Create a Beautiful Book Outline In 7 Mornings With 7 Cups of Tea
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
Want to start writing your book this year and need to create a general outline?
Wonderful! But terrifying, right?
Studies say 80% of humans dream of writing a book. But only about 10 % of those millions upon millions of wanna-be writers will ever get beyond the first page.
So what can you do to start and blast through that first-page roadblock that crushes so many dreams?
Well, if you’re a creative I know how you shouldn’t start.
If you’re a visual thinker like me, you’d rather get audited by the I.R.S. than come up with a meticulous 99-point outline that you stick to no matter what.
Doesn’t sound real appealing, huh?
When we creatives try to cram, mash, and mangle our circular selves into linear molds most of us bale before we can say “Excel Spreadsheet.”
Is there a better way to go for imaginative types? I think so.
It’s something slightly odd but fun that I invented out of pure desperation to help me start writing my own book.
I call it my “Deranged But Powerful Tea Method for Beautiful Book Outlines.”
And I’ve found that it works well for the artists I coach who are tackling their first book too.
My Deranged But Powerful Tea Method: How Artists Can Painlessly Start Writing Their Book in One Week
When I coach artists in the early stages of their book I often suggest they journal on seven specific questions in a certain order.
The answers to these questions will grant you a big aerial view of where you want to go and why.
This view can help you leap over that page one hurtle so you can sally forth with gusto.
I suggest you make the process less painful, and even downright fun, by spreading the seven questions over a week of early morning, or late night, mini-journaling sessions.
And who could be a better companion for a 20-30 minute deep dive into one’s soul than a steaming cup of tea?
3 Reasons To Let Tea Help You Write an Outline for Your Book
1. First, science has shown that tea increases mental power and creativity.
2. Second, tea stimulates our senses. And stimulated senses give us great ideas.
3. Third, tea is a ritual; a ritual that helps us relax, overcome fear, and muse well. (I talk about how tea specifically helps artists in this post here.)
So, are you up for this madness?
Let’s discover your seven outline questions and your seven teas.
The 7 Cups and 7 Outline Questions That Will Help You Start Writing a Wonderful Book
1st Cup, 1st Outline Question – What’s My Book’s Deep Purpose?
Tea Suggestion for Writers: Make a steamy cup of cinnamon, ginger, chai, or tulsi tea (holy basil) from India; these are teas known to promote emotional courage and enhance brain function. Or go with Georgia O’Keeffe’s stong, smoky favorite, Lapsang souchong.
Quietly sit down with your tea and journal for 20-30 minutes on what you think is the true purpose of your book.
Why do you feel a need to write it and how will it benefit a reader, a community, or the world at large?
Journal about how your book could transform an aspect of the life of a reader.
This tea session on your Why will leave you in a perfect position to embrace the next day’s cup on your Who.
2nd Cup, 2nd Outline Question – Who Is My Book’s True Audience?
Tea Suggestion for Writers: Brew a cup of tea that supports empathy like calming chamomile, restorative ashwagandha, or a peaceful white tea like Yin Zhen silver needle.
Now ask yourself, ‘Who is the ideal reader for my book?’
Maybe name and doodle out three imaginary characters (aka avatars.) Your reader-avatars may be loosely based on friends, clients, or students of yours you think would be your ideal readers.
Does your reader live in a cabin or a condo? What inspires them? Where do they work, how do they dress, what music do they live for?
And most importantly, how will your book help them with their specific life challenges?
Now that you have an idea who you’ll be talking to let’s look at the genre you will be using to best get your important message across.
3rd Cup, 3rd Outline Question – What’s My Book’s Genre?
Tea Suggestion for Writers: For this, you’ll need a cup of something to quell procrastination and stimulate the imagination like lemongrass or linden tea (made famous by Proust). Or go for a green tea like sencha or dragonwell.
It’s time to explore your book’s genre or format.
Sip a bit and write about whether this book is to be a memoir, a workbook, a cookbook, or series of tutorials? Is it fiction or non-fiction? Perhaps it’s a blended genre (a creative combination of some of the above.)
Author Laura Esquivel wrote two sensational examples of blended genre books:
Like Water For Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies.
The Law of Love. Part novel, part comic book, part opera music (via an enclosed CD.)
Journal on how your book could be integrated with audio, video, a course, or maybe an app you create?
Okay, you’ve worked hard. To get you over the hump and heading downhill toward the finish line let’s do the most fun cup.
4th cup, 4th Outline Question – Who Will Be Your Writing Guides for Your Journey?
Tea Suggestion for Writers: Make a steamy cup of white tea like Spirit White to help connect you to the bigger picture. Other teas to consider would be blends that contain saffron, lavender, or rose.
Starting to write your book demands you confront the weakest part of yourself and pull her up onboard your gypsy vardo to seek adventure and complete what could be the most important intellectual journey of our life.
If you’re going on an arduous quest I say why not be like the heroines of mythology, and get a little help from the divine realms?
When I was struggling through my dissertation, a mythology professor of mine (Dr. Patrick Mahaffey) gave me a print of the Hindu elephant God Ganesha.
In the image, Ganesha is seated, smiling with a huge book he’s writing in his lap.
My professor’s gift was apt because Ganesha is “the remover of obstacles”; especially internal obstacles we set before ourselves.
Spend this tea time researching and taking notes on any other saints, sprites, angels, hobbits, wizards, gods, or goddesses you might like to call on to support you as a writer.
Congratulations, you are more than halfway through your journey.
5th Cup, 5th Outline Question – What is My Book’s Place in the Universe of Books?
Tea Suggestion for Writers: Before you put the kettle on to make a cup of brain-sharpening Japanese matcha or a crisp black oolong tea, go over to your bookshelf and pull down 5 comparable books.
“Comparable books” are simply books that your ideal reader might already own.
Spend five minutes leafing through each book you chose and jot down the answers to the following questions:
What do you like about each book? Why did you buy it? How did it help you?
Why would your ideal reader like this book?
What do you want to say that these books don’t?
Don’t skip this day.
It will help you feel more grounded, less lost.
There is a slight tendency to freak out with this cup and worry that it’s all been said and done before.
So why bother?
You bother because no one but you can tell your unique story.
As the dancer and pioneering Esalen instructor, Gabrielle Roth used to always say:
“If you don’t do your dance — who will?”
Now let’s dream on some ways to layout your future bestseller.
6th Cup, 6th Outline Question – How Will I Structure My Story?
Tea Suggestion for Writers: When I need to invoke structure I fire up some peppermint tea. Peppermint seems especially good for stimulating ideas, optimism, and organization.
Spend your tea time today writing out a fantasy structure for your chapters.
Just wing it, no one’s watching.
Your structure will probably change countless times anyway. And you have to start somewhere.
Perhaps begin by looking at the table of contents of a book that wowed you in some way.
Look closely at the names of its chapters.
What journey did that book take you on through its chapter structure?
Write up an impulsive list of temporary chapter names for your book. Maybe your chapters are named after your paintings, the stages of the Ottoman empire, or the moons of Neptune – now is the time for dreaming.
For a deeper dive into structuring a non-fiction book check out this post by Joanna Penn.
For help visually plotting out the structure for a memoir you might like this video.
At this point in The Tea Method, there is a good chance you are realizing your book is seeming actually doable.
So our last cup is devoted to helping you create a realistic schedule to help you bring your dream to reality.
7th Cup, 7th Outline Question – What Will My Writing Regimen Look Like?
Tea Suggestion for Writers: For this cup, you may prefer a fortifying mug of rooibos or red bush tea, thought to relieve stress, anxiety, and fortify heart function.
How many pages do you want your book to be?
In general books have 250-300 words on a page.
So if you want to write say a 200-page book you need to write about 55,000 words. If you break that down over a year you’ll need to write 150 words a day.
That’s doable, professional writers usually churn out 1000 a day at least.
And your 150 words don’t even have to be perfect words.
Get the words out first, edit them later.
One hundred and fifty words could take just 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes a day is doable, right? Journal on when and where you are going to write for those 15 minutes.
Do you have a writing habit yet? Want help establishing one? Read this article by Jeff Goins.
Finish this cup by freewriting on what mini- rewards you will give yourself for working on your book every day or every weekend.
(And don’t forget to reward yourself for completing this week of tea journaling on your new book!)
Read why mini-rewards help so much in my post How To Give Your Creative Dream Project Wings.
Okay, you finished.
Now all that’s left to do is begin.
Now You Have an Outline, Start Writing Your Book
There will be no trumpets to tell you it’s time.
So why not sit down in the awkward silence of day eight, make a cup of your favorite tea, and begin.
You could begin by typing up more detailed chapter outlines.
You could begin by writing up a book proposal. (For the best book on the planet I’ve ever seen on how to write a winning book proposal go here.)
Or you may just need to start writing.
Or if you are starting to get a download, you could just grab an end and go.
Or maybe you need a little help making your book dream a reality?
I can do the tea method with you as your coach, so you don’t have to go it alone.
Pop over to my writing coaching page for artists and select the dirt cheap Pick My Brain package to get started.
No matter what you chose, it’s time to begin your imperfect beautiful journey. Be kind to yourself.
And may your journey lead you home.
What’s your favorite tea?
Are you planning on writing a book?
What are you afraid of?
Let me know in the COMMENTS below.
Oh, one last tool for starting to write your book:
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