How to ace your structure by outlining

Steel beams in a building

What’s the key to organising your content in your mind and on the page?

Structure.

This is the one consistent pain point that authors experience:

‘I’m pretty happy with what I’ve written, I’m just not sure it works as is. I need to make sure it’s logical, in order – bring it all together.’

What you can do before you sit down to write is outline your content. This works for any length of copy: an article, blog post or paper – and especially a book.

Start by brainstorming the topics you want to cover. Try a spider diagram – or if visuals don’t work for you, make a list.

From there, you’ll be able to see connections forming between your topics. Start to group these together.

Create a scratch list of headings from these groups. Write down the main topics, and list the subsidiary ones underneath.

Examine the list. Do the entries look like they’re in the right order – does anything need to be moved around?

That’s it! You now have a basic framework for your content.

From there, you can drill down and make more detailed notes on the points you want to cover under each heading or topic. This acts as an aide memoire, and helps to keep you on track during the writing.

The writing process is flexible. It can always bring up new ideas, different angles and things you might not have thought of before, and that’s totally OK.

Later, it may well be you might want to move things around – and that’s OK too.

Outlines aren’t set in stone. What they give you is the good bones and springboard to get the process moving.

It can be really hard to sit down in front of a blank screen, but if you have a plan in place – a good idea of what you want to say, and how you want to say it – you’ll be off to a flying start.

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