How to Write a Book Proposal: 8

Hmmm… yet another example of the non-linear workings of my brain. I noticed that I haven’t exactly posted my book proposal parts in the order I promised, and… it’s possible I may have skipped the section on outlines.

It’s unfortunately true. When you write a non-fiction book proposal, you have to include an outline.

It takes a lot of work to create an outline.

You have to actually know what’s going to be in your book.

This is occasionally (um… always) a problem for me.

But wait… this post is supposed to be helpful, right? This is not my personal whining venue?

Okay, so, an outline provides a chapter-by-chapter summary of what’s in your proposed project. Writing one involves quite a bit of research, both to flesh out your initial lame and undeveloped ideas, and to find enough pithy gems to sprinkle around as sparkling promises of the wisdom to come.

You can write perfectly adequate outlines in point form, but I usually include a paragraph or two of text under each chapter heading. This gives the publisher yet another glimpse of your writing style. (You can even write your paragraphs in a tone similar to that of the final book.) It allows you to highlight your most interesting tidbits (the aforementioned gems), and allows you (theoretically, of course) to gloss over portions you haven’t quite wrestled into submission.

My outlines usually begin as brainstorming sessions. Next, I wander around in a distracted daze, asking friends, family members, and strangers things such as, “When you think of rebel activists, what comes to mind? How many activists can you name? Who’s your favorite?” and other annoying questions. Finally, I do a serious round of research, finding new connections and ideas. Quite possibly, if the proposal is rejected, this will have been a colossal waste of time. On the other hand, it may save hours at the first draft stage.

Yes. It’s possible that those of us who are complete dorks, and enjoy spending hours in the library, and are willing to research topics partly just so we can say we know a bunch of stuff, may have a teensy advantage in the world of non-fiction.

To read more about this subject:
Proposal Writing 7: Competition
Proposal Writing 6: Schedule
Proposal Writing 5: Readership
Proposal Writing 4: Format
Proposal Writing 3: The Summary
Proposal Writing 2: The Outline
Proposal Writing 1: The Reasons Why

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