Should You Use an Outline to Write? A Writing Q & A

Question: I understand some people write using an outline, while others discover what comes next as they write. Which is better?

Writing Q and A: Use an Outline

Answer: The short answer is to use whatever works best for you.

When writing a short story, article, or blog post, I often start with a title, opening line, or concept. Then I start writing to see where it takes me. (Sometimes I have the last line in mind and write to get there.) Though this may result in extra content that I need to cut, it usually becomes part of another article or post. However, recently for blog posts, I’ve been writing to hit bullet points, which is a basic outline.

Conversely, when I start a book, I always have an outline. This gives me structure to easily move from one item to the next, without wasting time or words. After all, it’s not a big deal to cut 20 percent of a 300-word blog post (60 words), but it would be painful to cut 20 percent of a 50,000-word book (10,000 words).

However, just because I use an outline for books, that doesn’t imply I don’t discover things along the way. When I do, it’s an exciting bonus, which I’m happy to work into the text. Then I update my outline.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!