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I am deployed in Iraq right now. I have been planning on writing a book for a long time now. I would like to ask you what would be the best way to organize my thoughts? I am wanting it to be a "about my life lessions" kind of book. I am gearing it towards adult/young adult type of people.

Is there a good solid kind of outline I can put my thoughts into to make this a more organized project?

Thank you for your time and help.


SGT Travis Bennett
US Army, Infantry
Baqubah, Iraq

Hello Sargeant:

First I would like to thank you and all your fellows for your bravery in serving in the armed forces. I do appreciate your efforts.

Many people want to write and have some vague ideas, but they don't know how to get started. Getting started involves bringing this material under control and putting it into some tangible form, then manipulating it until it suits your purposes. By “suits your purposes” I mean it guides and supports your writing and ensures you don't put a foot wrong.

First, you must decide on a premise. The premise is what your story is “about,” and can also be described as the “takeaway” - what you want the reader to take away from the book. It should be universally applicable (works for all people). State it as a formula, if you can: “A + (or -) B = C.” This statement will describe the one most important  principle - something your life has taught you. An example would be “Love plus plenty of money makes for a good marriage.” True or untrue, it should reflect your views on the subject. This is the most important part of your book, so choose carefully. Each chapter may have a premise of its own under the main premise.

Once you have your premise, write a list of your life events that support the premise - just a few words to remind you which even you're dealing with. Keep going until you feel you have enough events to fill a book.

At some point, a pattern should begin to show itself. Work with this list until the arrangement suits you. You may decide to organize it chronologically, or as a series of events that led you to your conclusion or any other way you like. Just make sure there's some kind of progression –some movement from A and B toward C. From that, make an outline, keeping the premise in mind at all times.

When you are finished organizing your material, you may begin to write your first draft. Don't worry if this turns out to be a complete mess - first drafts are supposed to be that way.

When you finish that, come back if you need to ask more questions. You will be revising and rewriting from that point on.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 500+ questions.

And good luck with your writing!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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