Writing a fiction or a non-fiction book of the highest quality, takes a lot of discipline, hard work, creativity, and most importantly, clear thinking. Clear and organized thinking is required, in the sense that the writer should have an idea about what he is writing and where it's going to ultimately lead. That is, he needs to write a book outline, which is a road map of the plot.
How to Write One?
I assume that you are past the initial brainstorming phase about the core idea, that you intend to present through your book. It may be in the form of a fiction book a.k.a novel, or a nonfictional book like a biography, a cookbook, a travelogue, or an introduction to some subject. Whatever be your purpose, it is essential that you write an outline, before starting the actual writing process. It will help in crystallizing your ideas into a more concrete form. Here are some tips.
Fiction writing is experiencing and living an alternative life. If you can actually live through all the story and see it happening vividly in your imagination, it will have substance. The more you can see and feel it, more real it will become. Writing a novel is experiencing everything that happens in it, deeply and going with the flow. Here are the steps to write an outline.
Write the Story in Brief
When the idea of the story gets hold of you, start putting it on paper. Write about the happenings of the novel, in a short story form. Capture the rough outline, in the form of the main developments, in a short story. Many great novels have started out as short stories. You can afford to be very brief in this story, without going into the dialogs or more details. It should be a commentary of what will happen chronologically, in the novel.
Work on the Possible Twists and Turns
The advantage of writing an outline is that one gets the opportunity of discarding or changing the developments of the storyline, well before going into the explicit details. It can save you a lot of effort, which would be wasted, if you would have fleshed that storyline and then realized that it's not getting anywhere.
At every point in the story, there are many possible alternative developments, out of which, you must choose one. If you are writing a mystery novel, then you ought to put in, tantalizing and misleading clues, which you can plant right in the outline. Put in points in the story, which you could expand at a length, later on.
Make Chapters And Link Them
Chalk out parts of the story, which can become individual chapters. Write out chapter headings. It may so happen that one part of the story or chapter is very clear to you and you feel like writing it immediately, while you are in the flow. Do that.
It often happens that you start with one part of the story directly and then write the past and the future, linking it into a whole. When writing, you send a lot of imaginative offshoots into the past and future, creating an imaginative space in your mind. To write a book outline is to bring all these offshoots together, and tie all the loose ends. It will serve as a guide, when you start fleshing up the novel and writing in the details. It will give you an idea about how much you have done, where you are, and how much more remains to be done.
Writing a book is like climbing a mountain. So, you need to plan your trek to the top and that is what writing an outline is all about. A novel is a fictional journey, on which the readers are going to accompany you. To make the journey enjoyable to you and the readers, one must put in a lot of effort.
This technique is very effective and a lot of fun. Mind mapping, is graphically mapping your imaginative outbursts on paper. Take a sheet of paper and draw a circle in the center and write the central idea of a chapter in it. Then, draw smaller connected circles, which are the various ideas and developments of the main concept. This way, you can have a mind map of your thoughts about the chapter, which will help you in writing it. Then, piece together the chapters through a mind map for the whole novel. Try it out.
Learn and take writing tips from the great novelists. See how they order their chapters, polish every small detail. Look at the economy of words and the substance of the story. Read as many classic novels as you can.
No technique of writing an outline or a novel is perfect. You will eventually develop your own style of constructing one. I know writers who never write one. They like to keep themselves guessing, as to what will happen at the end of a novel. The story sends offshoots into the past and the future. Still, try out some of the methods that are suggested here and take up whichever suits you or adapt it, according to your style.