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What Is The Best Book Outline Format

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The best book outline format is the one that works best for you. Every writer is a little different. This means every format is going to be a little different. And some writers don’t even need or want to have an outline.

Yet every artist has tools they use to create something fantastic. For the writer, the book outline is one of those tools. Sometimes writing is a process of discovery, but at other times, it is a process of planning. The best book outline format for your writing style will help you accurately plan your book so writing the manuscript becomes a less complicated task.

Here are the outline options that are available to you write now.

#1. The Structured Outline.

This is your standard outline format. You start with the primary subject matter and then fill in the characters and purpose of what is going on. There are key points that are included within the outline that help to outline what needs to drive the narrative forward. This may include key dialogue points.

The advantage of this outline format is that it is very thorough. You’re essentially writing the first draft of your book when you create this outline. The disadvantage is that it takes a lot of time to create. It will take almost as long to write this outline as it will take to write the second draft of your book from this outline.

The structured nature of this outline also makes it inflexible to change.

#2. The Signpost Outline.

This outline format is perfect for those writers who cringe at the thought of actually creating an outline. It offers three basic information for each action scene, chapter, or event that occurs in the book. You need to fill in the setting, which characters are involved, and then provide a brief summary of the plot.

The plot can be as lengthy or as brief as you want it to be. This means this outline format offers you speed and some flexibility as an advantage. The disadvantage of using this format is that it requires a writer to always look at the big picture. If you prefer to write a narrative from detailed thoughts, then this isn’t the best book outline format for you.

#3. The Storyboard Outline.

This is the type of outline to use for writers who prefer to have a visual reference for their work. The details for the book are put into the pictures instead of the descriptions. You’ll need to create a one or two sentence summary of each scene, then create a sketch of that scene based on how you see it playing out.

The advantage of this outline format is that it is very thorough. It allows you to see every scene in your book and be able to write based on the scenes instead of using a chronological method. The disadvantage is that it is such a flexible format that it can cause writers to second-guess themselves. If you’re not a visually-orientated person, it can also be difficult to find a narrative based on the images and a brief summary.

#4. The Notecard Outline.

This outline format is a good compromise between the storyboard outline and the structured outline. You will place the various settings onto notecards. Every character receives a notecard as well. You’ll then create different scenes, dialogue, and scenarios that you want to have happen, giving you a visual representation of your book without the need to sketch out an actual graphic.

The advantage of this outline format is that it is extremely flexible. You move the cards based on what you believe will be the best order for the narrative. It’s a lot easier to find plot holes in a story idea with this method as well.

The disadvantage of this outline format is that it gets to be very bulky. If you use paper notecards, then you’ll have no electronic backup for your ideas if something happens to your work.

Note: You can use an app like Evernote to create the notes for your outline as an electronic alternative.

The best book outline format is often a combination of all four of these standard format options. This because the needs of each writer tends to be a little different. Pick and choose the format characteristics that work for you, choose an outline format outright if you prefer, and then let this tool help you write something incredible.

Want more useful writing strategies, tips and tactics? Check out this post on how to write a manuscript for your book. 

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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