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General Non-Fiction Books Outline

In this series of blog posts, we will be providing you with tips on how to outline your non-fiction book. We will start with these general tips that are applicable to non-fiction books such as self-help, guides, and how-to books. The next post will provide you with tips catered towards memoirs and autobiographies.

1. Establish Your Authority

When it comes to non-fiction books, especially self-help, guides, and how-to books, make sure you can explain why your audience should listen to what you have to say. Your authority mustn’t be the result of any formal education, your experience can also be sufficient. Whatever the case, it’s best that you establish why the reader should listen to what you have to say from the onset.

2. Have a Clear & Succinct Main Idea

You should be able to write the main idea of your book in a few sentences. For example, the main idea of a motivational self-help book could be as simple as “to motivate readers to accomplish their goals.”

3. Know the Purpose of Your Book

A good way to determine your purpose is to know who the target audience of the book is, what question the book sets out to answer, how the book will answer the question, and why it is important that this question be answered.

For example, if you were writing a self-help book about parenting, then your target audience would be parents, however you can get more specific if there is a specific type of parent your book is geared towards, say, parents to autistic children. The book could be set to answer the question: “how do you parent autistic children?” As for the how, you have to think about the structure in which you are going to answer the question, and the why (as it relates to the importance in answering the question) should guide the content of the book.

4. Choose a Structure for the Book

When deciding how to structure your book, we advise that you take time out to think about the most logical way to set up the book so that it clearly answers the question therein. The type of book you are writing will dictate the structure of the book. Let’s say, you’re writing an autobiography, the the most obvious order will be chronological. Memoirs can be chronological as well, but they are not always. Things can get a bit trickier when it’s a how-to book, guide, or a self-help book.

5. Decide on Topics to Cover

Your book’s outline should contain the topics that you’d like to cover. The purpose of your book, specifically the “how” and “why” of your book, will dictate the topics that you cover. Using the parenting book for parents of autistic children, for example. With the how being, “how to parent autistic children,” let’s say some tips include: “be consistent.” That could be a topic in of itself as you explain why consistency is important and give different scenarios that show the impact of consistency.

6. Do Your Research & Cite Your Sources

Providing accurate information is an important part of writing a non-fiction book. If you are presenting information as fact and providing statistics, be sure to verify that information and cite your sources. This important because your entire book will lose credibility if some information you’ve provided can be disproven.

7. Arrange & Rearrange Topics for a Logical Flow

As mentioned before, structure is very important in a non-fiction book. That’s why it’s good to have it listed in your outline that way the topics are in front of you and you can figure out if they make sense in the order they are written. While it’s important to nail your topics down in your outline, it’s okay if during the writing process, you find that it’s best to rearrange the order of the topics, even if it’s late in the process and after you’ve already written the content for each topic.

8. Create Chapters Centered on the Main Points

The first tip we gave was that you should be able to state in a few sentences what the main idea of the book is. Accordingly, make sure that each chapter in some way relates to the main idea of the book. Compiling your chapters may require that you group certain topics together.

We hope you found these tips helpful. Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions.

In the next blog post, we will be providing you with additional tips to help you create a killer outline for your memoir/autobiography.

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