How to Outline Your Book

The easiest way to begin to write a book is with an outline. An outline is like having your own book writing GPS unit as you write. With an outline in place, you always know exactly where you are and where you’re going. If you go off-course, your outline will show you where you went wrong and how to get back on track.

If you’re not used to creating content or if you’re struggling to organize your ideas, then you may be wondering how to get your outline started.

Here’s how to Outline your Book

Make Time to Brainstorm

Before you can start your outline, you’ll want to have plenty of ideas to work with. This means you’ll want to have a brainstorming session. Most of the time, you’ll only need an hour or two for your brainstorming session.

However, it’s essential that you schedule this time in your calendar. You’ll want to minimize any distractions while you’re coming up with your ideas. So pick a time of day when you’re less likely to be disturbed.

You may also want to mute your phone and any notifications if possible. Next, close your inbox and social media networks. It’s not easy to get into a creative mode if you keep stopping to check your notifications or replying to text messages.

Choose How to Brainstorm

Some people find it’s easier to brainstorm by doing a mind map. If your book is about dog training, then you might want to write Dog Training down on a sheet of paper and then begin writing other words that come to mind when you think of dog training. For example, you might add words like “dog training styles”, “dog training tools,” or “dog training resources”. Think of this as a braindump – and just let the ideas come out – good or bad.

You can also write each idea on a piece of paper, index cards, or sticky notes. On each card, write just one phrase. Keep in mind these ideas don’t have to be logical or make sense just yet. Your goal is to continue generating as many ideas as you can. You can evaluate them later.

If you’d like to create a digital mind-map, you can use a service like or Mind Mup. Both have free and premium editions you can experiment with to see if you like them. If you’re looking for a program that you can download to your computer, try Free Mind. It’s open-source and 100% free to use. You can download it here.

Another possibility is brainstorming with others. Try to choose someone who understands your topic and is supportive of you and your book. When you have more than just you generating ideas, it can inspire you in new ways and help you fill in any areas you may not have thought about alone.

Take a Break from Your Brainstorm

When you’re done with your brainstorming session, put your ideas away. Take a few hours doing other things and get your mind off the project for a while. While you’re doing other things, you may get more ideas popping up. Write these ideas down and add them to your brainstorming notes but don’t go back into full brainstorming mode.

Evaluate Your Ideas

Once you’ve had some time away from your brainstorming session, come back to your notes. You’re now ready to work through them and create your outline. Start by organizing your ideas. You can think of this step like creating links in a chain. Which idea should come first? What should come next? Where do you need to put that point or those details?

As you work on organizing your ideas, you may notice a few holes in your outline. That is okay and normal. You can fill them in when the information comes to you. You don’t need an utterly perfect outline before you start writing your book.

Outlining your book should be a fun and exciting process. Remember, there are no rules when it comes to your outline. Make it your own and do what works best for you. You can make it as detailed or as simple as you want as long as it keeps you on track and helps you finish your book.

Do you need help with how to outline your book and the brainstorming process? Check out our Author Exposure Blueprint. We have several tools to help get your juices flowing and your ideas organized, such as our Book Brainstorming Planner.

Click here to get started.


Torie Mathis helps entrepreneurs, business owners, and CEOs showcase their authority with an expert book and a buzz-worthy personal brand.  She is a best-selling author, Army veteran, speaker + trainer, and your mentor to creating the business+ life you love. She is the founder of the Author Exposure Blueprint, the Smart Arsenal, and the host of SMART AF.


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