Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Non-Fiction Outline

Yesterday I mentioned that I’m starting on a non-fiction book. For this project, my first step was researching the subject.

For any other non-fiction long project I might have done an outline first, before beginning the research. There were two reasons why I didn’t do that with this one.

Reason One: I already have the outline. I contributed to the first book in this series of TechCareers books, Biomedical Equipment Technicians (TSTC Publishing, 2008), which is now in print. Each of the TechCareers books will follow the same general format. So, I have my outline.

Reason Two: Even if I hadn’t had the outline, I would have started with research because I need to know more on the area I’m writing about.

If you’re thinking of writing a non-fiction technical book, I’d probably recommend you brainstorm an outline or at least the major points you want to cover in the book. Why you and not me? Chances are, if you’re thinking of writing the book, you’re already familiar with the subject matter (unlike me).

If you’ve written a non-fiction, what did you do first – outline, research, interview… or something else?


  1. Hi Helen,

    Before I actually started writing The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, I interviewed dozens of people--authors, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, and publicists--and readers (at least 100 readers). Sometimes their answers brought up a new subject I would incorporate into the outline. Later I used some of their answers as quotes for the book. I may have read a few articles on the subject, but my main research came from interviews. Remember to ask for permission to quote, just in case.
    Good luck!

  2. Good reminder Mayra. Thanks.

    I've dug out my digital recorder and intend to use it with each interview. I'll ask permission first and then will record. It's a teeny recorder and people tend to forget about it. I don't have to worry about tape running out and when I'm done, I can plug it into my computer.

    Most but not all of my subjects know that I'll condense their hour or more interview down into a short profile for the book.

  3. I have a nonfiction project on the backburner, and I look forward to the day I have the to pursue it. I already have an outline and two interviews...

  4. You've got a good start then LJ. I find that once I get started (in the case of my project, doing research and starting the interviews), then I'm rolling.


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