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The final step in my Writing Project Planning Phase is to get your book outlined and / or get your notes together for your book.

I know that outlining is a bit controversial for those “stream of consciousness” writers out there. I read a Nora Roberts interview where she gets a general idea and simply sits down to write. Unfortunately, none of us are Nora Roberts (except Nora), nor prolific enough as writers to perform at her level. . .yet.

Part of my day job demands I sit down and write technical document on the fly. That is how I treat timed writing prompts and I personally have no problem working without an outline. But in my experience, having some sort of outline helps tremendously for the following partial list of reasons:

  • Makes the daunting task of writing a 200-500 page book into smaller doable units (aka. chapters).
  • Tangents while writing happens! Outlines help us stay on track.
  • Knowing what you’re going to write next helps you write faster and in turn be more efficient at hitting your writing goals.
  • You can’t have the character blind in chapter 3, but watching a sunrise in chapter 22, without something in between. Outlining helps work out these challenges ahead of time.
  • When an outline tells you what needs to come next in your book, helps overcome writer’s block
  • Outlines are not written in stone! You can still be spontaneous as characters or topics take over sections. Outlines can be revised to meet these times of inspiration.

Fiction Outlining

There are several examples for fiction novel outlining:

There are hundreds of books on outlining your novel. Find one that works for you!

Non-Fiction Outlining

Pull almost any non-fiction book off the shelf and I think you’ll find the following common traits:

  • What problem is the book hoping to help solve for the reader
  • What are the benefits to the reader in continuing to read the book
  • What are the obstacles to overcoming the main problem addressed by the book
  • Solution steps the reader can take to overcome the problem
  • Small stories intermixed to prove various points
  • References to other credible sources that further support the author’s points

Exercise: Start working on an outline for your book

Next Post: We’ll start looking at Execution Phase of the writing project

Set the timer for 10-minutes and try this writing prompt.

Writing prompt #0014


Watching my kid today try and play volleyball at youth group made me think of the following prompt:

Write about a sport you thought you’d be terrible at but either found you could hold your own or write about a sport you weren’t very good at in the beginning but later fell in love with.