To outline or not to outline, that’s the question. When I write, I always start the process with thoughts about how to write and organize my story. That’s the first thing I do when I’m writing a novel, when I’m blogging, and when I’m writing articles. No matter what. That’s how I start.
By the way, I always write using distraction free writing software.
What is an outline?
The first thing I do, no matter what I am going to be writing, is to find out what I am going to write about (the topic, and the question I’m going to answer). Then, I add everything I can possibly think of (in a certain amount of time), then I do research, and I add the research. It’s in fact all my notes.
The problem with creating an outline is how to organize it. You don’t want to have hundreds of post-it notes on the table, without any system to help you understand what you’ve got. You want to be able to get a good overview of everything, and you want it to be easy to rearrange. For instance, you want the overview and to be able to move chapter 10, to chapter 2, without hardly any effort at all. Or if you’re writing a blog post, you want to be able to move around the different parts of the post (if necessary).
How to begin creating the outline
I always begin with brainstorming. I don’t do any research at all in the beginning. First, I sit down and start writing down everything I know about the topic. I do it for about five minutes. Then, I start the research. I search google for similar blog posts, and I use wikipedia to get some facts.
I add everything to Taskpaper. A software to create to-do lists. But to me, it’s perfect for organizing both my novel and all my blog posts.
The outlining methods
There are at least three methods you can use. I’m using the classic method, and I do it in the following steps:
- Main idea
- Supporting information
Every chapter of my novel (and every part of my blog posts) consists of one main idea, information that supports the main idea, and the details. Simple and straightforward. When I use this method, it’s easy to get an overview of every chapter. I use different fonts, different colors and bullet points in order to separate the three different steps.
I’m using Taskpaper, and I am very satisfied. You can use a pen and paper, or you can use other types of software, like:
- Mindnode Pro
- Online note taking software
- Sticky Note
By the way, I am using Evernote for everything when it comes to notes and things I need to remember, but not when it comes to creating my outline.
It’s no right or wrong
What I am doing works for me. What you need to remember is that there are no right way to write an outline. You can use the classic approach, or you can do it any other way. What works for me might not work for you.
There are only two things you need to write an outline that will be really helpful:
- You need to be able to write down everything
- You need to be able to get a good overview
- You need to be able to rearrange (fast and easy)what you’ve written
Are you creating outlines?
I’m very interested in what you do and how you write. Do you ever think about how to write an outline? If you are, how are you writing it?