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WRITING YOUR BOOK

Using an Outline as Your Book’s Guidance System

Are you as reliant on your GPS as I am? I’m one of those people who don’t do well with north, south, east or west directions, but tell me to make a turn in 200 feet and I’m good. Guidance systems come in handy in many parts of lives; however, they may look different than the computerized version in our cars.

Robin Kellogg

September 15, 2021

Are you as reliant on your GPS as I am? I’m one of those people who don’t do well with north, south, east or west directions, but tell me to make a turn in 200 feet and I’m good. Guidance systems come in handy in many parts of lives; however, they may look different than the computerized version in our cars.

Some may be index cards, sticky notes, outlines, storyboards, or mind maps. We use them everyday in our personal and business lives. Our “GPS systems” provide the structure we need to successfully go from Point A to Point B. They not only determine where B is, but tell you what it will look like when you get there. If you only have a vague idea of what you will encounter when you arrive at B, you may be in for a few unwelcome surprises.

To avoid this, I have always used outlines for anything I write, which I suggest to participants in my workshops.

One of the questions I ask authors is if they’ve outlined their story idea or decided to wing it. I have found authors who have done it both ways; however, the ones who have been most successful in completing their books and satisfied with the end product are those who have organized the story beforehand.

Outlines provide structure, and that’s what every book needs. I find that outlines not only keep track of the direction you want your story to go in, but allow you to easily rearrange scenes and keep your story cohesive.

A traditional outline starts with a numbered list. Subcategories in that list are assigned letters beginning with A. However, as I mentioned, if you are the type of person who is more carefree, less organized and or doesn’t like playing by conventional rules, there are alternatives for you.

  • Index cards. This is an excellent choice if you want to write down a chapter heading or a few words to sum up a section of your book. You can leave the index cards separate or use a hole-punch and insert a ring through them. Either way allows you to move the outline around without having to redo anything.
  • Storyboard. Storyboarding using index cards or sticky notes is another option. Use a presentation size board and secure the cards or notes to it. You can move them around until they’re in the order you want your story to be.
  • Write a letter about it. Write a short essay about your book, with each paragraph being a different topic or concept you want to cover.
  • Record it on your phone, or even better, record yourself on one of the speech-to-text programs. You also have this option if you have the newer version of Microsoft Word.

The idea is to get all that information out in any form you are most at ease with because that book idea is only an idea until you speak it or write it.

If you’ve put off creating a structure for your book because you were intimidated by an outline or didn’t know how to go about it, I can help.

As a writer and book development coach, I guide individuals through the book writing process, from how to outline their stories to how to market their book afterwards, and I can help you too.

You can reach me at Robin Kellogg Associates, 818-631-6848, or via email at robin@yourwritingresource.com.

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