You’ve decided to write a book. You’ve made the preliminary decisions about who you will write for and what they will get out of your book. Now, it’s time to organize your thoughts and material. You’ve got two basic choices.
Two ways to organize material
Unless you’re doing a book that’s a list or sequence of things, you have two basic ways to think about organizing your material. You can start from points or you can start from situations.
Organizing point by point
Write down a list of the points you want to make in your book. Then put them in order. Outlining, the way most of us learned it in school, is an example of organizing by points. Don’t get too detailed. List the main points, the kind you’ll build a chapter around.
Organizing by situation
Situations include problems and stories. Write them down and then put them in order. A storyboard is a common way to do this. List the important stories, the ones that you want to tell at full length.
You will probably have a preference
Most of the people I’ve worked with favor one form. They like listing points. Or they like listing the stories they want to tell. Pick the way you like best. There’s no “one best way” that works for everyone.
After you’ve used the method you like best, try the other one. Each method gives you different insights and combining them gives you still more. As a bonus, when you use both you spot gaps, points that need a story or stories that don’t seem to make a point.