There are very few writers who can write without an outline. While many may forgo it when writing a short blog post, you can bet your ass that they write one when writing anything longer than 500 words. Outlines keep you on track and can jog your memory when you pick up your pen again.
Writing helps you get your point across. However, just like speaking, it’s easy to go off on a tangent and then find yourself stuttering and stopping to get back to your original point. An outline organizes your thoughts and helps you to stay on track with your main point, especially if you’re trying to write a longer article or academic paper.
Here’s how to write a killer outline:
1. What’s your point? Write down the main point at the top of your outline. Not only does it give you an end goal, but it also should be part of your thesis statement, which everything has, from marketing copy to a doctoral dissertation. Even this blog post has one; can you find it?
2. What’s your supporting evidence? If you’re writing an academic paper or a position paper, this is where you write your case. When I wrote my master’s thesis, these supporting facts became chapters. If you’re writing a shorter paper, then these may be your subheads. For articles that include tips, such as this one, your supporting information may become your tips or bullet points.
3. What does the opposition say? This part of your outline is critical if you’re writing academic papers and some position papers. Write down a few of the major arguments against your thesis statement.
4. Draw your conclusion. Your conclusion should logically follow all of the evidence you provided. If you find holes, go back and revise your supporting evidence.
5. Review and revise as needed. Chances are, the outline you start with won’t be the one that you end with, and that’s okay. A good outline is flexible, allowing you to add sections, delete sections and revise sections when something just isn’t working for you.
What to consider for creative writing articles
Fiction and creative writers often have outlines, especially if they’re writing novels or short fiction. It’s helpful to know where you want your characters to end up. While some writers may outline each chapter, others just sketch the main events they want to take their character through. Though not as rigid as nonfiction writing, an outline for a creative story provides a dynamic sketch of the overall piece and can help them stay on track.
In short, an outline can help you to tame your thoughts and get your point across so that you can write a killer article (or dissertation or the Great American Novel. Whatever tickles your fancy.).