Take one glass and put it on your dining table
Put another glass into that glass, so it stacks up.
And keep adding glasses.
So when did you stop?
You stopped, didn't you? And for good reason too. At some point those glasses looked very much like they were going to do a Humpty-Dumpty on you. And the clean up wouldn't be pretty. So you stopped stacking the glasses. But did you count how many glasses you stacked, before you stopped?
I don't count either, when I'm writing an outline
My rule of thumb is visual. Once I stack up the how, what, why, and other questions.
Once I've put in a few objections and examples, possibly even a mistake or two, I kinda know that the outline is going to crash. And you and I, we both don't like crashes.
But surely someone has sat down and quantified articles that crash, right?
Yes, they have. And usually if you have a decent outline, you tend to cover about 800-1200 words. It depends on the outline, of course. If there are more text-based examples, you may cover more words. If there are more visual-based examples, you may cover less. If you go into a fair bit of detail with your example, the article may get a little bigger than usual, and that's OK.
But what if I'm writing a book? Wouldn't the chapters be a lot longer?
They could be. But why bother having super-long chapters? It's great for the reader to have a break anyway, so give the reader that break. Outline your piece and if it's going off at a tangent, turn the rest of the points into a subchapter.
The outline always gives you clues. And if I find my outline has too many points, or the points are going in another direction, I simply move those points away, so I can tidy up my current piece. And that way I now have more subchapters.
So a single chapter may consist of about 10-12 sub-chapters and that's OK. The point is not to go nuts about the size of the article or the outline.
Let's take an example of an outline gone a little haywire…
What is mentoring?
Who gets mentoring?
Why do people get mentoring?
Where does mentoring happen?
What professions use mentors?
Are mentors paid? What makes a good mentor?
Where can someone find a mentor?
What are benefits of mentoring?
What happens if the mentoring relationship is not a good fit?
Who decides someone needs a mentor?
Who assigns mentors?
When does one need a mentor?
When do people know they’ve learned what they can from their mentor?
How long do mentoring relationships last?
What are some mentoring horror stories?
Why is having a mentor a bad thing?
Can anyone be a mentor?
When does mentoring end?
How do mentors and mentees find each other?
What happens if the mentor and mentee don’t get along?
How do you know if mentoring works?
What kind of follow up happens after mentoring?
Is mentoring a one-way relationship?
What if someone told me to get a mentor and I didn’t want one?
What if someone told me to get a mentor and I don’t trust the one I’ve been assigned?
Is there a governing body for mentors?
You can indeed trust your eyes when dealing with outlines
Outlines are like glasses stacked up. How do the glasses look? Are they standing upright? Tipping over? If they are looking a bit tipsy, start up another stack.
And that way your outlines—and articles— don't go the way of Humpty-Dumpty after all.
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