When was the last time you got into your car to go somewhere you’d never been and simply said, “I bet if I just keep driving I’ll find it.”
Okay fine, maybe when you were a teenager, and anything was better than being stuck at home. But since then … never. What do you do instead? Type that s*** into your GPS, sit back and follow along.
It’s the same with writing. You need an outline. You can’t just sit down to your computer and just hope it all works out. No, you need a route to get where you need to go, especially when you’re working for a client and you need to stay within a word count or timeframe.
The real reason you need an outline is because when you’re doing something new, you usually have absolutely no idea where you’re going. Or sometimes, the route you choose has so much traffic on it you will never get there.
(Yes I’m still using the metaphor, but it’s a good one and I’m sticking with it. Deal with it.)
You need to plot the correct course. Sure, you will meet those people who seem to navigate by the stars and say stuff like “Well I just sit down to write and that’s when the magic happens.” But those people are all on antipsychotics, or should be.
Don’t listen to them.
If you haven’t used an outline before, I suggest you do a little research about it. There are many ways to write an outline, so find the one that works for you. I just take a blank piece of paper and make bullet points of things I want to talk about, and then take a step back and make sure that all the points lead to my intended conclusion. Don’t get caught up in feeling stifled by having to do an outline perfectly, or how someone else does it. There is more than one way to skin a cat.
What? That’s a thing?
That shouldn’t be a thing. Where did that expression even come from??
Anyway, in the end, the best thing about outlines is that eventually you won’t need to work at them almost at all. Mind blown, I know. After you do enough outlines in your own special way, your brain will eventually begin to internalize your normal outline rhythm and you will begin to think in outline form.
I still outline, but now it’s closer to the “sit down, magic happens” format. Whereas the assignment wouldn’t pour out of me, the outline does, and that makes the work itself so much easier and faster.
And that’s really what this is all about. Saving you time, not pulling your hair out. Because in this industry, time is money. And also: ouch, your hair!
As always, I hope this helps, but if you have any more questions about this or anything else, feel free to shoot me an email or leave them in the comments. And if this all seems too overwhelming and you just want to pay someone to do it all for you, I can help you with that as well.
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