(Part 1 and Part 2 of this series)
My students will probably think I’m lying, but I actually didn’t like or even follow outlines until I was in grad school. I thought they stifled my creativity and the organic development of my writing. In actuality, I set myself up for failure as a writer, something I learned the hard way in my master’s program. Now, I am a firm believer that tackling longer projects, such as a thesis or a dissertation, requires an outline of some sort.
For the Jackson biography, I sketched a chapter-by-chapter outline identifying the main subjects of each chapter. I also broke down each chapter into smaller components.
This first outline is the one that I submitted as part of my book proposal to LSU Press:
- Introduction: Provides the major arguments that I am making about Jackson in historiographical context.
- Chapter 1: “Gentleman”—This chapter will examine Jackson’s early life in the Carolinas, focusing on his upbringing as a southerner and his exposure to slavery.
- Chapter 2: “Speculator”—This chapter will examine Jackson’s training as a lawyer, his move to Tennessee, and his marriage to Rachel Donelson Robards. These three decisions, all speculative, allowed him to become successful as a land speculator, a member of the Nashville gentry, a politician, and a militia officer.
- Chapter 3: “Patron”—This chapter will examine Jackson’s role as a patron to young men and the benefits (namely, the adoption of his son and his care for nephews such as Andrew Jackson Donelson) and the difficulties (the feud with the Benton brothers) associated with being a patron. The associations that he built during this period of his life would stay with him throughout his career.
- Chapter 4: “Hero”—This chapter will examine Jackson’s role in the War of 1812, including his prosecution of the war against the Creek and his emergence as the Hero of New Orleans. The Battle of New Orleans in particular would solidify his support among many southerners.
- Chapter 5: “Conqueror”—This chapter will examine Jackson’s involvement in treaty making with the southeastern tribes and his invasion and subsequent governance of Florida. These actions demonstrated Jackson’s belief in territorial expansion and his commitment to controlling the actions and movement of slaves and Native Americans, all concerns of southerners.
- Chapter 6: “Democrat”—This chapter will examine Jackson’s emergence as a Democrat during the presidential elections of 1824 and 1828. His grappling with democratic ideas served to reinforce his belief in an expanded white democracy that supported the ideals of mainstream southern society.
- Chapter 7: “President”—This chapter will examine Jackson’s two presidential administrations. These eight years witnessed Jackson struggling to support southern ideals while balancing his responsibilities as president and leader of the Democratic party.
- Chapter 8: “Planter”—This chapter will examine Jackson’s early retirement years once he left the presidency. His attempts to make a profitable living as a planter met with difficulty as his adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr., made poor financial decisions. His plight was not uncommon for southern planters during and after the Panic of 1837.
- Chapter 9: “Statesman”—This chapter will examine Jackson’s influence over the Democratic party during his retirement years. He was particularly interested in maintaining party control over the national government and in supporting Manifest Destiny, specifically in Texas, which was one of the southern slave owners’ primary goals in this decade and beyond.
- Conclusion: Explains the significance of looking at Jackson as a southerner in order to understand both the personal life of a president and the political consequences of his personal life.
This second outline is the one that I used for the first two chapters:
I. Chapter 1: “Gentleman”
A. Jackson’s childhood
1. Encounters with Native Americans
3. Influence of mother
4. Loss of family
5. Hatred of British
B. Jackson’s teenage years
1. Urban setting
2. Social interactions
3. Social network
C. Jackson’s early adulthood
1. Study of law
2. Purchase of slave
II. Chapter 2: “Speculator”
A. Move to East Tennessee
1. Feud with Sevier
B. Move to Nashville
1. Land speculation
2. Business interests
3. Romance with RJ
C. Public life
1. Militia membership
2. Social network
3. Judicial appointment
4. Political appointment
As I’ll show in a future post, the submitted book manuscript looks similar to these outlines, but there were substantial differences by the time I finished. More changes are likely to occur before the book is published.
Part 4 of the series is here.
4 thoughts on “The Evolution of a Book, Part 3: The Book Outline”
This has been a great series — thanks for sharing your thought process.
John Sevier’s feud with Jackson is very interesting, so your Chapter 2 is of particular interest to me…
Your outline hints at a very fascinating read. Can’t wait to see it published. Congrats!
Thanks, Gordon. I’m hoping the press’ reader(s) like it as well.