What’s the Point of the Outline?
It really is a shame that outlines don’t get the recognition they deserve when it comes to writing. When we hear about the writing process we hear about that grand “blank page” that we fill with our thoughts and ideas to create content. We talk about that first sentence, the conclusion, the sources we use, we talk about everything except for what really starts it all. No, it’s not the rough draft. It’s the outline.
Sometimes I think the word rough draft leads to some misconceptions. Since it’s recognized as the starting point of writing, it makes people think that you’re just writing nonstop without any sort of planning behind it. The truth is there’s a lot of planning that goes into that rough draft. “While creativity in your writing should be free flowing, it all starts with planning,” says Jessica Lee via Bizbuzz Content. “Think about it: No major construction ever begins without first referencing the architectural plans that map out the end results.”
Why Is the Outline so Important?
Now that I’ve had you take the red pill about rough drafts to reveal the truth of outlines, let’s look at what you can do with your outline and why it’s so important. Or is it the blue pill? I have trouble remembering. See, this is why outlines are important.
1. They help you map out your ideas and details
Jody Calkins of “The Writer Side of Business” is rather fond of outlines. She touches on how outlines help you get all of those little details together. “When we have a message to share, we often don’t have a firm grasp on the details or how to organize the information. This is where an outline comes in. When we set out to write an outline, we put our brains to work. They force us to get some talking points on paper. We can say, ‘Okay, what are the specific points I want to make in this article?’”
2. They help you discover new things in your writing and create new ideas
When I get an idea for a new book I immediately write an outline. I write up the ideas in my head so I can look over them and figure out what my next move will be. The best part is that along the way I end up coming with new ideas. In the case of my fiction writing, for instance, I have a list of characters. However, as I look over each of them, my mind comes up with ways that they can interact with each other, who they are, and what they look like. “By taking this time-out to outline, not only do you have the freedom to be more creative — you’re giving yourself the chance to capture new ideas and putting them somewhere,” says Loc Van via Ezine Articles, “They can be added to a section or just filed somewhere to find a home later.”
3. They help you stay focused (even if you deviate from your original idea)
The most important thing that an outline does is that it helps you stay focused on what you want to write about. It’s a document that has all of your ideas in one place, which helps you stay on target when it comes to creating content. “Having a predefined roadmap keeps you focused on the current sentence or paragraph,” says Van. “No need for pauses to figure out what’s next — just refer to the outline.” However, as you get new ideas, you can always add to the outline. There’s no set formula on how to compose your outline, you write it in a way that fits with you. For example, when I write up an outline, when I get a new idea I write it in red. This way, I don’t lose focus on the original idea and I can decide which would be better: the new thoughts I have or the original one.
The rough draft to your writing will always be important, but it’s important to remember that the outline has a key role in your content. I’m glad that you’ve taken the red pill about this… or the blue pill? Purple, let’s go with purple and just combine the two.