How To Write a Book in 30 Days


4. Create an Outline

Thinking Linear

Now that you’ve got your Sticky notes or index cards arranged in a logical progression, like stepping stones leading down the path you want to take the reader, it’s time to put those ‘stepping stones into an outline.

“Don’t let mental blocks control you. Set yourself free. Confront your fear and turn the mental blocks into building blocks.”

Dr. Roopleen

Words To Inspire The Winner in YOU

An outline is basically arranging your ‘stepping stones’ in a linear fashion on a single document. It will be easier to use a digital document, like a Word file, to create your outline rather than trying to create it on a sheet of paper.

Module 4: Create an Outline

by Steve Spillman | How to Write a Book in 30 Days

Transfer from Stickies to Outline

Putting the ideas you’ve written on the Sticky notes or index cards into a linear format on a single document will help you to see if the logical progression of ideas still holds up. There may be some additional rearranging to do once everything is laid out on a single page; it’s easier to move ideas around on a digital document.

Outline Example

My example outline below shows my basic ideas, sub-ideas, and notes, laid out linearly, ready to begin creating.

  1. Writing
    1. Developing good writing habits
    2. Creating a writing schedule
  2. Gather Ideas
    1. Using PostIt notes
    2. Non-linear thinking
  3. Plotting Your Course
    1. Arranging your ideas
    2. Culling out duplicates
  4. Creating an Outline
    1. Thinking linear
    2. Creating sub-ideas (bullets)
  5. Creating Chapters
    1. Fleshing out ideas
    2. Testing your ideas
  6. Determine Your Audience
    1. Who is your reader?
    2. Is there a market for your message?
  7. Determine the Benefit
    1. What value are you offering?
    2. Why should they choose your book?
  8. Determine Your Book’s Theme
    1. Idea vs. Theme
  9. Research
    1. What is research
    2. How to document other people’s work
  10. Write Craft
    1. How to use words
    2. Cut mercilessly
  11. Balancing Chapters
    1. Size and style
    2. Segues (funny word!)
  12. Concluding
    1. Wrapping up your idea
    2. Giving the reader ‘takeaways’
  13. Introduction
    1. Preparing the reader
    2. Why we do this after the book is written
  14. Putting Everything Together
    1. Dedication
    2. Acknowledgements
    3. Author Bio



  1. Gather Sticky notes. Gather the Sticky notes that you’ve already arranged by hierarchy in the last lesson and arrange them in order of  where you see the first major idea and its sub-ideas appearing in your book, the the second major idea and its subideas and so on.
  2. Create your outline. Open a new file on your Word app (or Pages, or whatever wordprocessing application you’re using to write your manuscript. Title the new document “Outline.” Now that you have your Sticky notes lined up in the order you see your ideas appearing in the book, transfer those ideas to the “Outline” document foloowing the style in the example above. The example shows two sub-ideas below each main ideas, but It’s okay to have more or less than two sub-ideas listed.
    1. Review your outline. Once you’ve completed your outline, review the Main ideas to be sure one will flow to the next in a logical progression when they are laid out in the book. Remember, you are taking your reader on a journey. Your ideas are the stepping stones. Be sure you don’t have your reader jumping back and forth between the stones trying to follow you.

    Next: We’ll create Chapters for your book using the outline we created in this lesson!

    Click here to visit module 5 Create Chapters