If you walk into my home office on any given day you’re bound to see brightly colored Post-It notes tacked to the door of the room’s closet. In early 2019 this became my way of creating an outline for my articles.
Sure, I could just jot down an outline in a notebook or type up one in a Google or Word document — and for years that’s what I did. But one day I was really struggling to organize my thoughts for a story and I knew my traditional method of outlining wasn’t going to cut it.
I needed movement! I needed to be able to move around my ideas and I needed to move my body. So, I grabbed a stack of Post-it notes and started jotting down topics I knew I needed to cover in the article. Next, I stuck the notes on the door of the closet in my home office. Then, I began to pace and think and think and pace.
As I moved my body around the room I also moved around the sections of my article until they were in an order that made sense and that flowed effortlessly.
With my Post-it note outline in place, I was able to write my article quickly and with ease.
Related Reading: What Life as a Full-Time Freelance Writer Is Really Like
Why You Should Outline Your Articles
Whether you’re writing a personal essay or a reported article, drafting an outline is always a good idea.
Not only do outlines help you organize your ideas, but they also keep you on track. You won’t ramble and rant in your personal essay if you have an outline to keep you in check.
Outlines help me write fast and help ensure important details and facts don’t get left out.
How to Outline Articles Using Post-it Notes
Here’s how I outline article using Post-it notes:
First, of course, I must do the necessary research and interviews and transcribe those interviews. After that, I look through all of my notes to decide what I must include in the story. This includes compelling quotes, important facts, and essential background information. I write each of these on its own Post-it note. Then, I figure out my lede — how I will begin the story. And I decide on my kicker — how I will end the story. I write these on Post-it notes, too.
Then it’s time to pace and think and think and pace and move those Post-it notes around until the story flows.
Typically that flow looks like this:
LEDE – My lede is usually a relevant anecdote that will capture the reader’s attention. Sometimes I include a quote in my lede, too.
NUTGRAF – Next is the nutgraf, the paragraph that explains what this story is about in a nutshell. Also, this section of the article makes clear why this story is important right now.
BODY – After this, I include important facts and details, more quotes, and necessary background information.
CLOSING – I usually close the story with something about future hopes and plans for the person or project I’m writing about.
KICKER – I love to end my stories with a powerful quote that captures the spirit of the article.
Even when I’m writing a column or personal essay, I still outline my articles. I write down on the Post-it notes all the points I want to make, details I want to include, and any facts I want to add to support my argument or enhance my story.
If you want to learn more about writing articles for media outlets, sign up for my course See Jane Freelance.