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Outline Your Nonfiction Book Today: A Simple Template

Outline Your Nonfiction Book Today: A Simple Template

Last week I chatted with a friend I haven’t seen in years. Back in the day, we contributed to the same magazine. The last I heard, he was writing a nonfiction book. Of course I asked him how the book went — was he traditionally published, or indie?

“I wish,” he said. “Neither. I gave up on it — it’s a mess.”

He asked me whether I had an outline or a template or something which worked for nonfiction.

Of course I do. I sent it off to him; maybe you’ll find it useful too. It’s beyond simple.

Want to write a nonfiction book? Here you go…

Create an outline. If you hate outlines, I don’t mean the kind of outline that your English teacher harassed you into creating when you were 12.

The kind of outline you need to create is one based on components.

Non-fiction is much easier to write than fiction because nonfiction books contain similar components.

Let’s have a look at some of them:

• A foreword. This is similar to an introduction, but a foreword is usually written by someone other than the author of the book. It helps if you can get someone famous to contribute the foreword. (They’ll expect payment.)

• An introduction. This is optional. If you can’t think of anything to put in an introduction, leave it out. Think of including an introduction if you want to tell your own story: how you came to get the information you’re about to share.

• A “How To Use This Book”page. This can be short, or quite long. For example, if you’re writing a book on yoga, you could use this chapter to give four or five exercise routines, compiled from the various poses that you discuss in the rest of the book.

• Chapters with problems and solutions. If you were writing a book on dieting for example, you could write seven chapters all posing a typical problem, and then provide solutions for each problem.

• The last chapter is the wrap-up. In this chapter you’ll want to give readers instructions on where they go from here, and you’ll also want to include an inspirational message.

• A glossary is useful if it will be necessary for readers new to the subject area. For example, if your ebook contains a lot of jargon with which your reader may be unfamiliar, give explanations of terminology here.

• An index. I’m always disappointed when an otherwise excellent book, that I’ll be referring to again, omits an index. I know creating an index is a hassle, but if you think your readers will use it, then go the extra mile and include it. MS Word makes this simple enough, and so does Apache OpenOffice Writer, which is free.

What you include in your nonfiction book is up to you

It’s your name on the cover, after all. And self-publishing means never having to explain yourself. 🙂

On the other hand, what if you want to go the traditional route, and hunt for a literary agent? In this case, your agent and editor will want input into your book, preferably right from the outline stage.

This can be a challenge. A few months back I worked with an author who hated the changes her editor asked her to make. There’s a simple answer to this: “Don’t make them,” I suggested. “If you think a change is pointless, just say no.”

She’s a new author, so she thinks that her editor is all-seeing, and all-knowing. I pointed out that as the author, she came up with the idea. She had a concept for her book, and knew her audience. It’s perfectly fine to refuse an editorial request. If an editor really wants a change, the editor can make a case for it, and the author might decide to make the change. Or not.

I hope this simple template helps you to write your next nonfiction book — have fun. 🙂

Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

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Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 5
Genre: Writing

You're a writer. You need to make money from your words. What if you could create AND sell a nonfiction book in just a day?

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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

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Basic Short Story Template: Keep It Simple!

Basic Short Story Template: Keep It Simple!

Readers asked for a basic short story template. On Fab Freelance Writing Blog, we’ve been talking about writing and self-publishing short fiction.

Writing short stories is an excellent strategy for any writer. Let’s look at some reasons:

  1. Money — you can sell your short fiction on the Kindle bookstore;
  2. Confidence. You can build your confidence that as a writer that you can finish and PUBLISH what you write;
  3. Promotion: you can publish short fiction as a lead-in to your novels, and build a fan-base;
  4. Fun. If your writing feels stale, writing a quick story can often rekindle your inspiration.

Plotting a Short Story: Keep It Simple

Fiction is about CHANGE. Change is uncomfortable, which is excellent. You want to knock your characters out of their comfort zone, and see what happens.

Basic Story Plot Template: Someone Wants Something, Overcomes Obstacles, and Gets It (or Not)

Here’s an easy step by step template for writing short fiction.

1. Someone — Your Main Character — Wants Something.

He wants to achieve a specific goal. He also has a hidden need. For example, your character, Fred, an accountant, might want a promotion at work. His hidden need is to build his confidence.

Write a page or two so that the reader gets to know and like the character. Are you familiar with the Hero’s Journey (HJ)? You can use various aspects of the Hero’s Journey for your short stories. The Hero is an archetype; using an archetype makes your story powerful, because unconsciously, your reader recognizes himself. We’re all on the Hero’s journey.

Step #1  of the HJ is your character’s Ordinary World.

2. Your Story Starts When Something Changes in Your Character’s Ordinary World.

This change is drastic: it results in changes in your character. In the HJ, this is The Call to Adventure.

In our example, Fred might make a mistake on a big client account. Not only isn’t he getting a promotion — he gets fired. This increases the pressure of his hidden need: it deflates the confidence he has, rather than building confidence.

3. Complications. In the HJ, This Is the Tests, and the Ordeal.

Fred goes through three complications. In a novel, he’d go through many obstacles and complications. In a short story, three are enough. Each complication makes your character’s situation worse, until the final complication, which is the Ordeal in HJ terms.

Brainstorm complications. Write down some “what ifs.”

In Fred’s story, complications could be:

  • His landlord tells him to vacate his apartment, because it’s being sold;
  • His girlfriend betrays and dumps him;
  • His mother comes to visit.

4. The Resurrection.

After the final big complication, your character wins through, just when it seems as if things couldn’t get any worse. Fred not only finds a new girlfriend, he also gets a better job than he had before — and he’s now building real confidence in himself.

Fred also “sees the light”: he understands himself better than he did before. This is the “ephipany” — your character, and by extension the reader — learns something about himself. If you can develop an ephipany, your short story will be very satisfying for the reader.

Short story template # 2

Update: December 8, 2017

I wrote this post way back in 2014. It’s proved to be one of the most popular posts on the blog. So I thought it might be fun to give you another way of handling the template. If you like, this is Short Story Template #2. 🙂

  1. Start with a character in a BAD situation. Your character MUST do something in response, he can’t just carry on in his ordinary world.
  2. Set up this bad situation in the first 25% of the short story. Then, once your character has a survival plan, throw two further obstacles at him. Obstacle A derives from the character’s primary flaw, Obstacle B derives from another character who’s out to destroy the main character.
  3. The Ordeal/ Big Battle/ Confrontation — this occurs at the 85% to 90% point of your short story. Everything has been building up to this… and then win or lose, your story is over.

Have fun with it. 🙂

Short story template # 2

Just Write It: Write More, Sell More, Starting Today

Just Write It: Write More, Sell More, Starting Today

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Do you dream of being a professional writer? This book will help. Perhaps you already have a writing career, but feel that you're not living up to your potential, this book will help you, too.

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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

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