How To Create A Nested Outline For Your eBook

by Paul Wolfe on March 15, 2011

This is a follow up to the article on the Outline and Bundle method of creating an eBook that I posted last week.   You can read that article here:

How To Write An eBook – The Outline And Bundle Method

I can’t recommend getting into the habit of creating eBooks and Reports like this enough – it’s a great way of beating resistance and getting something done and getting it out there.

One of the crucial steps in making an eBook written this way read as seamlessly as possible is getting the Outline right before you start writing.  If you get the outline right, the eBook will appear coherent to the reader.

And the kind of outline you need to create is what is called a ‘Nested Outline.’

So What’s A Nested Outline?

A nested outline is an outline where you start with the topic of the eBook, then you have a number of sub-topics for that eBook.  And then each of those sub-topics has their own layer of sub-topics.  And possibly each of those sub-sub-topics may be made up of two or three articles.
That sounds more complex than it needs to.  Let’s use an example.  If you’ve been reading on my blog you’ll know I’m writing a series of articles on Writer’s Block.  Now up until about 30 minutes ago I was just going to leave it as a series of loosely linked articles on my blog.

Now though, I’m thinking about creating an eBook out of them and using that eBook as leverage to get more people to know about One Spoon At A Time.  So, let’s assume I am going to do that.

The first thing to do is give that eBook a title.  Let’s call it HOW CONTENT MARKETERS CAN AVOID WRITER’S BLOCK.

So let’s start our eBook outline with a title, a table of contents, an introduction, and a how to use this eBook section…

OUTLINE – Take 1

HOW CONTENT MARKETERS CAN AVOID WRITER’S BLOCK

Table Of Contents

Introduction

How To Use This eBook

Now Let’s Add In Some Sub-Topics

This is the first level of nesting.  (Nesting is a term derived from computer programming by the way).

Now let’s go down a level – we do this by adding some sub-topics.  My mentor Sean d’Souza – who taught me this method – always recommended three.  So let’s add three topics to our outline:

OUTLINE – Take 2

HOW CONTENT MARKETERS CAN AVOID WRITER’S BLOCK

Table Of Contents

Introduction

How To Use This eBook

Part 1 – Having Nothing To Write About

Part 2 – Having Something To Write About – But Not Getting Started

Part 3 – Getting Started – But Never Finishing

Summary

Resources

About The Author

You’ll notice I bookended the main body of the eBook with a Summary or Conclusion, a Resources Section, and an About the Author section.  Once you’ve put your first eBook together you’ll find that the Resources and About the Author sections are a snap to produce for subsequent eBooks.

Now Let’s Add Sub Topics To Each Part

The next step is to drill down into each Part and flesh out the detail a bit more.  So let’s have a look at how our outline might turn out with some details fleshed out:

OUTLINE – Take 3

HOW CONTENT MARKETERS CAN AVOID WRITER’S BLOCK

Table Of Contents

Introduction

How To Use This eBook

Part 1 – Having Nothing To Write About

  • 1.1  The Myth Of Writer’s Block
  • 1.2  The Idea Bank
  • 1.3  Maintaining the Idea Bank
  • 1.4  Stimulating Creativity With Repetitive Activities (Driving, Walking and ****ing)
  • 1.5  Emergency Strategies

Part 2 – Having Something To Write About – But Not Getting Started

  • 2.1   Blank Page Syndrome
  • 2.2   The Myth Of Inspiration
  • 2.3   The Power of Outlines
  • 2.4   The Professional Mindset
  • 2.5   Taking Care Of The Quantity

Part 3 – Getting Started – But Never Finishing

  • 3.1 The Curse Of Self-Editing
  • 3.2  A Marriage Made In Hell – Divorce The Writer From The Editor
  • 3.3  Delivering The Baby – Getting Your Work Out There

Summary And Final thoughts

Resources

About The Author

Voila – The Outline For The eBook

Now using that outline – which took me 10 to 15 minutes to create – I could go away and write this eBook as a series of articles.  Each of the sub-topics in each part would range from 1000 to 1500 words.  Now there’s a structure in place each article can be made to lead to the next with connectors and other article writing techniques.

And this would will make a 40/45 pages long eBook that will really help some content marketers.  What’s great is that I’ve already written 8 of the articles and posted them to my blog.  Now I’ll have to edit slightly as those articles already written were not written with this outline in mind – so they will need to link together a bit better.

But hey, I can create an eBook. Which I can either sell.  Or create a Kindle book out of.  Or post it in various places to get greater exposure.  Or any one of a dozen things.

And I’ve only got to write 13 Articles in total, plus a summary, an introduction, and some other bits and bobs and it will be done.

Now you tell me – does that seem like something YOU could do?

The Physical Act Of Creating The Nested Outline

There are a bunch of ways you can actually create this Nested Outline.  Mind maps one way. You can freewrite and brain dump, and then order the thoughts into an outline later.  (I did one eBook this way).

You can model the way I did it in this article – I’ve created two eBooks this way.

Microsoft Word has a Nested Outline function you can use to create an outline.  Or there is outlining software.  I’ve used a program called Omni Outlining before, it used to be free.  But I believe now it’s $30 or $40.
Or you could come up with your own method. The point is that creating an outline for an eBook is pretty simple as I’ve just showed – and once you’ve drilled down to ‘article level’ then you’ve got a roadmap for actually writing the content for your eBook one day at a time, and one article at a time.

Summary

Hopefully I’ve shown you that creating an outline for a 30 or 40 page eBook is pretty darned simple.  And once you’ve broken that Outline down into a series of ‘article’ length topics you’ve given yourself a road map for creating a piece of leverage for your business.

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section below…

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