July 10, 2023

Episode 28: Blueprint for Success: Crafting a Solid Book Plan

Learn why you should outline your book before writing and some tips on how to do it.

Episode 28: Blueprint for Success: Crafting a Solid Book Plan

by Carma Spence | The Author Switch Podcast


In this episode of The Author Switch podcast, I discuss the importance of creating a solid book plan. I debunk two common myths about outlining a book, emphasizing that constraints actually enhance creativity. I also suggest various frameworks for outlining. I talk about including elements that readers expect on your topic, something unique that isn’t found in other books, and infusing your Geek Factor into the book.

Recap & Takeaways

  • 01:38 The importance of planning for book success.

  • 02:27 Two myths about book outlines busted.

  • 02:27 Types of book outlines.

  • 06:21 How to craft a solid book plan.

Transcript for Episode 28: Blueprint for Success: Crafting a Solid Book Plan

Welcome to The Author Switch podcast. I am your host, Carma Spence, and I am an award-winning and bestselling author of multiple books. I’ve also contributed to numerous anthologies, many of which made it to international bestseller.

I have been in marketing and PR for 30 years, a really long time, and I have been writing books since the early 2000s. But my book-writing journey didn’t begin when I first got published. It started when I was four years old and first began to learn how to write, and I loved storytelling. So I have a long history of books and loving being an author.

I love hanging out with authors, and that’s why I created The Author Switch. It’s about turning on the author switch in your head so that you can write the books that you were meant to write. Now, tonight we’re gonna talk about a Blueprint for Success: Crafting a Solid Book Plan. So why is it important to plan out your book?

Well, for one, you know the old saying, if you fail a plan, you plan to fail. And that’s just as true for a book as it is for anything else. Because if you don’t create at least some form of plan for your book, you are very likely going to go down some writing rabbit holes and then have to dig yourself out and throw away everything you just wrote.

Also, you are more likely to forget things that you wanted to put in the book or to put things into the book that don’t need to be there. So a plan is just something that helps guide you through the process of your book so that you are using your time more effectively.

So there are two myths about outlining a book I wanna bunk before I get into how to create one.

The first one is, something to the effect of if I create an outline and follow rules, then my creativity is going to be stunted. And nothing could be further from the truth because it’s actually the opposite. There have been several studies that have shown that constraint, like an outline, enhances creativity.

So apparently the more resources that you have, the less likely you are to be creative, and the fewer resources you have, the more likely you are to be creative. So by creating your outline, by creating these constraints for your book, you actually enhance your creativity.

It’s kind of like, let’s say you’ve decided you wanna make lunch. But you go into the kitchen and you find out you only have so many ingredients. What are you gonna make for lunch? Well, you get creative and you use the ingredients you have. An outline is kind of like that. It’s a kitchen with limited ingredients. So you are enhancing your creativity to create a book that you really love.

The second myth I’d like to debunk is, You need to follow some formal format to write or outline your book. Now there are a wide variety of frameworks you can use. And I also just wanna say you do not have to write a detailed outline. So you could write an outline that’s chronological. You could write one that follows a story structure. And there are a lot of them out there, you can Google them. You can use your unique framework as your outline. You could use an acronym. In fact, one of the books on my to-do list is gonna be using the acronym CARMA because I have the C.A.R.M.A. Code. And another one is sort of alphanumerical, you know, A, B, C 1, 2, 3. And another framework is just a logical flow.

Now, like I said, you don’t have to create a detailed outline. All you really need is these are the things I want to include in my book. And this is the general order I’m thinking I might want to include them. That’s all you need. And it’s not written in stone.

For example, when I was writing my book, Public Speaking Super Powers, I had my outline. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, what order I was gonna say it, and I was about halfway through the book when I realized, wait a minute, I forgot something. I haven’t addressed the fear of public speaking. And so I created a brand new chapter that was not in my plan. But I knew needed to be in there as I was writing the book.

So an outline is a map, a guideline. Nothing says you can’t stop on your travels and look at the largest ball of yarn. If the largest ball of yarn is there and it needs to be seen, then make a pit stop and see it. That’s what those extra chapters are about.

But this outline also helps you know when not to go on your road trip and go see the giant statue of Paul Bunion in Bemidji. So there you go. It’s not written in stone, but it gives you a roadmap.

Now to the meat of the matter. How do you craft this solid book plan? There are things you need to have in your outline.

One, you need to put into the book the things that your readers are going to expect to see in there when they buy a book on your topic. The second thing that will help set your book apart is you want to include at least one thing that they are looking for when they research this topic but are not finding in any other book.

Or are not finding it well done. And the third thing you need to put in your book, and this is what really sets it apart, is what I call your Geek Factor.

Now, how do you find these things? A really good way, at least for the first one, which is find, what they’re expecting is to go into Amazon and research other books in your topic. Look at their tables of content, and then see what the throughlines are. What topic are the top 10 books in your area always including? There’s always, or at least in most of them, what is included in most of them. You are gonna need to include that topic in your book as well. Put that on your outline research notes. Then the next thing you’re gonna need to do is gonna take a little bit more time and a little more effort, but it’s well worth it.

And that’s discovering what are readers looking for, but not finding. One way to do that is to go into Amazon and read the reviews. In fact, read the negative reviews. What are they saying? Things like, I really was hoping it would include this, but it wasn’t in there, or I was really hoping it included this, but they didn’t really address it very well.

Or they talked about this topic, but they’re missing this thing and I still don’t know what the answer is. The other place that you can look for this information is in groups where people who read your topic hang out. You can go into the group, like on Facebook, go into the group and search for your topic and look at what are saying.

What questions are they asking and struggling with? And they, and they’ve mentioned that, gee, I’ve researched this and I can’t find the answer. That’s something you should include in your book. And then finally, your Geek Factor. This is what makes you, you. This is your framework, your stories, your case studies.

This is the way you pull your book together in a unique way that only you can do it. So when you have these three things, what people are expecting, what they’re looking for and not finding, and what makes you, you. Yeah, that’s what’s gonna make your book stand out, and will probably get it better reviews.

So now you’ve got these three things, you, you kind of written a list of all three things that you need put in your book. That’s when you go in and you use one of the frameworks I mentioned earlier, and you organize it so that now you’ve got this sort of, large big picture outline, and now you can write your book.

Now you can just use that as a guideline and write it free flow, or you can actually use your outline as a skeleton and fill in the blanks. But it’s important for you to create this blueprint for your success with your book so that you can write the best book for you.

That’s it for today’s episode of The Author Switch. I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you next week. Ciao.

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The Author Switch is a podcast dedicated to helping experts, entrepreneurs, and small business owners turn on The Author Switch — and keep it on — so that they can leverage the power of books to take their businesses to a whole new dimension. Learn more about the show and where it is available on its page.