How to outline a nonfiction book (with template)

Master the art of outlining a nonfiction book with our comprehensive guide. From organizing your research to structuring your content, discover how to create a clear blueprint for your book with Craft's own template.



Craft Author: Sam Baldwin
Sam Baldwin

Nonfiction book writing can be a challenging task, especially when it comes to organizing and presenting the information clearly and concisely.

This is where a book outline template comes in—it acts as a blueprint for the writing process, providing structure and guidance.

This guide will explore the importance of outlining and how to outline a nonfiction book with a handy template. So, whether you're writing a memoir, a self-help book, or a nonfiction guide, read on to learn how to outline a nonfiction book and take your writing to the next level.

What is a Book Outline?

A book outline is a comprehensive plan outlining a book's structure, content, and organization. It acts as a roadmap for the writing process, helping authors to focus their ideas, organize their thoughts, and ensure a consistent flow throughout the book.

A book outline can take many forms, from a simple bullet-point list to a detailed chapter-by-chapter plan. However, a more comprehensive (and more helpful) outline includes details like character and setting descriptions.

There are two main types of outlines for writing books: the topic outline and the sentence outline. The topic outline provides a broad overview of the book's structure and content, listing the main topics and subtopics to be covered. The sentence outline provides a more detailed view of the book, including the specific points and arguments to be made.

An outline provides a clear plan for the writing process, helping authors to focus their ideas and write more efficiently. Outlining can also streamline revisions and edits by providing a book roadmap and a sense of direction and focus to the writing process, reducing stress and anxiety.

Do You Need an Outline for a Nonfiction Book?

The use of a book outline is a highly debated topic in the world of writing, with some authors preferring to jump straight into the writing process without a plan, while others believe that outlining is essential to the success of a book.

So, do you need an outline for a nonfiction book? There are several benefits to using an outline for a nonfiction book. An outline can help you:

  • Improve writing efficiency by providing a clear plan for the writing process.
  • Enhance organization and clarity by ensuring that the information is presented logically and is easy to follow.
  • Streamline revisions and edits by providing a roadmap for the book.
  • Provide a sense of direction and focus to the writing process.

However, not all authors find outlining to be necessary. Some argue that outlines can stifle creativity and limit the freedom of the writing process. Others prefer to let the writing unfold organically, without the constraints of a pre-determined plan.

When deciding whether or not to use an outline, it’s important to consider your writing style, your goals for the book, and the type of nonfiction book you are writing. If you need help staying organized or have a tendency to get off track, an outline can be a helpful tool to keep you focused. However, if you are a more spontaneous writer who prefers to let the writing flow freely, an outline may not be the best fit for you.

How to Outline a Nonfiction Book

With the right approach, outlining a nonfiction book can be a straightforward and manageable process. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you outline your nonfiction book:

Determine the Purpose and Goals of Your Book

Before you begin outlining, you’ll want to understand your book's purpose and goals clearly. What is the message you want to convey? Who is your target audience? What do you hope to achieve with your book? Answering these questions will help you define your book's focus and direction.

Identify Your Target Audience

Knowing your target audience is crucial to the success of your book. Understanding their needs, interests, and motivations will help you tailor your book's content and structure to meet their expectations.

Research and Gather Information

Conducting thorough research and gathering information is an important step in outlining. This will help you to ensure that your book is well-informed, up-to-date, and relevant to your target audience.

Choose an Outline Format

There are many different outline formats to choose from, including topic outlines, sentence outlines, and chapter outlines. Choose the format that works best for your book and your writing style.

Outline the Introduction

The introduction is the first impression that your book will make on your reader, so it’s important to get it right. Your introduction should introduce the topic, provide background information, and state the book's purpose.

Outline the Body of the Book

The body of the book is where you will delve into the details of your topic. Divide the body into chapters, add subheadings and supporting details, and ensure consistency and cohesion throughout.

Outline the Conclusion

The conclusion is the final opportunity to make a lasting impression on your reader. Summarize the key points, offer final thoughts, and conclude the book in a memorable way.

By following these steps, you can create a comprehensive outline for your nonfiction book that will serve as a roadmap for the writing process and help you to achieve your goals. Remember to be flexible and open to making changes and revisions as needed, as the outlining process is not set in stone.

Template for Nonfiction Book Outline

You can use Craft's free book templates to get started; they will help you focus on the content and structure of your book. Whether you are writing a memoir, a self-help book, or a guide to a particular subject, this template can provide a helpful starting point for your nonfiction book outline.

Final Thoughts

Outlining is a crucial step in the nonfiction book writing process, providing structure, organization, and direction to your writing journey. By using the tips and strategies outlined in this article, you can create a comprehensive and effective outline for your nonfiction book.