When I was in high school and I was assigned to turn in an outline with my essays, I would usually write the essay first and then make the obligatory outline. This made no sense, and now that I am an adult and write all of the time, I find that there is nothing more important than outlining first.
Did you know that you’ll receive a packet that contains space for outlining? I recommend that you always, always, always make an outline first. Here’s why outlining is so important:
Why would you want to sacrifice your structure? Why would you want to come up with a good idea when it’s too late to use it? Why would you start writing without a clear path you want to go down? Why would you put unnecessary pressure on yourself to try to plan an essay as you’re writing it?
You don’t want to make the mistake of walking into your essay with no plan. That’s like trying to take a test you haven’t studied for: don’t you think you’d do better if you have properly prepared?
But won’t outlining take time away from writing?
Most students think that outlining is a disadvantage because it takes time away from the actual writing process. That’s just not true, though; and here’s why: if you take time to plan at the beginning, it will actually speed up the writing process. The reason why is because you will do the thinking up front. It’s the thinking, not the writing, that takes time. If you do this right away, then you won’t have to do anything but let your pencil fly!
How much time should I spend outlining?
My recommendation: up to 5 minutes.
Outlining is difficult to commit to because it feels like it is sacrificing time to write. It is. But that’s okay – it improves and speeds up the writing process. I recommend taking no more than 5 minutes to think and outline. Many students who have practiced and feel confident with outlining quickly can do all the thinking and planning in 2 minutes. But taking 5 minutes up front to write still leaves 25 minutes to pound out a stellar essay.
Remember, the best planners are the best writers! Make sure that you take time to THINK, and then it will be no problem to WRITE.