You may be one of the many writers who hate writing an outline. Honestly? I don’t blame you. I used to hate making an outline too. For years, my writing habits always involved getting an idea and running with it. The second inspiration took hold of me I would type as fast as a could in an attempt to get all my ideas out of my head and onto a piece of paper.
Sometimes, it worked! More often though, it ended up being a disorganized mess. As such, I’m writing this to help you reconsider your stance on using an outline. Here are a few reasons you should use one:
Keeps Your Thoughts Organized
The most obvious benefit of an outline is that it organizes your thoughts. You can improve the logic and flow in your writing by writing down the main ideas you want to cover first.
Sometimes this process even helps you come up with new ideas you may not have considered while writing. While typing out the broad concepts, you can easily generate new ideas you might not have otherwise.
Saves a lot of Time
An outline is a roadmap for you to follow that makes it easier to write quickly. You don’t waste time thinking about what to tackle next or what order is best because you have already decided on that.
As I alluded to in the introduction, it also saves you time editing. You don’t have to make major changes moving a paragraph from the end of the piece to the start. Reformatting and adding in sentences to fix it requires more effort than just having it flow logically from the start.
Provides a Framework to Get Started
When I have difficulty writing, especially for a client, I start with an outline. First, writing the outline is still an important part of the process, so I consider it to be time well spent. Then, once I’ve done that I find it a lot easier to write the rest.
Outlines are a great way to cure writer's block. If you don't use them and often struggle to get started, then I’d encourage you to try this next time you’re staring at a pencil on your desk hoping the article will start writing itself.
Makes a Long Piece Less Intimidating
My outlines helped me through my university career immensely. When I had a word count or page requirement for a class, breaking it down into manageable pieces helped me because it made writing less daunting.
In my Creative Writing degree at UBC, I had to write 10-page stories every other week. At the same time, I also had Psychology classes where I had to write 10-page research papers. Now, those kinds of requirements don’t scare me at all, but back then it sure did.
Using an outline lets you break it down into small chunks that you can easily tackle. For the research paper, I could write just a page or two on whatever section I needed to do next. For short stories, I could write three pages of one scene, then 3 more pages of the next scene.
Many writers use an outline before diving into their pieces, and many don’t. At the end of the day, I can’t tell you how to write. I can just tell you how I write and why.
This is also somewhat dependent on what you’re writing. For a novel, a blog post, or a research paper an outline is super helpful. For poetry or a cartoon, it might not seem necessary or make sense at all.
The choice is yours! At the end of the day, do whatever floats your boat :)