Pantsers, so-called because they write by the seat of their pants, start writing at the beginning of the story and basically just wing it, making it up as they go along.
Plotters, on the other hand, create outlines of their plot, characters, locations and so on. Some have outlines so detailed that they even include story beats, or one sentence placeholders that state what happens. They then expand story beats into paragraphs of scenes.
For us non-fiction writers, either method works – pantsing or plotting.
We can approach book by starting at the beginning and continuing to write to the end. This particular way of writing a book works very well when writing a memoir, or recounting experiences in case studies.
However, winging it is not as effective as deciding ahead of time what we are going to write about.
Why Outlining Works
There are very few instances where I have just started to write without having a plan in place first.
Granted, it might be just a sketch consisting of a few bullet points. But even that tiny sketch is enormously helpful in ensuring I stay on task, on topic, and top of it generally.
Gets you organized
When you create an outline, it means you are automatically organizing your thoughts into some kind of structure.
Structure is particularly important in non-fiction writing, so that you identify the topics and how they relate to one another.
Gets you focused
Once you start identifying topics, and then subtopics, it is much easier to stay on topic.
Picture this: you write down “How To Set Short Term Goals” as one of the main topics. Chances are you will not be picking subtopics that have to do stress management.
Instead, you will focus on the very specific topic of setting short-term goals.
One of the biggest barriers to writing a book is the sense of overwhelm when you think of WRITING A BOOK!!
Outlining, and thereby breaking your book down into topics and subtopics, makes the project much more approachable, as you can now see that it is simply a series of short topics.
Automatically Creates A Writing Plan
With an outline, you already have the beginnings of a book writing plan. Each subtopic can translate straight into a single task on your favourite to-do list tracker.
Chunking it down this way also means it’s easy to start to work through it, and build momentum through early success.
The key to outlining is to start.
Simply jot down the working title of your book, and follow that with some bullet points about what you’d like to cover.
Then take each bullet point and break it down further.
That’s all there is to an outline.
Simple to do, but with powerful results.