
  4. Next assess it’s use
  5. Put in order
  6. Read and decide what you can use
  7. Put what is useable into placeholders in each chapter
  8. Read, reflect and edit
  9. Perfect and publish

By re-purposing your content, you can make use of the same ideas, thoughts, processes etc. but create something original and unique from it. Not only can you re-purpose your existing content for a book, you can also refresh it and develop other products alongside it which complement your book. When you undertake your knowledge audit consider how else you might use this content.

Food for thought?