Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Writing journal articles - 2

Are OUTLINES in?

At the recent workshop I did on finding time to write, someone asked when I use an outline. I had to think. I do use outlines, but there is a great danger of using them as a means to avoid writing. People who don’t enjoy writing often write and outline and then another and another.

If you find yourself falling into this trap, then skip the outline stage, and try to actually write. For a week or two, force yourself to write sentences when you are working on your manuscript, and then, once you have some “bricks” to work with, you can sit back and take another look at how you’ll arrange them.

Just remember that they should be a guide, not a rigorous or restrictive framework. If you think your outline works, try to stick to it, but be aware that you may deviate from it as you write, and sometimes you need the freedom to explore a little, and that could result in an even better work than you’d planned at the beginning. Just as long as your work is evolving, rather than retrogressing – and you should be able to judge that.

Outlines are a useful tool to help you organize your thoughts. They should be used as aids to the process of writing, not an escape from it. Outlines can be helpful, as long as they keep you “in” the writing mode. Toss them out if you find yourself using them to get out of adding substantive content.

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