by Christine Sine.
Here is the last of the 4 part series I am posting on the writing process.
For the entire series, which is a bit of a book in itself!:
Step Seven: Create an outline.
Once you have your topic idea formed, begin outlining the chapters and/or sections of your book. Think from the end of the book first. What do you want your readers to walk away with at the end? Once you have a general idea of how your book will end, create the outline moving toward that end.
Things to consider: Is there a sequence in the learning from start to finish of the book or will each chapter provide an individual lesson that combine together to lead to the final outcome?
- Are there stories you would like to use to highlight the message of each chapter? Sometimes writing the outline stirs your memory of personal stories that will strengthen your book. At other times you might need to get together with friends, colleagues or workshop attendees to solicit their help in gathering stories. When I wrote my first book Tales of a Seasick Doctor about my experiences on board the Mercy Ship Anastasis, I organized a couple of evenings together with colleagues from those days. We shared stories, laughed and cried together over our memories and all left the evenings enriched, renewed and full of faith. Start writing these down as they come to mind. A special notebook or computer file can be helpful for this.
- Are there exercises you would like the reader to participate in at the end of each chapter to reinforce the message of that chapter? Again a special notebook in which you gather these might be useful. Enlist the help of friends or blog and social media followers in both identifying and testing these ideas.
- Would it be good to create a study guide to help people walk through your book? I usually don’t think about this until a book is completed, but it would be much easier to work on a study guide in conjunction with your book draft. Again enlist the help of friends in testing this.
I find that creating a skeletal outline is an easy and quick way to get my ideas on paper as I get started. Start with chapter headings and then ask yourself – what is the main idea I want to communicate in this chapter? Write a sentence or 2 that describes this idea what you want the reader to get out of this chapter. Subtitles in your outline might help you break down the elements you want to convey here. And as I mentioned above all of this will help you know where you need to do more research.
Step Eight: Write, Rewrite and polish.
Getting your initial draft written is incredibly satisfying and very important. It’s a little like erecting the framework for a new house. Once the exterior is framed out, the roof on and windows inserted, you can start working on the more detailed interior work but it does not work to do a little framing and a little finishing work at the same time.
The faster you can get your first draft together the better. So as you write, don’t constantly review and critique your work. Just write. You can always go back through the book many times to re-write and edit if you don’t like something. But it will give you a huge boost to just finish the book and stay committed to the process.
Read writer Anne Lamott’s book on writing, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, and you’ll learn the value of crappy first drafts. The most experienced writers have them.
Once you finish the book, set it aside for a few days or a couple of weeks. Distance yourself from the manuscript. Then go back and read over the entire book again, correcting mistakes, rewriting sections as necessary, cutting out wordy parts, and tightening it up. Take out words and passages that aren’t absolutely crucial to the story or message.
Go through this process a couple of times until you feel pretty good about what you’ve written. But don’t get stuck in the editing process. Once you review your masterpiece a couple of times, get your advisory team to read it too. Solicit their feedback, make changes where appropriate and then turn it over to a professional.
Step Nine: Find a professional editor.
Even the most experienced, professional writers use editors. You don’t want a book full of inconsistencies, grammatical errors, and misspellings. You also want to make sure the book flows properly, and that your usage of words is correct. A good editor polishes and refines the book before publication.
The editor checks facts and verifies headings, statistics, data in graphs, and footnote entries. For fiction, the editor will check for consistency and logic, and will read with the needs of the audience in mind. Start by finding out what kind of editing help your publisher provides.
Don’t skimp on editing your book. Don’t recruit a friend or an inexperienced college student. If you are self publishing or working with a publisher that provides little editorial help, you’ll have to pay for a good editor, but you want to make sure you are releasing a professional work. If your book is filled with errors and inconsistencies, you’ll get bad reviews and people won’t buy the book. Also it will damage your credibility as a writer.
Step Ten: Publish and Market it!
Get your book out there as quickly as possible. If you plan to contact publishing houses it is best to begin as soon as possible in the process. They will want to see a proposal which will include information on audience, research you have done, an outline and sample chapters. They will also want to know what platform you already have that will enable you to market this book.
You may like to try and find an agent. Otherwise look at who published other books on similar topics to yours and send an email of enquiry. If you plan to self publish experiment with the templates on createspace.com or similar site or contact one of the organizations that helps walk an author through the process of self publishing.
With every book you write and publish, you’ll learn more and become a better writer. You’ll be inspired by other writers as you research and read more about writing and publishing. Everyone has to be a beginner in the beginning, but the more you write, the more of an expert you’ll become.