The Art Of Outlining — 1

Christian Writer Training Course 2, Lesson 2

The next thing to do is to make an outline. This should always be brief yet sufficiently clear. There should always be a suitable introduction, an informative and absorbing body, and a challenging end. The structure (in theory) would look something like the following.


The body of the article should contain the points that you want to stress. These points should be limited to as few as possible. Most writers show the tendency to pile point upon point till they reach infinity, with several sub-points attached to each point. While this might give them some mental satisfaction, or even pride, the practice is foolish.

The average reader cannot keep that many points, or their intricate relationship with each other, in his head. You should therefore use only three to five points in the body of your writing, unless you are going to write it for a bunch of your classroom students. Three points is optimum and five is about the maximum. If you think that you have more than five points for inclusion, many things could be wrong with you. Either you are overenthusiastic (because of your inexperience) or you have unnecessarily split the subject into too many points.

Yet another reason could be that you have chosen too broad a subject. If that is so, and if you have a great desire to use all those points, then split up your write-up into two or more articles.

Thus, the theoretical outline of a properly designed article would look something like:

    A-Point no.1
    B-Point no.2
    C-Point no.3

This is only a guideline, and not a rigid rule. Other approaches are also possible. What is important is to keep the outline COMPACT. Look at another compact outline below.

2-Point no.1
    A-Subpoint no.1
    B-Subpoint no.2
    A-Subpoint no.1
    B-Subpoint no.2

So far the above outline is only theoretical. In practice you should write down what these points are and what the emphasis of the introduction and conclusion are going to be.

Once this much is done, you must collect all the information on this subject that you can. You might at first be baffled about how to collect such information, but I assure you that if you go in the right direction you will get so much information that you will never be able to use all of it.

One of the best sources of information is books. You can look into your own collection (if you have one), ask other book lovers, go to a public library, or even go to any other kind of library. Most people tend to under estimate and even downgrade these sources of information, but a writer should not be too foolish to do that. Even if the library in your city is too small or too outdated, you should still visit it to see what it has to offer you. Do not worry about what it does not have to offer; what’s important is what it HAS got. Never underestimate the value or importance of a source.

Once this much information is available, you might sometimes want to modify the outline. Feel free to make any change that you deem necessary at this stage. Further, if you feel that you should expand the outline by adding a few more sentences to each line, then do so freely.

Once all this is over, you are ready to write. Start as soon as you can, and write your first draft as FAST as you can. Even if your mind prompts you to make changes here and there, do not pause. This is time to put the article on to paper, not for correction, polishing or amplification.

Once the first draft is ready, you should read the entire article carefully and make whatever changes, additions, and deletions you want. You will notice several omissions, unnecessary repetitions, and abrupt statements, and you should iron them all out. This is now your semi-final draft and this should be sent for publication only if there is a pressing need. If there is no such emergency then keep it away for few days and work on some other article. After a reasonable break, read the article once again and make whatever corrections come to your mind.

At no stage should you compromise with this process of writing because all compromise affects quality. On the other hand, this is not a rigid guideline, and therefore you should feel free to modify this process occasionally to suit your special needs.

The above discussion is complete in itself, but to give you a greater understanding of the process I have included a detailed example in the next section. Once you see a writer in action, you should feel greater confidence to do the job yourself.

If A Battle Can Be Won Without A Plan, An Article Can Be Produced Without An Outline  !!

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