Some writers are able to sit down and craft a narrative from start to finish without the use of an outline. Freewheeling might be fun to do, but for most writers, it leads to a narrative that is filled with inconsistencies. That is why it is important to know how to start writing a book outline.
Book outlines do take some time to develop, but they also make the actual writing process go quickly. Follow these steps and you’ll be able to create a great outline for your next book.
#1. Begin your outline by crafting your premise.
The premise of your book is the basic idea that you’re looking to talk about within your narrative. These are the key points you are trying to make to the reader. You don’t have to be overly thorough with the details of these key points at the beginning. Just a few words about what you hope to be doing.
#2. Begin to sketch out your scenes.
Once you have the key points of your narrative settled, it is time to start providing those ideas with added supports. This means it is time to create a few of the scenes which will help to push the reader along through the narrative. Think about what you’d like to have happen, how it will happen, and why the scene should be present in your book and tie everything back to those key points.
#3. Become a narrative journalist.
Your scenes are just the background settings for your book. A good book outline will also involve the characters who will be involved in those scenes. Put on your journalist hat and interview your characters for your outline. See what they would say or do in those circumstances. Then put the answers you receive into the outline with the scenes so your narrative can have more depth.
#4. Now it’s time to start exploring.
You have some basic scenes developed. You have character information. Now it’s time to begin giving your book outline some depth. Explore the details of your settings so that they will be able to feel real to the reader. What are the sounds your characters may hear? Are the scents in the air? What in the scene could benefit the characters in some way? What could hurt them? These questions will help provide even more forward momentum for your writing.
#5. Complete your first outline draft.
You’ll need to complete Steps 2-4 for each chapter of your book. Keep going until you’ve come up with a natural conclusion for your story. Be as thorough with the details as you possibly can so that even the outline seems like a narrative summary. This will allow you to review your plots, the details of your ideas, and how you plan to get your characters from the beginning to the end of your narrative.
#6. Then you must condense your outline.
Up until this step, your book outline has been an uninhibited creative process. Anything and everything you’ve thought might be important to your book has been included. Now it is time to start removing the elements that don’t make sense to the key points you’re trying to make. You may need to eliminate scenes, change characters, or make other changes to give your narrative the consistency it needs.
#7. Start writing.
Once you’ve developed your final condensed outline, you are ready to begin the writing process. Follow the steps you’ve created, scene by scene, to develop the narrative which communicates your key points to your intended audience. Try to give yourself at least 45 minutes each day where you can just sit down and write.
#8. Be willing to change.
As you are writing, you might feel like some of the details, scenes, and characters aren’t making a whole lot of sense. Don’t just try to forge through the creative process. Listen to your gut feeling. Go back to your outline and make changes if you feel they are necessary. That way you’ll be able to develop the narrative you want instead of one that you feel like you must have.
The benefit of knowing how to start writing a book outline is that you don’t have to start a book at the beginning and then work your way to the end in a chronological fashion. You can write specific sections of the book, guided by the outline, whenever the creative process strikes. This can help you avoid writer’s block, stay consistent with your details, and eventually create the book you’ve always wanted to write.