The beautiful thing about writing is that there is no “right way.” Whatever it takes for you to get your ideas out of your head and into the written word is the right way. The way you go about doing that may be completely different than the way I go about doing it.
Figuring out what works for you may take a lot of trial and error. Here at ByBloggers we try to make the “trial” part a lot easier while removing as much “error” as possible. We use a fancy tool we like to call an “outline.”
Outlines are like snowflakes or Great Uncle Jimmy’s: they’re all different and incredibly unique. Some writers will just jot down a few ideas before they start writing while others will create an epic document that covers nearly every part of what they are going to be writing.
But what should you do?
I’m here to argue that the newer you are as a blogger and writer, the more detailed your outline should be. As you get more experienced you can scale back the intensity of your outline if you want. “But Sam,” you tell me, “I want to start writing my ebook right now!” I know you do, but hear me out.
1. An outline will make sure your organization is logical
Unless you’ve got your doctorate, chances are that your first ebook will be the longest writing project you’ve ever undertaken. It’s easy to sit down and write an 800 word blog post with a minimal (or even no) outline. Usually you are just discussing one idea and it isn’t hard to keep it straight in your mind. An ebook, on the other hand, is made up of a thousand ideas all at once. It’s impossible to keep straight everything you want to say. Plus, the order in which you present your information is absolutely vital to getting your message across. You don’t want to play pinball with your reader’s brain. Instead, you want them slowly walking up the “stairs” your ebook provides by having each idea and each section build on the one before it. An outline will make sure those stairs aren’t missing steps.
2. An outline will make sure you cover everything you intend
It’s easy to stick another bullet point into a blog post when you remember something else you wanted to write about. That becomes much more difficult to do when you’ve already written two chapters after the section you want to modify. Chances are you reference the section you are changing later in the ebook and now you’re going to have to go through it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure your references are up to date and make sense. The easy solution is to make changes to your outline instead. It’s much easier to add a bullet point to an outline than it is to add it to your nearly written ebook.
3. An outline will help you make new connections between old ideas
An outline organizes your thoughts in a logical fashion. When you see your ideas on paper and under relevant headings, it’s easier to visualize how the ideas fit together. Forcing myself to categorize my thoughts creates new connections between categories and ideas. As you write your outline I can virtually guarantee that you will think about things you never have before and your ebook will be better off for it.
4. An outline will serve as your map for when you lose your way
Writing an e-book is like the journey of a thousand miles – unless you’re flying, it takes a really frickin’ long time. You will inevitably lose your way and your motivation at times. When you don’t feel like writing or don’t know what to write about next, your outline will be your saving grace. You will always know what you need write about next and your thoughts can be focused on HOW to write and not WHAT to write.
While it may seem like a waste at the time, trust me when I say you should invest in a quality outline before you start writing your ebook, especially if this is your first time. The time you invest now will pay huge dividends later when you’re deep in the throes of writing your ebook. The great thing about being new at something is that you have no idea “what works for you” so you get to try everything once. Give the detailed outline a try; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Photo by tomswift46