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© Ugur Akinci
I do not believe outlining is a good way to write poetry.
But if you are writing non-fiction, an article, a book, a thesis, or a technical document you’d be at a great disadvantage to start writing before you have a detailed outline at hand.
I’d go as far as claiming that a good outline is half of the struggle in getting any copy project done. That’s true for technical writing as well.
Those of you who have submitted a book proposal to a literary agent would know this all too well: without a chapter-by-chapter outline no agent will take your proposal seriously – unless of course you’re already a well known celebrity and you have stellar name and face recognition. But in those situations the agent chases YOU anyways. That’s a whole’nuther story, as they say.
Here is a high-level, hypothetical, and chapter-by-chapter outline of an imaginary City Guide book.
1. Introduction. The audience of the book. Special features. How it compares to other City Guides out there.
2. Myths and facts about the city. 10 things you should know. Local Rich & Famous folks.
3. Neighborhoods. Major areas of the city with its unique features. Demographics. Short history. Which groups live where. Main processes – any neighborhoods going “down” or “up”? How much houses cost? Rentals?
4. Public facilities. Schools. Hospitals. Fairgrounds. Fire departments.
5. Shopping. Main shopping centers and outlet malls. Bazaars. Fish and farmer’s markets.
6. Food and restaurants. Where to eat? How much to pay? Specialties. Reviews.
7. A tour of the city. Walking paths. Parks. Architecture and local landmarks to pay attention to. What to see, where?
8. Entertainment. Movies and theater. Music. Concerts. Club scene. What’s hot – what’s not. Annual events. Festivals. Parades. Museums. Exhibits. Zoo.
9. Sports. Stadiums. Ball parks. Local teams.
10. Education. K to 12 and universities. Where to send your children? Adult education opportunities. Think tanks. Research institutes.
11. Getting around. Main highways. How to get where? Main transportation options. Bus. Rail. Highways. Airports.
12. Reference books, magazines, web sites. Local bloggers. How to get the skinny and the scoop on what’s going on?
13. Important phone numbers and addresses. Emergency numbers. Police. Firehouse.
The great explorer Roald Amundsen (1872 – 1928) said it best: “Adventure is just bad planning.” For a writer, planing an outline is the best time-tested method for success.