If you find yourself doing anything else just to put off your writing, you might be stuck in a vicious cycle of procrastination.
This time, instead of simply powering through the writer’s block, you can try to alter your approach.
Finding out about the skeleton outline method gave me a fresh attack plan for every piece of writing I need to do.
Instead of staring at a blank page for hours not knowing where to start, I know exactly what points I need to get across in which paragraph.
Ultimately, skeleton outlining has made my writing more efficient, less stressful, and easier to manage. And the best thing is – it’s so simple you’ll wonder how come the idea never crossed your mind!
What is a Skeleton Outline and Why Should Writers Care?
A skeleton outline is a framework you build to make content creation smoother.
It’s the bare bones of your article/book/essay – ready for you to add meat and skin on top.
Let’s translate that into the terminology of digitally written documents. With skeleton outlining, you want to build the heading structure and write down the main ideas to include under each heading.
In a way, creating this type of outline helps you break down your project into manageable chunks.
The idea behind skeleton outlining is to organize your writing before you type a single word. Planning this way results in a concise piece of writing.
You build your writing up in layers, never losing sight of the big picture.
This type of planning works for any kind of writing, whether you’re in charge of creating a white paper, a blog post, a podcast episode, or a fiction book.
Skeleton Outline – How it Helps in Writing
1. Don’t Lose Track
Did you ever get halfway through your blog post only to realize you can’t remember the other points you wanted to make?
If this sounds like you, chances are that the quality of your writing will rise significantly as soon as you integrate skeleton outlining into your routine.
Setting up an outline skeleton with short notes in advance will let you focus on what you’re writing right now and know exactly what you need to write later on. That way, you’ll cover all the details without losing track of the big picture.
Content and essay writers that need to reach a particular word count will love working with a skeleton outline – you can pre-calculate how long each heading needs to be to reach your target length!
2. Take It Step By Step
When you have your outline nailed down, it doesn’t matter if you write from top to bottom or from the middle out.
Filling out part by part will make the whole writing process faster and help you beat procrastination.
Work in little bits and tackle the easier sections first for a motivation and productivity boost!
3. Reorganize Easily
A skeleton outline makes it easy to reorganize the text you wrote if you decide to change the structure later on.
Minimal editing required!
Programs like MS Word and Scrivener let you move headings (and the text under each) by simply dragging and dropping.
That’s far easier than cutting, scrolling, and then pasting each paragraph separately!
How to Create a Skeleton Outline and Write Faster
So, how exactly does a skeleton outline look like?
Well, it depends on the kind of writing you do. Here, I’ll share my process, which is tailored for blogging.
Here’s what this article’s skeleton looks like:
Step 1 – Create a Heading Structure
This heading structure is the first thing that I created for this article, right after doing my research.
This article is rather simple – it includes four H2 headings and six H3 subheadings. In some cases, the skeleton may get pretty intricate, going as far as including H4 subheadings.
I wasn’t sure whether to put the “How to” or the “How it helps” section first, so I dragged them around a bit and settled for this structure in the end.
In essence, your headings should cover the basic concepts, and subheadings are reserved for details and specifics.
Step 2 – Add Details and Research Notes
Now you can refine your structure further deciding where intros, transitions, lists, and other parts of the article will go.
This will help you follow a pre-set structure if you need to, but I omit this step to retain structural flexibility.
Apart from structural details, you can also add notes from your research to help you cover everything.
I usually label research notes with a colored highlight just to be sure I don’t accidentally leave them in the finished article.
If that sounds too complex, a program like Scrivener can make keeping track of research simpler for you.
Step 3 – Start Adding Meat
Now, there’s only one thing left to do – write, write, and write!
You can fill in your outline in order or jump from part to part. It doesn’t matter because your skeleton outline won’t let you stray far from your main points.
Case in point – I wrote this “How to” section first, even though it’s located at the end of the article!
It’s not easy to create something great if you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.
Setting up an outline before you start writing will give you the freedom to focus on the details without worrying if your work makes sense when you zoom out.
After all, it’s true that preparation is half the battle.
Do you create an outline before writing? How do you approach building your content? Share your pro tips with me and other readers in the comments!