Writing a Book, the Master Outline

When I announced the new book, I promised I wouldn’t torture MacSparky.com readers with the tedious (and often) boring details of writing a book. I have, however, received several e-mails asking me to share some of the workflows so I will make occasional post about what I’m up to.

Writing a tech book is fairly straightforward. There are no plot twists, things usually move linearly, and the butler never did it. So outlining such a book is not that difficult. I started in iThoughts HD with a single entry in the middle, “iPad at Work.” Then I started adding branches. Most of the rough work was done at Peet’s over tea.

When things started shaping up, I synced the file (as OPML) over Dropbox to my Mac and looked at it in OmniOutliner Then I sent it back to the iPad and iThoughts HD. With Mac at Work, this work was about 90% OmniOutliner and 10% mind map (MindNode Pro is my favorite mind mapping app on Mac OS X). With this new book, those numbers reversed. I attribute this to the iPad (which didn’t exist when I outlined Mac at Work), which makes mind mapping more intuitive (for me). Either way, the big outline is done and looks great. Here it is from MindNode Pro on the Mac.

Once I was happy with the outline, I saved the OPML file on Dropbox and imported it into Scrivener, which built the book file. I’ll write more about those steps in a future post. The word count is now 10,000 and I’m having fun.

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32 Comments Writing a Book, the Master Outline

  1. darwin@osx.com

    That is really interesting and a big help with some of my work processes that I am redefining. I'm a huge fan of mind mapping for many things I do as an IT Architect. I really like your book btw and its not many books that tell me things I don't know about Macs as I have been a Mac user since 1984.

    Reply
  2. darwin@osx.com

    That is really interesting and a big help with some of my work processes that I am redefining. I'm a huge fan of mind mapping for many things I do as an IT Architect. I really like your book btw and its not many books that tell me things I don't know about Macs as I have been a Mac user since 1984.

    Reply
  3. darwin@osx.com

    That is really interesting and a big help with some of my work processes that I am redefining. I'm a huge fan of mind mapping for many things I do as an IT Architect. I really like your book btw and its not many books that tell me things I don't know about Macs as I have been a Mac user since 1984.

    Reply
  4. darwin@osx.com

    That is really interesting and a big help with some of my work processes that I am redefining. I'm a huge fan of mind mapping for many things I do as an IT Architect. I really like your book btw and its not many books that tell me things I don't know about Macs as I have been a Mac user since 1984.

    Reply
  5. darwin@osx.com

    That is really interesting and a big help with some of my work processes that I am redefining. I'm a huge fan of mind mapping for many things I do as an IT Architect. I really like your book btw and its not many books that tell me things I don't know about Macs as I have been a Mac user since 1984.

    Reply
  6. bkligerman@gmail.com

    I also use Mindnode, Omnioutliner and Scrivner for writing and Omnifocus for managing my time and attention. OPML is the glue of the workflow, as you have been ardently pointing out. Where you seem to be describing a linear workflow (from mindmap to outline to Omnifocus…), I constantly pass data back and forth between Mindnode and OO, developing a creative feedback-loop between mindmapping (an expansive tool for the creation and connection of ideas) and the folding hierarchical outlines I use to tighten-up the structure and flow of my words (outlines as a reductive tool). I too eventually pass the markdown to Scrivner to structure the heavy lifting.

    The point is, the creative process is neither linear nor orderly, but complex, messy and discontinuous. The software, hardware and protocols that you passionately deconstruct are not neutral, they play specific roles (eg, expansive or reductive…) in that process; their usage patterns form maps tracing creativity and are a reflection of its struggle.

    Reply
  7. bkligerman@gmail.com

    I also use Mindnode, Omnioutliner and Scrivner for writing and Omnifocus for managing my time and attention. OPML is the glue of the workflow, as you have been ardently pointing out. Where you seem to be describing a linear workflow (from mindmap to outline to Omnifocus…), I constantly pass data back and forth between Mindnode and OO, developing a creative feedback-loop between mindmapping (an expansive tool for the creation and connection of ideas) and the folding hierarchical outlines I use to tighten-up the structure and flow of my words (outlines as a reductive tool). I too eventually pass the markdown to Scrivner to structure the heavy lifting.

    The point is, the creative process is neither linear nor orderly, but complex, messy and discontinuous. The software, hardware and protocols that you passionately deconstruct are not neutral, they play specific roles (eg, expansive or reductive…) in that process; their usage patterns form maps tracing creativity and are a reflection of its struggle.

    Reply
  8. bkligerman@gmail.com

    I also use Mindnode, Omnioutliner and Scrivner for writing and Omnifocus for managing my time and attention. OPML is the glue of the workflow, as you have been ardently pointing out. Where you seem to be describing a linear workflow (from mindmap to outline to Omnifocus…), I constantly pass data back and forth between Mindnode and OO, developing a creative feedback-loop between mindmapping (an expansive tool for the creation and connection of ideas) and the folding hierarchical outlines I use to tighten-up the structure and flow of my words (outlines as a reductive tool). I too eventually pass the markdown to Scrivner to structure the heavy lifting.

    The point is, the creative process is neither linear nor orderly, but complex, messy and discontinuous. The software, hardware and protocols that you passionately deconstruct are not neutral, they play specific roles (eg, expansive or reductive…) in that process; their usage patterns form maps tracing creativity and are a reflection of its struggle.

    Reply
  9. bkligerman@gmail.com

    I also use Mindnode, Omnioutliner and Scrivner for writing and Omnifocus for managing my time and attention. OPML is the glue of the workflow, as you have been ardently pointing out. Where you seem to be describing a linear workflow (from mindmap to outline to Omnifocus…), I constantly pass data back and forth between Mindnode and OO, developing a creative feedback-loop between mindmapping (an expansive tool for the creation and connection of ideas) and the folding hierarchical outlines I use to tighten-up the structure and flow of my words (outlines as a reductive tool). I too eventually pass the markdown to Scrivner to structure the heavy lifting.

    The point is, the creative process is neither linear nor orderly, but complex, messy and discontinuous. The software, hardware and protocols that you passionately deconstruct are not neutral, they play specific roles (eg, expansive or reductive…) in that process; their usage patterns form maps tracing creativity and are a reflection of its struggle.

    Reply
  10. bkligerman@gmail.com

    I also use Mindnode, Omnioutliner and Scrivner for writing and Omnifocus for managing my time and attention. OPML is the glue of the workflow, as you have been ardently pointing out. Where you seem to be describing a linear workflow (from mindmap to outline to Omnifocus…), I constantly pass data back and forth between Mindnode and OO, developing a creative feedback-loop between mindmapping (an expansive tool for the creation and connection of ideas) and the folding hierarchical outlines I use to tighten-up the structure and flow of my words (outlines as a reductive tool). I too eventually pass the markdown to Scrivner to structure the heavy lifting.

    The point is, the creative process is neither linear nor orderly, but complex, messy and discontinuous. The software, hardware and protocols that you passionately deconstruct are not neutral, they play specific roles (eg, expansive or reductive…) in that process; their usage patterns form maps tracing creativity and are a reflection of its struggle.

    Reply
  11. davidwsparks@mac.com

    @John

    Not legible by design. I'm still working on the book. Things change and I'm not willing to publicly commit to any specifics yet.

    Reply
  12. davidwsparks@mac.com

    @John

    Not legible by design. I'm still working on the book. Things change and I'm not willing to publicly commit to any specifics yet.

    Reply
  13. davidwsparks@mac.com

    @John

    Not legible by design. I'm still working on the book. Things change and I'm not willing to publicly commit to any specifics yet.

    Reply
  14. davidwsparks@mac.com

    @John

    Not legible by design. I'm still working on the book. Things change and I'm not willing to publicly commit to any specifics yet.

    Reply
  15. davidwsparks@mac.com

    @John

    Not legible by design. I'm still working on the book. Things change and I'm not willing to publicly commit to any specifics yet.

    Reply
  16. genemcc@mac.com

    Hey David!

    Following up on John's request; would you be willing to share the mind map for your already published (and excellent) book so we could get an idea of what that looks like in comparison to the finished work. It would be a great learning experience.

    Sorry Counselor. You've already opened the door to this line of questioning by publishing this mind map. LOL

    Reply
  17. genemcc@mac.com

    Hey David!

    Following up on John's request; would you be willing to share the mind map for your already published (and excellent) book so we could get an idea of what that looks like in comparison to the finished work. It would be a great learning experience.

    Sorry Counselor. You've already opened the door to this line of questioning by publishing this mind map. LOL

    Reply
  18. genemcc@mac.com

    Hey David!

    Following up on John's request; would you be willing to share the mind map for your already published (and excellent) book so we could get an idea of what that looks like in comparison to the finished work. It would be a great learning experience.

    Sorry Counselor. You've already opened the door to this line of questioning by publishing this mind map. LOL

    Reply
  19. genemcc@mac.com

    Hey David!

    Following up on John's request; would you be willing to share the mind map for your already published (and excellent) book so we could get an idea of what that looks like in comparison to the finished work. It would be a great learning experience.

    Sorry Counselor. You've already opened the door to this line of questioning by publishing this mind map. LOL

    Reply
  20. genemcc@mac.com

    Hey David!

    Following up on John's request; would you be willing to share the mind map for your already published (and excellent) book so we could get an idea of what that looks like in comparison to the finished work. It would be a great learning experience.

    Sorry Counselor. You've already opened the door to this line of questioning by publishing this mind map. LOL

    Reply
  21. taxesphd@yahoo.com

    Mind maps are great regardless of whether they are fiction or not. It keeps thoughts much more organized and is much better than my old approach in which I would just start writing.

    Reply
  22. taxesphd@yahoo.com

    Mind maps are great regardless of whether they are fiction or not. It keeps thoughts much more organized and is much better than my old approach in which I would just start writing.

    Reply
  23. taxesphd@yahoo.com

    Mind maps are great regardless of whether they are fiction or not. It keeps thoughts much more organized and is much better than my old approach in which I would just start writing.

    Reply
  24. taxesphd@yahoo.com

    Mind maps are great regardless of whether they are fiction or not. It keeps thoughts much more organized and is much better than my old approach in which I would just start writing.

    Reply
  25. taxesphd@yahoo.com

    Mind maps are great regardless of whether they are fiction or not. It keeps thoughts much more organized and is much better than my old approach in which I would just start writing.

    Reply
  26. mk

    If you like MindNode Pro I think you would love MyThoughts for Mac. It is by far the best mind mapping software. Anyone interested should try out their free trial version. http://www.mythoughtsformac.com/ I don't think you'll be disappointed and at the very least there is no risk because it's free to try.

    Reply
  27. Mark

    Unless I've missed something somewhere, MindnodePro has a major flaw when round-tripping with OmniOutliner, in that it scrambles the order of the outline. If you start the outline in MNP and then export to OOP you then have to waste time putting everything back into order. I can live with support for notes attached to nodes but this is incredibly frustrating for me. I'd be interested to know how to get round this.

    Reply

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