Thursday, August 14, 2014

Writing Tip: Outlining is a Big Deal

“If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.”
- Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

I've come to realize that while randomly writing is great fun, it sometimes leads to disaster, or at the least, much more work later on when it comes time to edit.

Outlining is the trick.

Careful, detailed outlining, with lots of arrows, highlights, and references, sets the path clearly before the writer. I've found outlining to be a huge boon when I am zipping along, adding this and that. It helps me to not forget those clever ideas I had once upon a time when I was brainstorming.

Part of my writing pursuits involve creating curriculum for the teachers of young children. As a result of this passion, I work from the mindset of brainstorming. And the only way to organize my wild and fanciful ideas is to plot them in the middle of an outlining chart.

Yes, there are many formats for outlining. I regularly change which form I am using for different purposes. Grids, numbers, alphabet letters, index cards, wall charts, spread sheets, sticky notes . . . An outline can take any shape the writer requires for specific projects.

Outlining = Planning

Some tips for using an outline:

~ Find what works for you. Adjust to fit. Many times I've taped four pieces of typing paper together to create the size of outline chart I need for a particular unit.

~ Make it fun. Use fancy paper or colored sticky notes.

~ Highlighters work wonders for coordinating important features. For instance, for curriculum, I must include a certain number of resource kit items. Highlight away, Angie!

~ Work in pencil. Right now, I love the neon-colored mechanical pencils I found at Costco. Plenty of lead, plenty of erasers.

~ Jot source page numbers right into the outline. I also place a sticky note on specific pages in the resource book and keep those books I am using in one pile until I am ready to make copies.

~ Organize your outline according to the master plan. My units involve a month of Wednesdays. Each Wednesday has to have specific activity areas. Those are all labeled for ease of use.

~ Don't feel confined by your format. Mix it up or cut and paste. Literally. My type of one-page outlines often have notes all along the margins. The occasional mix of sticky notes are haphazardly attached where needed.

~ Sketch! I always scribble in images of my ideas. The back of the outline papers usually contain stick people drawings for activities, games, and projects.

~ An outline lets you notice holes in your plan. I just found several missing bits by glancing at my outline.

~ Make your outline work for you. It is a tool to make our work easier.

The old saying, "Failing to plan = Planning to Fail" is certainly true for some, if not most, forms of writing. Even if plans are not on paper, isn't it true that there are plans and ideas bouncing around in your head?

Alrighty then. Get planning.

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