Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Alive!: Your Outline

Your outline is - or at least should be - a living thing that needs attention throughout the writing process. It needs to be updated as you research, write, edit and revise. Keep it close by and current. Whether you are writing a poem, short story, chapter, novel, memoir or anything else, you should be using an outline to keep your ideas organized.

As you are writing and glancing at your outline, it can help you to remember:
     Your piece's main idea (argument/thesis)
     What you've disclosed (what the reader already knows)
     What is coming (to foreshadow/build to new ideas)

Writing is a form of learning. As you write, you better understand your subject. Your thesis and general understanding of your piece are likely to shift as you continue to write, revise and edit. That means that your outline needs to be updated, too.

Your outline should include your piece's main idea and then a summary of points for each paragraph or stanza (see an example of a traditional outline here). You might make your outline more visual with text boxes that can be moved around which is sometimes called a mind map.

However you choose to craft your outline, remember that it is an important part of the writing process. It will keep you on track to help you to write something with a narrow focus. Don't let it grow stale and out of date. Feed it new information and it will serve you well.

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