The Outline is your Guiding Light!

The outline is the biggest, often underdeveloped asset in starting any book journey. It starts with ONE big, non-obvious idea behind the book, evidence you have that it’s true & that you’re an expert.

I spoke with a friend who has decades of industry experience and is interested in writing a book. She’s always been a doer and consistent with her DNA, embarked on a journey by hiring an article ghostwriter to help her tackle writing a book (an often common mistake). 

The ghostwriter she is working with seems like a really nice guy with a great background - an English major who gets and writes for the business audience she wants to reach and has all the right intentions. My friend asked for my help, so of course, I was happy to meet with her ghostwriter, and that’s when my yellow flag went up. Not that he’s not capable; he simply doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and will take a great deal of coaching to pull this off. I know this because of the early work he shared with me that is missing a definitive methodology that works: A compelling outline!

The book outline is the biggest, often misunderstood/underdeveloped asset in starting any book journey. It starts with ONE big, non-obvious idea behind the book, the evidence you have that it’s true and that you’re an expert in the subject. There’s your intro. 

Next, for a reader to execute that idea, what objectives must the reader set out from the start? That’s the chapter that follows, and so on. Similar to a strategic business process, an outline follows a logical sequence that takes the reader through a journey. The outline is critical in identifying and building on your more interesting ideas while eliminating dull ones that need work. It should become your roadmap on where you need additional research and interviews, and the content must be dramatically leveled up.

Making choices in structuring and writing a business book is about finding ways to avoid boredom. A poll by showed that the biggest reason readers abandon books is “slow, boring.” Conversely, the biggest thing that kept them turning pages was, “I have to know what happens next!” 

As such, the key to giving readers a memorable reading experience is to present the flow of ideas in an order that constantly holds their interest by arousing their curiosity about what happens next. Psychologists call this the “Gap Theory of Curiosity” - we feel curious when there’s a gap between what we know and what we want or feel that we need to know. Emotionally, curiosity feels like an itch, and readers seek knowledge to scratch that itch. When a book is hard to put down, the author has designed the content to arouse that psychological itch continuously. 

The job of your book will be to keep arousing the curiosity of your target audience and satisfying it, segment-by-segment, chapter-by-chapter, so your readers will feel compelled to keep reading and learning.

There are eight (8) hooks in a process that create an outline. In the coming weeks, I’ll invite Noel Weyrich, a long-time friend, and a Honey Tate Publishing advisor, as our content architect guest on the Executive Author Podcast to discuss this topic in greater detail.

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