Getting Started for Authors Tip: Why Having an Outline Keeps You Focused

The 31 Days of Author Tips features the advice from Jenn Grace and other authors, publishers, and people in the writing industry. From hearing Publish Your Purpose Press Founder and CEO,  Jenn T. Grace, you’ll learn the basics of the writing process as well as more intricate details and tips not found anywhere else. You’ll learn how to be better prepared when you set out to write your story. Whether you are writing a memoir or any non-fiction where a piece of your story is shared, you’ll be better equipped for success after having listened to these tips.

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Author Tip Transcript

Guest tipster: Mark David Gibson, Author of Served in Silence

An outline includes Points A, B, C and a conclusion.

An outline is like a fishbone with smaller thoughts branching out from a center, stabilizing spine. You set the spine with the purpose of your book, and then create an outline of your story, message, themes, onto the bones. You could drill down and outline your chapters from there.

Using block writing (aka free writing), no self-correcting or editing, you can then take the meat and put it on the bones of the fish.

From a birds-eye view, an outline allows you to see where your content is heavy, where it’s light; what you want to add or take away.

Some people want very detailed outlines and others like it brief. Some people take post-it notes, write only as much as can fit to ensure that the outline is as focused and concise as possible, and then display the post its on a wall, a board, a window, a flip-chart, so they can be moved around and arranged as makes sense. From there, you can type an outline into your software or document.

One software that can help you organize an outline is Scrivener. You can move things around as if they are on post-it notes until it all makes sense and then, later, you can go in and fill in content around the outline.

If you have co-writers, test readers, an editor, a publisher, designers, etc. (your team), you might find it helpful to use software that can encourage collaboration. Basecamp allows multiple people to pass a document back and forth to contribute to the end product, edit, add comments and provide feedback. People can add photos for viewing. And the program offers to-do lists, contact storage, timelines with deadlines, and the ability to assign different members of the team to any or all of the above.

Story, Problem, Solution – write every little thing that crosses your mind and figure out what fits

For people that crave structure, outlining can allow you to relax as the structure is there for you to review any time.

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