How To Save Tons Of Writing Time – By Using A Complete Outline

This post is the first guest post published on the One Spoon blog.  The author of the post – Marina Brito – is a good friend of mine and is a member of TWO of the three Mastermind Groups that I’m currently in.  She emailed me after my last post on outlining and said she had an article on Outlines that didn’t have a home and did I want it as a guest post.

If you read my last post you’ll know what I think about the power of outlines.  Marina’s article is a practical, no-nonsense guide to writing a simple outline that will help you complete more blog posts and articles – and save you a ton of time in the process.

That’s a win-win in my book.  Over to Marina….

How To Save Tons Of Writing Time – By Using A Complete Outline

A few months ago, it was the Christmas season and I was out shopping for Christmas presents for my family.   I found my shopping trips to be inefficient, long-drawn, and incredibly frustrating. So much for the Christmas spirit!

But why did shopping have to be so frustrating? I realized that it was because I hadn’t planned it ahead of time and I had to figure out what to buy on the fly.

This frustration while shopping reminded me of my frustration while article-writing

My article-writing was also inefficient and long-drawn.   Just like my shopping, it was not planned ahead of time and I had to figure out what to write on the fly.

But I was in the practice of outlining my articles. So why was I still struggling?

I struggled because I often sat down to write my articles with a half-outline.  What do I mean by a “half-outline”?

A half-outline is one which only has questions in it

The questions that I’m talking about are the ones that I use to construct my outline such as: “how”, “why” and “what”.  I can also have other points that I want to cover in my article, but in a half-outline they’re just a list of points to cover.

The problem with the half-outline is that there are no answers to go with the questions or the points.  And that’s why I practically had to write every article on the fly and it was such a long-drawn and frustrating experience.

Fortunately, I found a solution:

The solution is to have a complete outline

A complete outline adds answers to the questions and to the points in the half-outline.  This is probably easier to understand through an example:

Let’s see how to use the complete outline on an article


If I were to write an article about walking the dog, my half-outline (because there are only questions and points to cover) would be something like this:
– Why walk the dog?
– Who walks the dog?
– Where to walk the dog?
– Counter-point goes here
– Example goes here
– etc…

And my complete outline (questions AND answers) would look like this:

- Why walk the dog?
ANSWER: To get some fresh air and exercise
- Who walks the dog?
ANSWER: We take turns
- Where to walk the dog?
ANSWER: On a 1-mile loop near the house
- Counter-point: Not all dogs need walks
ANSWER: But it’s a great opportunity to bond
- Example:
ANSWER: Story about my aunt and her dog walking to the lake
- etc…

Do you see how the questions together with the answers make up a complete outline?

Plan the complete outline up front

What I found after planning a complete outline up front, was that writing the article was easy-peasy.  No more endless editing or rambling about.

With a complete outline, writing the article was only a matter of expanding the thoughts a bit more, adding connecting sentences, creating a summary at the end, etc. and voila! I had a complete article in a much shorter period of time.

Still, sometimes I mistakenly think that I don’t need a complete outline.

Sometimes, I believe that all the answers are in my head

Occasionally, I think that writing out a complete outline is unnecessary.  After all, I have all the information that I need inside my head.   Sometimes I think that writing out the complete outline will take too long and that it’s easier to just write a simple article without the outline.

What I inevitably find is that by trying to write without a complete outline the process takes much longer.  Without a complete outline my article bloats and wanders around and I end up self-editing for hours on end until exasperation and exhaustion hit.

I’m telling you: there’s no need to go through that pain

Try the complete outline.  Even the pros create complete outlines!

Let’s summarize:

Summary

Writing articles used to be as frustrating to me as shopping for Christmas presents.  The source of my frustration in both cases was lack of prior planning.    In article writing, prior planning translates to having a complete outline.

First, I start with a half-outline.  I write down the questions (and I don’t just leave it at “How”; I must expand the question into a complete thought).

Next, I think through what I want to convey in my article and answer the questions.  This results in a complete outline.

Finally, I fill in the article.

Next Step

I invite you to create a complete outline for your next article and see how you will save tons of time while writing.

Marina Brito is exploring content marketing for her real estate practice based in Fairfax VA (near Washington DC).  You can find her at www.defeatthecousin.com.  Marina is author of “Cómo Comprar Casa En USA”, which you can find here on Amazon.

Subscribe To The One Spoon At A Time Mailing List
I like freebies....you like freebies...sadly I don't have a freebie for you just yet.  But there will be soon...so while you are waiting for me to finish that (and it will be about writing and improving your writing) you can sign up anyway and ask me some writing questions!