Like a railway line keeping a train on course, an outline for your next non fiction piece or written product will do the same. Not only does it help keep you focused, but it also makes your job a lot easier. You not only know what comes next, but you’ve got the freedom to jump around to different parts of your text on days when you’ve more interest in writing those parts.
Writing an outline before you start also allows you to put into place all the information you’re going to need, because later when your mind’s working on the text, it can be easy to forget an important piece of information that would have made your book/product even better. This is where brainstorming ideas and topics before you begin can save you from that mistake.
Depending on your audience and what you’d like to cover, there are three routes you can go down.
The Beginner To Advanced Outline
As the heading suggests, this outline is everything a beginner is going to need to get them from where they are to becoming a master of it.
So depending on your topic you’ll need…
An introduction to the topic you’ll be discussing, followed by the least technical part of your topic. For example, if this was on dog training, this could be as simple as buying the right dog and a break down of all the steps that are needed to get them through they’re ‘buying a dog’ phase. Then once you’ve got the basics in place, you’ll bring your reader’s knowledge up to an advanced level by adding more advanced information.
Like a curve graph or chart, you’re going to take your reader from a position of zero smoothly up to where they need to be using the following outline.
- Introduction to topic.
- Step-by-step instructions. – Starting at the lowest level information and working your way up.
- Close the section with a recap. – To make sure your reader has the knowledge in place for the next more advanced section.
- Repeat the process for next section.
- Close out with a summary, recommended resources, etc.
Once you’ve got that in place, the next section will follow the same logical pattern. Each one building on the one before and increasing your readers knowledge. You can then close out your piece with a summary of what you’ve covered, and any recommended resources that the reader might want to know about.
Step By Step Outline
Again an easy outline to follow, it’s simply a step-by-step process. Like following a recipe, your reader will go from knowing nothing all the way up to that moment when they’re taking their cake from the stove.
Like before, you want to introduce your reader to the topic and explain what they’ll know after going through this section, then it’s a simple matter of following through on what you said you’d do.
As you’re going through all the steps you’re going to cover, pay particular attention to any steps that may need to be broken down even further, and require steps of their own.
- Introduction – Discuss what you’re going to be doing.
- Layout the steps. – Starting at the very first work your way to the last one. – But pay attention to any steps that need to be broken down into smaller ones/or need more explanation?
- Close the section with advanced tips/warnings/mistakes/things to watch out for, to make sure your reader knows exactly what they’re doing.
- Repeat the process if needed.
- Close out with final thoughts, summary, or recommended resource section.
Depending on what you’re writing you may be able to go from nothing, all the way through to step 21 where they’ve completed the task, or you may have to use this layout from chapter to chapter. Like before you can finish you piece with a recap, words of advice from you, or a recommended resource section for your reader to further their knowledge.
General Purpose Outline
If the type of book you’re going to write doesn’t fall under either of the above you can use a general outline instead. This outline may be useful if you’re giving your reader a history of the topic, or an overhead view that doesn’t involve any deep knowledge.
When outlining with the general purpose outline your path is simply taking the first topic your reader should know about, go through a general history of the topic, and explain how it’s relevant to the reader. Again because this outline is an overhead view you don’t have to go into anything too advanced but you can add advice and tips for the reader to make more use of the topic.
- Introduction of the topic.
- Overhead general view of the history and anything relevant that your reader should know about the topic.
- Close out with tips that can add to your readers knowledge of the topic.
- Repeat the process, topic by topic until you’ve covered all you need.
- Close out with either a summing up or a further reading section for your reader.
As you can see, outlining your next nonfiction or product isn’t difficult if you take the time to brainstorm and get everything on paper first. Once you do, you’ll have, like the step-by-step outline above, a simple framework you can follow. Once you have it it’s just a matter of slotting your content into the outline that suits your book and you’re on your way.
If you’re not sure what to cover in your piece, spend some time on Google, AskThePublic.com, or use the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon to find out what questions, topics, and what other writers are putting in their books in your niche.
Now all you’ve got to do is write it. 🙂