Outlining Books Faster, Revisited

"The Fast Book Outliner V3" A year ago I wanted a better way to outline books for review purposes, and wrote about The Fast Book Outliner (FBO). I used it on a few book outlining projects, and while it was an improvement I still found that it still felt physically awkward to use. If I’m reading a book, the note-taking action has to be efficiently done with one hand, and I found that writing toward the bottom of the page was difficult. Also, although a single sheet of FBO could handle up to 100 pages, that meant I still needed multiple pages to cover a good-sized book.

Fast-forward to today: I’ve been re-reading Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, and have been in the mood to outline its lessons. It occurred to me that I could adapt the principles from The Compact Calendar to book outlining, which has resulted in version 3 of the FBO.

Fast Book Outliner Detail In the above photo, I’m using circles to mark the pages that have interesting content (perhaps highlighted), writing the related notes on the right side. I’m also marking off major sections using lines, which helps me see the structure of the book.

My first pass at FBO V3 has room for 500 pages of book mapping on a single sheet. This is probably too dense; I’ll have to redraft the numbers to something like 250 pages. This would give me some room for book information at the top of the page, and maybe allow for some notes at the bottom of the page. The note area also is a place to rest your hand as you take notes; as I noted above, one-handed writing on the bottom is tough. Without the weight of your hand to steady the paper, it tends to move around…annoying!

If you’re interested in giving it a try, check out the new V3 version available for download on the Fast Book Outliner Page.