When I write a paper, or a story, or a novel, the very first thing I decide on is the order everything is going to go in. And the very first step I take in completing a paper, or a story, or a novel is to create a basic outline. First A, then B, then C.
Outlining your work before you start it has a few, major advantages. First, you are better able to stay focused. Second, your outline keeps your points organized. Last, but not least, it speeds the writing process. If you use an outline, you have your topic sentences and some of the rest already done. All you have to do is fill in the detail.
Right now, I’m working on revising a textbook I wrote for my Composition I class. The original textbook was written for an online class where I’d have minimal interactions with students (mostly because I only know when they need something if they actually ask…which the majority don’t do). I thought about it, and realized that some of the main complaints I had when I’d used a Blackboard enhanced course to contain worksheets and stuff was that my students didn’t know where to find stuff, didn’t know how to use Blackboard, and didn’t want to bother with trying to learn how to use it without help. So, my first chapter in my textbook was how to use the features in Blackboard that they’d need.
Second, I wanted to discuss the type of writing we’d be doing–expository–and why we’d be starting with that, and how to do it. I outlined it…then used the outline as bolded headers for them to use to find things quickly.
After that came the assignment chapters. I usually started out with questions: Why are we writing this paper? What goes into it? How is it organized? I used those as my outline, and my section headers. Then, I wrote answering the questions.
Yes, I can reuse a lot of the stuff from my previous draft; however, a lot of it will need to be scrapped, and one of the assignments just isn’t going to work in a classroom setting. Because of that, I’m going to have to substitute a different assignment–which means outlining and writing at least one new chapter.
To recap: outline your work before you start. It makes everything easier and smoother.