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A Map to Where You Are Writing

Perhaps the single most important skill for beginning writers to master is the ability to create an outline. All writers have the same problem. They sit down to write and can think of a list of other tasks they would rather be doing. All of a sudden mopping the floor sounds better because writing is hard work. It requires a lot of hours spent perfecting the craft.

One way to gain discipline in writing is to create an outline. You take your idea, such as “exercise will lead to a better life,” and write it on an index card and place it on your desk near your computer or where you are writing. If you want to get even better, think of the most critical person you know and put that person’s name on another index card and put that near your computer. Write as if that person is going to read your piece.

From there, you should make the following outline based on why you think exercise will lead to a better life. Use an eight by 11 sheet of paper and draw a total of seven boxes and write the following inside of them.

  1. Lede: The first paragraph should explain in one concise sentence or two why exercise will lead to a better life.
  2. Quote: Find the best quote or idea that will demonstrate the idea in the lede.
  3. Nut paragraph: This paragraph should have at least three to four ideas or themes in it saying why exercise will lead to a better life. For the purposes of explaining this outline, theme one would be exercise reduces anxiety; theme two is exercise reduces weight and gives one more energy; and theme three is exercise is a hobby that can lead to positive social interactions.
  4. Theme 1: Exercise reduces anxiety. This could include an anecdote from someone interviewed.
  5. Theme 2: Exercise reduces weight and gives people more energy. This could include another anecdote or quote from a study or research.
  6. Theme 3: Exercise is a hobby that can lead to positive social interactions. This could include another anecdote or reference to research.
  7. Ending: Save the best quote or anecdote from your research to include for the ending; it should attempt to encompass the entire idea of the story, showing rather than telling how exercise will lead to a better life.

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