Do you ever feel like you’re hopelessly stuck between Point A and Point B?
Point A: I want to write a post, but all the ideas are unorganized and bouncing wildly around in my brain.
Point B: I now know exactly what I’m going to write about and precisely how I’m going to get it done.
It happens to the best of us.
Without the right tools, getting from Point A to Point B can be a brutal task. Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that cutting corners and attempting to write without first creating a useful outline is like hiking into the wilderness without a map — it is just never a good idea.
Outlines are immensely important to the writing process. Let me share with you the exact process I follow when creating an effective outline for blog posts:
1. Find Your Topic and Message
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is a step that is easy to overlook. The purpose of this website is to: 1. Educate my audience 2. Entertain my audience and 3. Help my audience solve problems. Each article I put out should have a clear and focused topic that focuses on accomplishing these three goals. Establishing a level of organization ahead of time will guide your writing and keep you on topic.
Focus on creating a list of main ideas that support the overall subject of your article. As you focus on the purpose of your article, let your thoughts flow freely as you put them onto paper. For example, my article about sleeping better in hostels has seven clear and established ideas: choose the right hostel, find the right bed, ask for extras, wear yourself out, put away the screens, hydrate, and take melatonin. These ideas didn’t just jump onto the paper naturally as I typed the article — they came to me after thoughtful brainstorming.
3. Map Out Your Main Ideas
Now that you have your main ideas on paper, organize them. Ask yourself: What is the best possible way to shuffle all these lovely ideas into their most meaningful form? In my opinion, it is best to both start and finish with your most effective ideas. Readers have a tendency to skim through articles and focus on their beginnings and ends, for better or worse.
4. Map Out Your Supporting Points
At some point you are going to need to back up all these ideas of yours with evidence and explanation. This is where the bulk of your content will come from after all. Refer back to your brainstorming and pull out ideas that will support and strengthen your writing. List these points underneath your main ideas — again in a logical and effective order — and now you will have a neat and tidy trove of information to help you along the way.
5. Organize an Intro
Eventually you are going to need to convince your reader that what you are writing is worth reading. It is best to do that immediately. Plan out a concise, effective, and colorful way to draw the reader in, tell them what they can expect to read, and why your writing is worth their time. Outline your intro after your main ideas and their supporting points — knowing the direction of your article beforehand will make creating your intro so much easier.
6. Organize a Conclusion
It is important not to overthink your conclusion — it will be effective as long as it is thoughtful and ties back to the intro. The point is to provide the reader with a sense of completion and reinforce that what they just read is, in fact, important and relevant. Jot down some ideas on how to challenge the reader to take what they read into the real world, but never introduce any new ideas to the reader in your conclusion. It’s too late for that!
7. Edit and Tweak Your Outline
Any good outline should have more than one draft. Don’t worry, subsequent versions of your outline really shouldn’t take long — it’s just a matter of tidying things up and reorganizing one last time before the real fun starts. Usually, my first draft of an outline is out of order, filled with cramped ideas, scratches, and scribbles. Put together a clean and easy to follow outline and the writing process will flow like water.
Unfortunately, many of my early articles on this website were created without an outline. I had forgotten good writing habits and, in turn, writing had become a chore. It wasn’t fun anymore. The whole task had become jumbled, tedious, and stressful.
Thankfully, I snapped out of it and forced myself to start giving my writing structure again. Creating content is still far from effortless, but now that I use outlines I am enjoying the process again.
If you are having trouble writing and feel stressed out and unorganized, use my seven steps to help create a more effective outline. It could be your ticket from Point A to Point B.