To plan or not to plan

Simple Outline: Shakespeare’s famous quote “to be or not to be” might be appropriate here. To outline or not to outline is a question that each writer must address. Some very organized writers do their writing by making an outline. Some are more creative and like to just start and go for the gusto! There is no right or wrong answer here. But there is a caution. 

The caution is this: if you intend to write a book, at some point, you will have to do a book proposal. Argh!! Do we have to? No. If you do self-publishing it will not be required. However, your book is not likely to sell if it is not acceptable to readers and to the publishing community in general. Even fiction writers must do some kind of plan or outline for what their work is about. Good writing is a must. Good planning is also a necessary task. If you want your work to be acceptable to any editor worth his salt, you must do an outline and plan your work. 

If that is hard for you to do, then write, but go back later and organize it into some kind of outline. At least be able to explain what you did, when and why. Maybe the following thought from the Book Consultant (Susan C. Daffron) will help “Even though I loathed my English teacher, learning how to create an outline was valuable. I really saw the value of outlining a project after I became a technical writer. The longer a document is, the more important it is to have an outline. I rarely outline short articles, but I can’t imagine trying to write a user guide, manual, or book without an outline. When I see people struggling to get a book done, many times their problems stem from the fact that they haven’t gone through the process of creating a solid outline first.”  The thought she expresses is that the longer your work, the more you require an outline. 

The purpose for your writing is that your readers, your audience, will read and like what you write. Seldom do readers like to read something that is not organized. Remember, it must make sense to your audience or they will not return. One further point here, many wannabe writer has a manuscript languishing in a drawer or in a computer file. Why? They have hit a bump in the publishing road and do not know how to solve their problems. If they had a plan, at least they would know where the bump is. 

To do an outline takes work. It may not be on your most pleasant task list, but it must be on your to do list. If you do not know how to outline, do research. There are many good tools available on the internet, but do some form of an outline. Taking care of this task will resolve headaches later. 

Again, remember that your reader will need a “takeaway” thought or idea that he can use. Using your outline, you can more readily see where to put some of these takeaways. Sometimes the takeaway can be an action that the reader can do to help him or her to apply what you have written. You can never overdo a good thing.

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