Your outline will give you confidence in writing and help you complete your writing project.

 

In this second installment of the 2-part article, Writing Guide: The Outline, you will learn the importance of using an outline when working on a writing project.

An outline is an abbreviated picture of what you plan to write and includes the details of the topics and the order in which they come. Think of it as a “road map” of your ideas.

Pushpin showing the location on a mapWhen you look at a map, there are many ways to get from point A to point B. A one-day trip can become a 3-day trip, depending on how many detours you take. If your goal is to get from point A to point B in the most direct way, you will “outline” your route with a few signposts to mark your progress. In writing, the outline serves the same function. Each main topic is a signpost, indicating the way you are going toward your conclusion.

If you’re not sure of your subject, begin a prewriting process called free writing, which will help you grasp the various topics and subtopics that you want to cover.

Freewriting

Freewriting is a process in which you allow yourself to explore all aspects of your topic by writing for a set period of time without stopping and without correcting grammar, spelling or punctuation. Freewriting can include using your own experiences and observations, asking questions about your topic, or identifying your audience and the reason for your writing.

Once you have exhausted your topic through the freewriting technique, you will be able to identify your main topics and subtopics. Begin to arrange your main topics into a logical progression, from the most important to the least important, or strongest argument to weakest argument.

words ink penOutlining Your Writing Project

You should have at least two or three sub-topics for each main topic.  In other words, if these main topics are chapter headings, be sure that they have at least two or three supporting subtopics. These can be anecdotes, research or statements from experts, graphs or tables, or case studies. I personally prefer stories that serve as metaphors that creatively explain what you are trying to convey. Real life examples always keep the writing lively.

The outline will also show the weaknesses and strengths of your subject. You may find that you need to do some more research or that you need a great story to illustrate your idea. True stories are often a great way to grab and keep your audience’s attention.

Reorder your outline to make your strongest arguments first. Examine the momentum of your topics. Are you building to a great conclusion? Be sure to eliminate extraneous information that might derail your goal– which is to bring you more clients or customers and make a difference in their lives.

There are two other elements that need to be considered when writing an article or book, and they are your introduction and your conclusion. The importance of having a great opening cannot be underestimated. Equally, having a great conclusion is essential for leaving your reader feeling satisfied. Look for tips on how to write a great introduction and conclusion in a future post.

 

Business HeadshotsKaine Thompson is an author, editor, speaker, and book coach. She holds a Master’s degree in writing and serves as faculty at the University of Phoenix where she teaches writing and communication.

E-maginative Writing provides editorial services and private coaching for individuals, authors and entrepreneurs who want to write books (including e-books and memoirs).