Trying to add structure to my work
When I write, I tend to ramble a lot. It detracts from my work and makes it harder to follow. Even with the recent improvements I’ve made to my revision process, the rambling continues to be an issue. The main thing I am missing is structure. To address this issue, I am going to begin outlining my Medium and blog posts before I write them.
I Already Use Outlines
I wrote my first novel without an outline, but since then, I have used an outline with every piece of fiction I’ve written. The only non-fiction book I have released I wrote without an outline, and it’s pretty bad. The next one I am writing has an outline already in place, and so far it is leaps and bounds better than the first one. All of my short stories are written with an outline as well.
I think the reason I haven’t used outlines for blog posts in the past was that I hadn’t developed a template for article outlines yet. I’m developing one now, using resources I have found online — listed below:
None of these are quite what I want, but they have elements that I like. I’m synthesizing them together to create what I want.
Killing the Ramble
When I wrote fiction without an outline, I got off track a lot. There was a lot of whimsy, a lot of ideas that I needed to cut. When I started outlining, I produced leaner work, more focused on the story I want to tell. My thesis is that this same thing will happen when I begin to write my blog posts via outline. A leaner, more focused post that addresses what I want instead of veering all over the map.
Intellectual Work Can Be Front-Loaded
One other side effect of this is that I will be able to structure and outline my posts long before I write them. That means I will have most of the work done before putting fingers to keyboard so to speak. I will also know what areas I need to research before I do the actual writing. That’s pretty important; I often get sidelined when I’m working on a post by the fact that I need to find supporting evidence, and sometimes I skimp on that. Not that I don’t know my facts, but I might have memorized a point without remembering the source. When I write it, I’m expecting people to take my word for it. Sometimes this works out poorly.
Does This Work?
I created an outline for this post; it is the first piece I’ve done on Medium that had a real outline. It is a more focused, lean article. I think that it accomplishes its goals admirably. It gives me a lot more to work with, and I knew I needed to find some outlines to base my work off of, so I went out and found a bunch before I started. I looked through them and got a basic idea of what I would need.
A Sample Outline
The following outline is what I used in putting this piece together. It’s not much, but it’s a start point:
- Headline — This is the inspiration for the article. It’s a working headline as I will rework at great length before I publish. The headline should ask a question, either explicitly or implicitly
- Thesis Statement/Opening Paragraph — A paragraph explaining what the article is about. This should include an answer to the question asked/implied by the headline
- Point 1 — This is a point that matters to my story
- Point 2 — Same as point 1
- Point 3 — Same as point 2
- As many more points as make sense — I will include each point in the outline. I probably don’t want to go to more than five or six, although ten is possible
- Supporting Documents — Some additional bits that help my case. For example, a sample of a post outline… see how meta this just got?
- Conclusion — Wrap it all up in a bow. Present what I have learned
- Post-post matter — This is where I put my email list signup, a bit about me, etc.
Here is the same outline for this post
- Headline — Outlining for Articles — Trying to add structure to my work
- Thesis Statement/Opening Paragraph — A short paragraph about why I need to outline
- Point 1 — I use outlines for the rest of my work, why not for articles?
- Point 2 — Outlines should help me to ramble less and create a more structured flow
- Point 3 — I can do a lot of the work for a post before actually writing it. This helps me to create better articles
- Supporting Documents — This post shows the method in action + a special bonus sample outline
- Conclusion — Outlining makes my work better
- Post-post matter — In this case, it’s the signup for my self-publishing mailing list.
I will continue to develop my outline until I have one I’m happy with, much like I did with my novel outline and my non-fiction outline. As time goes on, it will become a better document, but it’s already much better than the no outline at all that I was using until today.
This process improves me as a writer and hopefully enhances the quality of my work as much as improving my revision process did when I started using it. My main sins as a blog writer are lack of focus and lack of supporting documentation. The outlining process I’m developing will cure both of those, leaving only the quality of the actual writing as a significant issue.
I hope this helps out anyone who is struggling with developing a writing process as I was.