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How to plan your book

Planning your book is essential. Without this step your book will take much longer to write and be much more difficult. All of this can be overcome quickly and easily by using a simple technique I call the ‘Blueprint Plan’. (Go and check out my Blueprint plan that I created for my book here)

It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how few people spend any quality time planning out their book. They may have a working title, and they may have scoured the Internet for cover ideas, but when it comes to the content, they have a few lines at best, with perhaps a couple of chapter ideas, but not much more.

This amazes me! I mean you wouldn’t dream of trying to build a house without a proper plan; a detailed blueprint of what the house will look like once it’s finished; how big it will be; what each room is used for; how many floors it will have etc. Well the same should apply to your book.


Without this level of detail, you will struggle to write quickly and easily, as you won’t know where you’re starting from, or whether you’ll be covering everything you need to cover. You’ll get confused and lose focus – or like one former client of mine, go off on a completely different tangent halfway through, which had nothing to do with the core message they were trying to convey. We fixed that quickly, with my ‘blueprint strategy’.
It’s critical to lay the right foundations and produce the ‘blueprint plan’, the detailed overview that lists all of the chapters, subheadings and notes, which then makes the writing process quick and easy.

There are a few ways you can do this, but my two favourites are:

  • Mind-mapping software
  • Notepad, or any other non-formatting text editor. Non-formatting at the planning stage is essential. I will explain why, later.

Of course, you can plan your book out freehand if you wish, just make sure you keep it in a safe place. There will be nothing worse if you spend weeks perfecting your handcrafted document, only to go and spill coffee on it, rendering it unreadable and useless, or worse still, you could lose it altogether.

1. Mind-mapping software:
For those of you who like to see the entire picture in one go; to have the flexibility to add bits here; and to move things around; then I would definitely recommend mind-mapping software.

There are numerous software packages out there, from expensive, high performing ones like Mindjet, available from www.mindjet.com; to free Shareware programs like Free Mind, for example, which is what I use. This is available from www.freemind.sourceforge.net.
Whichever one you choose, (and if it’s the first time you’ve used this type of software, you’ll probably have to spend some time getting used to all its features, but I suggest you do, so that you will be able to get your ideas down instantly and easily) most software comes with adequate training or some sort of ‘Help’ section, and you can usually find further tutorials online.

Here is a snapshot of my mind map that I used for my book that I’m writing. You can see how I’ve planned out each section, and what each chapter is going to cover. I can then add to each node building up a comprehensive and coherent plan, which I can expand on, either in Microsoft Word or a similar program.

Alternatively, if you’re good at talking through your mind map, orally record your book, get it transcribed and edited, then you’re good to go!

2. Notepad:
If mind-mapping software is not for you, or you are more comfortable with Notepad, then you can use this to plan out your book instead. It’s worth noting that, at this stage, it’s a really good idea not to get caught up with any fancy formatting issues. It can be very distracting and time consuming, to get carried away with making your plan look pretty, with font selection and other formatting features, but it’s a total waste of time.

What you should be doing at this stage is making sure you cover all the relevant points your book needs, NOT what font to use, or how big your subheadings should be!
Here is a sample of a Notepad plan that I used when I first had an idea for my book.  As you can see, it’s based upon the same principle, chapter titles, headings, and then subheadings, all of which you can then just add to or move around.

Whatever way you choose to create your plan, make sure that everything you need is included on this one sheet of paper. If you create this on a computer, you can then add points, or change the order of chapters, but it’s critical to do this first, and then stick to it, once you are happy, before you start writing.

What software you decide to use is really up to you. What is important is to get this plan done in as much detail as possible. I recommend you spend at least a week to 10 days getting this right (even longer in some cases) and refine and review, until you get to a point where you can just start typing your ideas, expanding the sections that you’ve outlined.

So choose your preferred software and give it a go, you’ll find it easier than you think! Just remember, have a clear idea of what you are writing about, whom you are writing to, and what is the ‘call to action’ (If you haven’t answered those questions – or need a reminder then click here to The Three Critical Questions post I wrote earlier)