For some, getting started is the hardest part of writing. For others, getting their desired project underway is a piece of cake, but finishing it is another matter altogether.
Ask a few questions of any stalled writer and the root cause of the problem is the same. They lacked a complete plan that could be easily followed from point A to point Z.
Productive, moneymaking writing is easy. If you can speak, you can write. But the challenge is to arrange your words in an organized, coherent and reader-friendly way. It doesn’t take great skill. Lord knows I’m living, breathing proof that anyone can do it. All it takes is a basic plan.
A plan or outline expands your main theme into related ideas, presenting a piece of writing that stays on track with its intended communication.
Virtually all successful businesses can attribute their success to the business plan they followed from day one. Every home builder relies on architectural drawings or blueprints to follow. And the writer of virtually every successful book, manual, or eBook also had a plan or outline that provided a detailed framework for their project.
An outline gives you roadmap. It’s an exact path that when followed, will give you the exact product you envisioned from the start.
Be Willing To Roll Up Your Sleeves
Make no mistake… any outline worth its weight requires work. It’s where you need do the most of your thinking as your project’s structure takes place. It’s where you flesh out the content of your book. A completed outline is pure gold. Once you have it in your hands, all you have to do is start writing any single segment. Once you’ve finished, you can then go on to the next.
It’s only natural to want to avoid this step and get right into the good stuff — the writing. But that’s a fatal flaw in judgement. You may think you’ll complete your writing faster, but without an outline, your words will wander eventually, taking you away from your intention. What’s worse is when you pick it up again to start writing… confusion and frustration takes over.
You let your creativity take you down a particular path, which may or may not serve you. You might even have to scrap your work and start fresh. That’s a terrible waste — and it’s completely avoidable. The great secret is to have a plan and don’t deviate.
A Simple Plan Makes It Way Easier
Your plan or outline should reflect the scope of your project. If you’re writing a small article, I suggest a quick one-page mind map. Alternatively, a short, 3-7 point outline would do the job too. But if you’re writing a book, you’ll need a page or more for each chapter, so a 17-chapter book should begin with a 17-page outline.
The time and space devoted to your outline should reflect the finished work you intend to create. The more involved the project, the more details your outline should entail.
Start by clearly indentifying your topic. Try to really nail it, so you have a specific direction in mind from the outset. Next, create a working title. This may change at some future point, but for now, the title should convey the overall message you’re about to discuss in more detail.
With the title in mind, create a simple, one-page mind map by listing the title in the middle of the page and drawing a circle around it. Next, think about the main sub-topics related to your title and list them one-by-one in a circular fashion around the title or topic in the center of the page. In just a few minutes, you can easily have the chapters of your book or the key points to your article or report.
For an article, that’s enough of an outline to create your piece. With a little additional detail, you could transform this basic mind map into an adequate outline for a special report. Your outline for a book, manual, or home-study course will however require additional pages. It’s only logical that the greater the length of your work, the more in-depth the outline should be.
The Hardest Part Is Getting Started
Whatever you’re writing project, begin with a single page. That’s all it takes to launch even the most ambitious project and one started, you only need to gain a little momentum. This way you’ll find that seeing it through is easier than you imagined.
A single page can reveal the major chapters of your book. For a report, your ‘one-pager’ creates a framework of the essential areas to be discussed. You can then write a page or two on each of these subtopics and you’re off to the races. If it’s an article you’re writing, simply take each of the ideas and write a paragraph or two on each.
That’s really all it takes. But having a framework in place from the beginning keeps your writing on target and makes the entire process so much easier.
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