Whether you are writing an essay, a white paper or a nonfiction book, the best writing guide you can use before you get started is an outline.
The outline serves as a map or a guide, showing you how to get from your strong beginning to your big finish, covering all the important points along the way.
In this 2-part article, you will learn how to use the outline as an indispensable writing tool that will give you confidence in your writing and help you complete your project.
Before you begin writing, you need to organize your ideas into a logical order. Order refers to what you choose to present first, second, third, and so on in your writing. The order supports your purpose for writing.
This is a basic outline: Introduction, 1st main point (with 2-3 sub-points), 2nd main point (with 2-3 sub-points), 3rd main point (with 2-3 sub-points), etc. and the conclusion (summary of all your points with a memorable ending).
Decide on Your Purpose
The first thing you want to do before you begin creating your outline is to decide on your purpose. If you are writing about your business, select a topic that will encompass your mission.
For example: Company XYZ, with its revolutionary products, supports achieving optimum health at minimum cost so that you can be the person you’ve always wanted to be.
Once you have created a purpose for your book or paper, begin asking important questions and providing the answers related to this overarching statement. Once you have a defining statement, the rest of your book, white paper or essay must support that statement. If not, you are off-track.
If you’re writing a white paper, you will want to cover all aspects of your product or service. Your purpose is to garner more clients and to excite them about your business. You will want to create a logical order that builds momentum so that your potential clients can take action at the end — hopefully to buy your product or service.
If you are writing a nonfiction book, an outline will help you organize your chapters. Nonfiction may not have a plot line, but it does have a rhythm that engages your readers at the beginning and draws them to the conclusion. This is called pacing. You want to create momentum with each chapter serving to support you ultimate purpose. The order of your chapters will make this possible.
Describe Your Chapters
In your outline, for each chapter, write a short description of what occurs and the purpose of that chapter. Remember to connect it in some way to your ultimate purpose–the reason you are writing. Rather than writing willy-nilly without a clue as to where you’re going, an outline will keep you focused and organized. You won’t have to worry about whether you’ve covered an important topic or not. You will know by consulting your outline.
Your goal for writing should be to change lives in some way, whether it’s through entertainment, information, or inspiration, so it is important that you capture your reader’s attention from the first line to the last.
Next week you will continue to learn the outlining process that will make a difference in your writing.
Kaine 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).