Writing: Five-Card Outlining with Index Cards

In my publishing enterprise, I find that many authors are able to organize chapters. They can usually build the chapter outline, build chapter summaries, and compose an overview of the book itself. This makes a draft book prospectus, a first step toward communicating the aims of a book project.

5StepsIMG_2681From here, authors with much to say are able to free-write content into the chapters telling the stories, underscoring the emotions, and emphasizing the main themes. With these projects, my job as an editor is to bring greater clarity to the presentation of the work. I have encountered authors who were happy for the constructive criticism, and others who, after my initial consultation, have yet to return my call.

Seasoned authors know that any writing project requires multiple drafts. Even if you think you have it perfect, remember that the work is not for you alone. Others will read it. You want to ensure that what you intend is what readers perceive through the writing. If your challenged is figuring out how to tackle the first edit, the following outlining tip may be helpful to you as you engage the first edit of your project.

  1. Write the thesis of the chapter on card #1.
  2. List the main point to be made by the chapter on card #5.
  3. Write 1 idea on cards #2, #3, and #4 that connect together sequentially card 1 with card #5.
  4. Add additional cards as necessary to connect card #1 with card #5.
  5. Create a card #6 to summarize the cards you have created.
  6. Your chapter is now outlined.