Page Up Ep #9: The Problem with Writing an Outline
In order to create a safe place for your inner author, you need to know what you are going to write before you write it. In this episode you’ll learn the difference between writing an outline and writing an InLine. Dr. Lauria explains how the InLine approach leads to a book that makes a bigger difference and is more fun to write.
In this episode you will learn:
- Why you need an outline before you write
- The Book Basket technique for identifying what goes in your book
- How to let your ideal reader pick what goes in your book
- How most outlines go wrong
- The exact steps you need to take to create a perfect outline
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Listen To The Show:
Full Episode Transcript:
You’re listening to page up with Dr. Angela Lauria episode 9, The problem with writing an outline.
Welcome to page up a podcast for authors and transformation, featuring advice on the basic fundamentals of overcoming writer’s block to advance techniques for publishing and marketing nonfiction books. Now, get ready to press page up on your book with your host, best selling author and publisher, Dr. Angela Lauria.
Hey everyone, episode nine of page up Welcome back. I hope you have been learning a lot. I hope you are working on your book. Tell us about it in the comments for for this episode, you can go to the Author Incubator comm slash nine. And you can actually leave a comment for me I will personally read all of those comments And I would love to hear what’s going on with your book and what ideas you have heard on page up, that you have been incorporating into your process. What we are going to talk about today, no matter where you are, you can go back and do this step. And I really hope you will, because this is one of the key ways to be maximally effective in getting your book written. So today’s episode is all about the much dreaded outline. And I call this episode The problem with writing an outline. But the truth is, for most people, there is no problem because they haven’t written one. And that my friends is the problem. The truth is, most people try really hard to avoid writing an outline and I want to start this episode by explaining to you why it’s so important to have One a little bit at a neuroscience level. So I’m not a neuroscientist, I do not play one on TV or podcasts. But what I can tell you is, the act of writing an outline happens in a very different part of the brain than the act of writing a book, particularly a book that matters. And particularly when you are writing from your inner author, when you’re writing from that place of flow and creativity and connection to source. And when you are doing that, you are really in your right in your right brain, you are using your creativity, you are opening up your mind to possibilities that lay outside of linguistic limitations. There is a lot that can come through You, when you are in that state of flow, we’ll call it that you can’t even go back and read and maybe you’ve had this experience before, you’ll go back and read it and you won’t even remember writing it. Maybe he’ll think it’s brilliant. And might even be an idea or two that that lay a little beyond your reach. But because you had created that space for your inner author to come through, you were able to access some kind of next level information from from yourself or from source however you look at it. Now, here’s the thing, your outline is not written from your right brain, your left your left brain, your logical, mathematical analytical side is where you really need to write your outline from and there’s no problem with that you have one no matter how great britain you are. I don’t care if you are you No yoga mime, you do have access to logical and linear thought it may be less fun or less pleasant for you. And we’ll talk about how to get through that. But you do have a more analytical mind. And you can tap into that. And the problem is this. What most people do is they think about what they’re going to write right now. Then they get to the end, and they think about what they’re going to write next. And then they get to the end of that section, and they think about what they’re going to write next. And if it’s flowing, it’s all great. But if they have to stop and think they lose momentum, well, here’s why.
In order for your inner author to really come out and play in order for you to write at least 80% of your book from a state of joy and ease, and in order for you to maximize the impact you’ll have on your readers. You need to create a safe space for your inner author. That means you’re in Author needs to know, she won’t be asked every five minutes or 30 minutes or 45 minutes to leave the room. And your inner author is this free spirit inside you that is totally in your right brain. But if you don’t have a completed outline, what happens is you have to ask her to leave and let her know you’re not sure when you’ll invite her back, but can she hang out and not make any other plans. And then when you figure out what you’re going to write, you call her back into the room and you can see how that sort of back and forth is annoying. Now, I’m using a metaphor here. But neuro linguistically This is exactly what you’re doing. You’re bouncing between these centers of your brain and you’re not very good at either one of them. It’s sort of like multitasking, you can do it but it is certainly not efficient. So what I encourage you to do is to protect your inner author to create a safe space for your inner author. And to do that by having an outline, even if it’s uncomfortable for you. So I want you to go back to the idea of a book as service service for your ideal reader, your mission on the planet to get this message out. And the way your book is going to be the most effective is if you are able to get this outline down. So I want to give you some techniques, even if this isn’t your favorite idea about how to do your outline in a way that is more fun, more efficient, and most importantly, more effective. So I have created a process that I call writing an inline, inline is an alternative to an outline, they get you to the same destination. But I want to talk first about the Differences between an outline and an inline. So an outline is written from the top down. So usually people start with the, the top level in you know, Roman numeral layout have an outline. And it might look like this introduction chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, chapter four, chapter five conclusion. And then under each of those sections, you might label chapter one, the problem and then you might have five more sections and it might be a describing the problem be case study, if someone with the problem see traditional solutions used to solve the problem. We might go like that. And then under each of those ABC headings, you might go down to the next level. So what out line comes from the top down? I think it comes from outside of your heart and really from your head, have always a book structured. You know, I wrote a lot of outlines before I invented this system. I spent many years doing ghost writing. And the way I was writing outline, I’ll be totally honest, this may work for some of you is I would get a book that I thought was similar maybe on a different topic, but it’s similar structure.
And I would take that outline, and I would replace their headers with my headers. So it came from the out side, and it was from the top down. Now it’s not going to surprise you to find out that an inline comes from the inside and I’ll tell you what that means. And it goes from the bottom up. So an inline is in line with your integrity. It’s not just what you think should be In the book, but it’s in fact what you are called to write. It comes from a higher level of authority and integrity. And most importantly, it’s in line with what the reader is ready to hear. So this outline isn’t about your ego, or how smart you can sound or whether you’ll get an A, in your English class, right? This is about how big of an impact that you can make on your readers. And so we want your ideal reader to have an active role in shaping this in mind. So it comes from that place of heart connection. So here’s I want you to think about it if you have ever written a love letter, if you have ever written a no or a letter to a friend, particularly if it was difficult Call, maybe ending a friendship or putting a friendship into question, depending on how a situation was handled. Asking someone to make a significant choice for you. If you’ve ever written a letter for an intervention, what you have probably done is you have probably jotted down some notes or ideas that you wanted to go into, into this letter. And that’s really how I want you to think of the in line, we’re going to formalize it a little more than that. But these are the notes of okay when I confront Casey about the fact that I really want him to stop doing heroin. What are the points that I want to make? And looking at that, not just from your perspective, but from Casey’s perspective? Right, and so on. That’s really the inline is in line with the reader and the writer. And it’s in line with your mission on the planet. So, okay, that’s a little high level. Let’s get into some brass tacks. How do you create an inline? Now you know why? And you know a little bit more about how the inline is different from an outline. How do you actually create one? Well, to make a bottom up outline? What you need to do is before you decide, oh, this is the first chapter is about the problem. What should go into the problem chapter. That’s how most people do it, right? Don’t worry about what all your chapters are. The first thing I want you to do is to write down I like to use Excel for this if you have numbers or Excel or you know spreadsheets, I think you might find that helpful for later But it is certainly not required. The other way you can do this is write it down on note cards, because we’re going to do some shuffling. So what I want you to do is to write down everything that right now you know, is going to go in your book. Now maybe the only thing you know that’s going to go in your book is, you know, your, your story of finding freedom from back pain. I don’t know what you know, but whatever it is, whatever you know is going in the book, I want you to write it down now. And I want you to use something I call slugs. So a slug is an old journalism term. And that usually means a word or a couple words that would tip you and your editor off to what the particular story was. So it might just be baseball or highway those are slugs that we would have in The newsrooms that I was in, you can make them a little bit longer. So you can make it something like this story about the gas station in Minnesota. Now, that’s a little longer than just gas station. But if it will help jog your memory, that’s what we basically want. And for each of these headings, what I’d like you to imagine is that I called you. And I said to you, Hey, tell me the story about the gas station in Minnesota. And if you just imagine, for a minute, how long could you talk about the gas station in Minnesota? And you might want to do a couple of these to figure it out, but I just call you and I say tell me the story about the gas station, Minnesota you’re like, yeah, it was right after college. I was with my college roommate. We went to Minnesota. We pulled up to this gas station. We were totally on empty. This guy walked in. He asked this question, right. So you’re gonna just tell me that story. You don’t have to be alone. literary master when you tell that story, but just write down approximately how many? How many words I’m sorry, how many minutes it would take you to tell me that story. And, and that will eventually become our page count. But don’t you worry about that right now. What we’re going to do is we’re going to make everything that you know that’s going into the book, we’re going to write that list. Now. Traditionally, what I see is a book has 10 sections, and these are rough numbers here. But a book has 10 sections, and 10 items in each section.
And each of those items, each of those 10 items are usually somewhere between 250 words and mix Maybe 1500 words probably more like 1000. So if I have a chapter with 10 items, and let’s say the 10 items average at 500 words each, then what you would have is a 5000 word chapter, which is, by the way, pretty standard chapters, generally are in a, maybe four to 6000 range. So you can actually go to and I’ll include this in the show notes, you can go to speech in minutes COMM And you can actually figure out how how, how many minutes how many words that you speak, per minute. So you can talk for a minute, you can count the number of words that you said in that minute, you can just use voice to speech and Then you can use this app to figure out if you were going to tell me a five minute story. How, how many words that would be. So for me, I’m talking, I talk almost 200 words per minute. So I definitely talk very quickly, I try to slow that down for this show. But for me, in just five minutes, I would have about 1000 words, probably a little bit less, maybe eight, eight to 900 words in a five minute story. so to speak, a chapter, a 5000 word chapter. It might only it might only take me 25 or 30 minutes, and I would have a 5000 word chapter. So now you can use this tool to speak your book, although I don’t actually recommend it in most cases. But the reason I’m pointing this out is when you look at a story you can get a sense of, that’s a two to three minute story. That’s really just a few sentences. This would take me five to 10 minutes to tell you the story. And if you do a couple of them, record them and get the transcripts, you can use them for your book. So you go through everything that you know is going to go in your book, and then I just want you to start sorting it. Just sort by categories that come to your mind as you read through it. So the most you really want here in I call this exercise, the book basket exercise and then you really don’t want more than 100 items in your book basket. And you can actually start sorting when you hit 30 or 40 items. Once you’ve hit 30 or 40 items, themes, what will eventually become chapters begin to appear. So As you read through your 30, or 40 slugs, you’ll realize, Oh, I’m talking a lot about the problem. Oh, I’m talking a lot about how I’ve used meditation, oh, I’m talking a lot about romantic relationships. And for each of the slugs try and give them one or two, or maybe even three categories that you could sort them into. And then when you sort by category, if you have the same item in multiple categories, you’ll ultimately have to pick which category to put it into. But as you sort by categories, you will start to see from the bottom up, a story emerging that in each of these categories, there’s a story emerging. And I want you to ask, I want you to call to mind your ideal reader, the person who you most want to be changed by this book. And I want you picturing that person to ask how do I want the reader to To be different at the end of this chapter. So for each category, you might have three or four or five topics.
And you might have room for three or four or five more. And your mission is to ask the reader what is the reader need to be different in the way you want them to be? At the end of this chapter, what do you want them to know about this topic that has sort of emerged into a category? And as you figure out the answer, how do I want the reader to be different, it will start to become apparent. What else needs to go in that chapter. Other Stories will begin to spring to mind and you can just add them right in there. So as I mentioned, stories, the kinds of things that are going to go in your book basket are stories, statistics. quotes, exercises, tools, summaries of other tools that you read clients stories, sometimes poems or prayers, specific techniques that you have. Those are pretty much the main things I’m thinking of right now. That will go into the chapters. So step number one is just make this big mushy list. Guess how long each of the sections are using speech in minutes, comm or some other tool to estimate your page count.
Then sort them and hopefully you will have between five and 10 categories with between five and 10 items in them. Then identify for each category What you want the reader to know about this category? And if this category were to turn into a chapter, how would you want the reader to be different at the end of the chapter? And then ask yourself, if I want the reader to be different in that way, what’s missing from this chapter? And then flesh it out the rest of the way? What are the other stories? What’s the research you have to do? What’s the other information that needs to go in there. And then once you have each of these categories fleshed out, again, five to 10, categories, five to 10 items in each category, it is exactly as long as it needs to be to make that transition for the reader that we talked about. So when I say for each chapter, you need to have a sentence that explains how you want the reader to be different at the end of the chapter. A lot of times people ask me, then how long does the chapter need to be? And the answer is as long as it needs to be in In order to make them different in the way that you want them to be different. So if at the end of the chapter you want them to believe real estate investing is a viable option for a savings or cash flow strategy. If you want them to believe that what do you have to tell them, you probably have to tell them a story about someone that was successful with, you might have to tell them your story, you might have to give them some reasons why they should try this why it might be better than other strategies. You might have to build credibility by explaining why it’s not a popular strategy for saving. Maybe you have to explain why many people choose not to do it, or particularly why it’s a technique that’s reserved usually for the ultra rich and why most people don’t you know, believe That real estate investing is for them. Whatever they need to know that’s not already in that chapter you need to just go find. And you. The great news is you don’t have to figure out what that is. Your ideal reader will tell you if you can get into character as your ideal reader, and if you can really ask him or her, what do you need to know to believe this, they will tell you. Now, if you get stuck here at all, I will give you one of my little hacks for this, which is with your dominant hand and you can do this typing or writing. But if you’re typing with both hands, if you’re writing with your dominant hand, write out the question what is my reader need to know? Or actually write it out this way? What do you need to know to believe this at the end of the chapter and instead of this, just put your answer to the question how do you want the reader to be different at the end of the chapter? So what do you need to know that if that real estate investing is a viable option for you by the end of the chapter, then with your non dominant hand, either one handed typing or just writing with your non dominant hand, answer that question, you will not be able to be long winded and tell stories, because your non dominant hand isn’t that fancy. And you your answers may surprise you, but they will be very short answers that will tell you what your ideal reader needs to know when you ask that question. I want you to be in character as your ideal reader when you answer it and your ideal reader knows, so you don’t even have to figure it out. And that is the rest of your inline. So now you know how an inline is different than an outline. I’m going to put some tools and goodies and sample apps lines and things up on the show notes page, you can find that at the author incubator.com slash nine, comm slash nine. I’m going to put up some of the other stuff that we talked about on the show so you can go back and listen again. Leave me your comments. And if you have hated writing outlines in the past, tell me if this sounded like a different way to approach it that you might be able to follow I think what you’ll see is if your ideal right reader collaborates with you, in writing the outline, that when you sit down to write the book, it is going to flow so much faster you will be a word producing machine and it will be fun and easy. So well worth the effort upfront to get your inline on paper. And then when you sit down to write, you know exactly what five to 10 seconds worries, you’re going to tell in that writing session, you know exactly how long they should take.
And then think of it as a conversation. You know, Tim Ferriss talks about writing as if he is having a conversation with a couple buddies over a glass of wine. So that’s how I want you to think about this Well, unless you don’t drink. But if you had somebody over that you really cared about how would you tell them these stories, you don’t have to be fancy, the best voice that you can use is the one that you would actually talk to people in if you were, if you love them, if you love them. And so I want you to share that love and connect at that level with your reader.
So that is my advice to you on how to write, the most powerful in line you can write how to separate the the left brain process of writing an line in order to create a safe space for your inner author, and most importantly, to do it in a way that frees you up to be maximally creative, inventive and tapped into source. So that’s the problem with the old way of doing outlines and hopefully some new insights on how to do a new type of outline that will make your book even better. We will be back next week on page up and you can subscribe to our sister show book journeys also on iTunes. Don’t forget to check out the show notes the Author Incubator comm slash nine. Thanks everyone.
This has been another episode of PageUp, where we help nonfiction book that makes the difference. If you liked the show today, be sure to tell a friend and leave us a review on iTunes. Check out houses to show book journeys also on iTunes. And don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list. At www dot the author incubator.com where you can learn more about how you can get your book.