How to Write an EBook – Outlining Your eBook

The all important part 2 of writing your eBook is here and is going to be an incredibly important aspect. Not only is this the part where you actually start to commit your ideas to the screen (a profound moment for any project), but it is where you start to see just how much cool stuff there is to talk about.

How Should an Outline Look

Personally, I like an extremely detailed outline – for a couple of reasons. When I used to work on projects, well before I became a freelance writer, I would just wing it. My college papers were done the night before and I didn’t outline anything. I got away with it, but I never quite learned how to balance my ideas and ensure everything was covered.

Once I started writing eBooks for my clients, that all changed. I didn’t have the luxury of winging it because someone was paying me money to ensure they got what they wanted. If I did it half-way, I’d probably just cause myself more work. So, I learned very quickly that before I started any project I would need to outline everything I could think of for their book.

With time, I learned that this wasn’t just good for my clients’ peace of mind, but for my own writing process. It makes it sooo much easier to be able to look back and see where I am between days, especially if I take two or three days off of a project and come back to it mid-chapter.

So, I’m going to show you my in-depth outlining process. Keep in mind that you can outline however you like, but to me, this is the best way is to know exactly what you’re going to write in the book from step one.

Create a Basic Outline

Start by creating a list of things that need to be covered in your book. You’ve already done a LOT of research by now (hopefully), so start listing out everything of value related to that research. If you were writing about dog training, you would start with puppy behaviors, clicker training, house training, and so on. Write it all down in one big, messy list.

Once you have that list completed from memory, take a few minutes and start researching elsewhere to make sure you didn’t forget anything. A method I occasionally use is to sift through the table of contents in books on Amazon.com and see what other subject areas I might have missed for the niche. DO NOT steal any ideas from these books – that’s plagiarism. Rather, just see if there was a general topic area that you missed. For example, if you wrote a Dog Training book but forgot to mention leash training, your book would be missing an important part. Never copy an outline from another book. This is why you create your own list first – otherwise the urge to just copy it out would be too great.

Fleshing it Out

Once you have a full list of topics, you should start filling it in. The easiest way to start doing that is to group everything in your list together by category. These categories will be your chapters. Ideally, you should have between 6 and 15 chapters, but no less or more than that. Too few chapters makes a book too bulky. Too many chapters makes it disjointed. Keep things combined for ease of flow.

Then, when the chapters are nice and organized, create a flow chart of what will be included in each chapter. Here is a sample of what an outline for this blog post would be (pretend it’s a chapter in an eBook):

II. Outlining an EBook
A. Introduction to Outlining
B. How Should an Outline Look
C. Creating a Basic Outline
D. Fleshing it Out
E. Creating Notes
F. Some Tips

As you can see, I’ve separated the chapter as number 2, then added each subsection below. You can add additional subsections below that fairly easily. Microsoft Word or Open Office SWriter both have easy features to do this automatically.

Creating Notes

Once you’ve created your organized outline, go through and add a short sentence or set of notes next to each marker to remind yourself for later what will be included in that section. Sometimes it can help you to remember what details are most important in that part of the chapter. Here’s an example:

E. Creating Notes – Describe the need to add notes for each part of a chapter. Show example.

I’ve just told myself exactly what I should write in that section, making the process much easier for me when I am in the middle of a massive writing project.

Some Tips

If the above seems a bit vague to you, it’s on purpose. Everyone’s outline is a little different and you need to find what works for you. But, I want to be sure I give you some parting tips to keep you from being totally lost when you get started:

  • Don’t Try to Do Everything – Don’t try to cover everything in your niche. It would be impossible. A good eBook is as long as it needs to be to provide value to your reader. For that reason, aim for between 8 and 10 solid, useful pieces of information, fleshed out into chapters or subchapters as needed. If you write on 20 or 30 different topics, you may never get done.
  • You Can Always Add or Delete Things – Don’t feel like your outline is written in stone. You can always come back later and change anything you want from it at will. I like to keep it open whenever I’m researching or working on a book. That way, if I find a new idea or decide an old one is no longer good, it’s easy to delete or add.
  • Do Your Research – Don’t create an outline on only topics you know about. You should be willing and able to go out and do research on things you may not be 100% familiar with. This will add value to both the eBook and your experience.

The ideal outline is one that will prepare you for the writing process. It will create an organized timeline by which you can write your eBook without getting too overwhelmed with potential topics. If you can do that, you’ll be set when it comes time to start writing.

Next Time

In the next post, we’re going to discuss how to conduct research and gather information for your book. It may be dull, but it’s the backbone of all good content.

About Anthony

Thanks for reading my blog! I've been in the digital marketing industry since graduating college in 2006 as a writer and strategist. I have an incredible family, a son with more energy than I can fathom, and an undying love for baseball and board games.

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