Broken Pieces

Brian Cormack Carr – Should You Write A Book Outline?

Should You Write A Book Outline?

by Brian Cormack Carr

I self-published my first book How To Find Your Vital Vocation: A Practical Guide To Discovering Your Career Purpose And Getting A Job You Love four days before my 40th birthday.  I’m convinced I couldn’t have done it without a firm plan in place, and an outline to guide me.  But are book outlines really necessary, or should you just jump in and get writing?

A few years ago, I attended a lecture given by Philip Pullman, author of the marvellous His Dark Materials series.  I was part-way through the series at the time, and it was quickly shaping up to be one of the best things I had ever read – original, exciting, and beautifully written.  When I saw that the author was giving a lecture at my local bookstore in which he’d outline the process he used to write his books, I knew I had to go along.  Surely he’d reveal some useful tricks of the trade.

I had to smile as I listened to his lecture.  At one point, he said (and I’m paraphrasing): “In order to write a really good book, you should write all your ideas for scenes and characters and conversations on different sticky notes, and then arrange and rearrange them on a big piece of paper until you have an outline your happy with.  Then you should tear the whole thing up and throw it in the bin, because plans are a writer’s worst enemy.  Just sit down and start writing!”.  So much for tricks of the trade!

I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Pullman’s approach, which clearly works for him.  Other writers take a different view, however.  Around the same time as His Dark Materials was growing in prominence, another writer in the young adult fantasy genre was making her name.  J.K. Rowling is known to have meticulously outlined the plot structure for the full seven-book series of Harry Potter.  (You can see her outline for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, as well as the outlines used by many other authors, in this fascinating post: Famous Authors’ Handwritten Outlines for Great Works of Literature)

The bottom line, therefore is that there’s no “right” way to approaching the issue of book outlines.  Some authors do, some don’t.  You have to find what works best for you.

In my case, I found a book outline – and a writing plan with milestones and deadlines – to be invaluable.  I had set myself the target of publishing my first book by a specific date (my 40th birthday)  and these tools helped me to do it.  I also had a ready-made outline to use: How To Find Your Vital Vocation was originally an online modular coaching program.  I simply repurposed each module into a chapter of the book.

I suspect I’ll use an outline for my next planned book, which is also in the nonfiction genre.  I have some ideas for fiction titles too, but I have yet to see whether a plan will be useful for those.  I’ll let you know!  In the meantime – what works for you?


Brian Cormack Carr is a writer, certified career coach and chief executive of BVSC The Centre for Voluntary Action, one of the UK’s leading local charities.  He trained in personnel management with Marks & Spencer plc and gained an MA (Hons) in English Literature and Language from the University of Aberdeen.  Brian has nearly 20 years of experience in the fields of personal development and leadership, and has helped hundreds of clients, readers and workshop participants to find fulfilling work and a renewed sense of purpose.


Twitter: @cormackcarr


Ready to choose or change your job? Stuck in work you hate? Think the career of your dreams is beyond your reach?

If you don’t love your work, you deserve better – and with this book at your side, you can get it. A lively and potentially life-changing guide,How To Find Your Vital Vocation sets out a simple-to-follow yet profoundly effective process that will take you step-by-step from wherever you are now to a working life based on your most cherished dreams.

  • Hear the inner call that’s telling you what will make you truly happy
  • Rediscover your gifts and use them to build a perfectly-tailored career
  • Identify and overcome the obstacles that stand between you and your ideal work
  • Create powerful networks to help you find great jobs that are never advertised
  • Find out what it takes to become an entrepreneur of the future
  • Maximise the impact of your job applications
  • Ace every interview
  • Attain reward levels that will help you thrive – even in this tough economy!

Put yourself in charge of your career – once and for all. Packed with valuable insights, powerful exercises and illuminating self-coaching questions, How To Find Your Vital Vocation will help you chart a practical path to a fun and fulfilling livelihood. In this comprehensive resource, expert career coach Brian Cormack Carr shows you how to find your passion and purpose and finally start doing the work you were born to do.


“Too many of us have gone about finding our livelihood in a haphazard way. Before long, we become a statistic in a job dissatisfaction survey. Happily, it doesn’t have to be that way and Brian Cormack Carr proves it. If you think that work should be about more – much more – than just a way to pay your bills, this book is the roadmap you’ve been looking for. Work with How To Find Your Vital Vocation for a short time and you’ll be working at your real work for a long time.”

~ BARBARA J. WINTER  Bestselling author of Making a Living Without a Job

“Warm, witty and wise. I highly recommend this book. Brian knows his stuff and How To Find Your Vital Vocation is a breath of fresh air.”

~ GRACE OWEN  Executive coach and author of The Career Itch

“I appreciated the step-by-step nature of Vital Vocation. It made finding a new career that much easier, and I’m still amazed at how well it helped me clarify what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

~ DAVID  Member of the Vital Vocation Online Coaching Programme

Vital Vocation helped me focus after I had spent too long panicking and going nowhere. Now my part-time hobby has grown to a full-time occupation and I’ve finally given up the day job that was making me sad!”

~ STEVEN  Member of the Vital Vocation Online Coaching Programme

Buy Now @ Amazon & Smashwords

Genre –  NonFiction / Careers

Rating – G

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Brian Cormack Carr said...

Thanks for featuring my book and guest post on your blog - it's great to be here!

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