How to write an outline

Struggling to write a new article? Tired of staring at a blank page?

Then try starting with an outline to make the writing process a million times easier.

Here’s a four-step plan to take you from outline to finished article, and the benefits it can bring to your writing practice.

Step 1: Break it down

Start by breaking down the article into the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Main argument, specific points or tips
  • Conclusion

Then fill in the gaps by asking yourself some questions, such as:

What is the article about?

What are the most important elements from the background research? 

What would add depth and context to the article?

What do I want to say in the main section? 

How will I communicate the key points? 

Which statistics can I include to back up the argument? Who can I quote?

What is the hook?

Complete the three sections above with bullet points. This will become the framework for your article.

Step 2: Visualise

Next, try writing a title, even if it’s just a placeholder at first.
 
I often find that having a title at the top of the page helps to visualise the finished article and provides structure to the piece.
 
But don’t spend too much time thinking about the exact wording at this stage – you can always go back and change it later.
 
Then, after you have a title on the page, start adding in subheadings.
 
It’s well known that subheadings make an article easier to read, but they can also help to guide the writer during the writing process.
 
Plus, like the title, you can go back and edit the wording or change the order as the writing develops.

Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative on Pexels.com

Step 3: Start writing

Pro tip: don’t worry about your writing being perfect.

The first draft is all about getting words on the page, not delivering a polished final version. This will come later after at least one round of edits.

Don’t worry about going straight for the introduction either.

An introduction has to catch the reader’s attention and encourage them to read more, so if it’s not happening straight away, don’t force it.

Instead, move on to the main bulk of the article, then write the introduction last.

This might sound counterintuitive but writing the introduction at the end means it will literally write itself, saving you a lot of time and effort.

After the main section has been written, move on to the conclusion. Be sure to keep it concise and focus on summarising the main points.

A conclusion is also an opportunity to send the reader elsewhere, like to another article on the same topic. Or to a landing page for a newsletter.

If someone has read your article all the way to the end, there’s a big chance they will want to hear more from you – so don’t miss out.

Step 4: Edit

Finally, once you have a finished first draft, give yourself a pat on the back, move away from the computer and forget about it.
 
Ideally, leave the draft overnight before going back to edit.
 
Why? Because it’s always easier to edit after giving yourself some space from the work.
 
Plus, editing is often just as important (if not more) than the writing itself, so give it the time and space it deserves.
 
Happy writing!

Want a monthly dose of writing tips in your inbox? Then sign up to the newsletter here.

One thought on “How to write an outline

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s