Editor’s note: This post was written by Steve Aedy, a freelance blogger and a content writer at FreshEssays – company that helps with writing and editing issues. Steve is addicted to literature and essay writing, he also likes to craft useful blog posts. You can contact him on G+.
When faced with the task of writing an essay, a blog post, a novel or a story, even the most experienced writer can become overwhelmed with the process of organizing their thoughts into prose. An outline can be a writer’s greatest tool for structuring ideas and arguments, and the better the outline, the easier and more fruitful the writing process.
There are many benefits to writing a good outline. Here are some of them.
Structure. Writing an outline provides structure to your thoughts. This structure will be the framework on which the piece hangs.
Moving forward. It will also be the thing that moves the plot or idea forward. The progression and flow from one thought to another can be captured first in an outline, then expanded upon during the writing process.
Main points. Without an outline, you may get caught up in a single idea or be prone to tangents that don’t help support your piece’s purpose. An outline will remind you of what you want to talk about and achieve with the piece.
Cure for writer’s block. Writing an outline can also be a great tool for getting over writer’s block. If you set up what you want to write about in an outline and break it down into bite-sized pieces, it can feel a less overwhelming than sitting down to a blank page and trying to capture a story, an essay or a novel in one go.
Many professional writers swear by outlines. When starting a new book, John Grisham writes a 50 page detailed outline and ends up spending more time on the outline than on the novel itself. Writers of every stripe can benefit from a good outline in order to make the writing process a little less arduous. Sites like BlogHerald.com and Copyblogger.com offer support and advice for writers, including articles on writing outlines.
Here are some tips on writing a good outline for bloggers:
Refine your title. The more specific you can be with your title (and not spoil your headline with common writers’ mistakes), the clearer you’ll be on what you want to say. Try to write catching and savvy headline Constantly referring to the idea expressed in the title as you write will also help keep you on point.
List the main points. Define what you want people to learn from your post and list these ideas in bullet points. They will make your message clear and more visually appealing.
Expand those ideas into sections. Think about those ideas that can be linked to each other in the same section.
Trim the excess. If there are ideas that don’t serve the title, or aren’t as strong as the other ideas, don’t hesitate to get rid of them. A well-written article is a series of strong, well-articulated ideas.
Keep your sources close. Once you’ve found the sources for your ideas, list them next to each other in your outline. Simply copy and paste the URL into your document next to the idea that the source supports. It helps you have easy reference to your sources when editing. Remove them from the text when you’re finished editing.
Be flexible. If new ideas come up as you’re writing and it seems that they serve the purpose of your article better than some from your original outline, make the adjustments to include them. The outline is a way to organize your thoughts, not a blockade to new ones.
Author Harlan Cohen describes writing without an outline in the following way: “It’s like driving from New Jersey to California. I may go Route 60, I may go via the Straits of Magellan or stop over in Tokyo…”. Writing an outline, on the other hand, gives you a short-cut to your destination. Why not use it?