tech tips for writers

Tech Tip for Writers #50: The Easiest Way to Outline

tech tipsTech Tips for Writers is an (almost) weekly post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.

Q:  I always outline before I write my novel. What’s an easy way to do that?

A:  Outlining can’t be easier than doing it in Word. Here’s what you do:

  • Select the Numbered List or the Bullet List in MS Word. MS Word 2010 even lets you select the style up front. MS Word 2003–it’s a bit more complicated
  • Your first bullet or number appears on the screen. Type your item
  • Push enter to add another number or bullet
  • To create a subpoint, push tab after you’ve pushed enter to start the next bullet/number
  • To push a subpoint up a level, push Shift+tab after you’ve pushed enter for the next bullet/number

That’s it–three keys:

  • bullet list or numbered list
  • tab to indent
  • Shift+tab to exdent

The biggest problem is when you inadvertently get outside of the numbered/bullet list. If that happens, do one of two simple steps:

  • backspace until their cursor is up against the last bullet/number, then push enter to generate the next bullet/number
  • click the tool for bullet/numbered list and reactivate the list

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman.  She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.comEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersIMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

10 thoughts on “Tech Tip for Writers #50: The Easiest Way to Outline

  1. Wow! You did this fast – congrats to you! But knowing what a work horse you are, I’m not surprised. Does your agent have a publisher in mind? I would guess “yes” but did this person tell you who – or how many?

    As for my newest book – no, not up a tree in this one. It’s 24 hours in an Alzheimer’s residence, and you know that I’m unfortunately qualified to write about this subject. As I fear so many more will be over the next 10 years. Four chapters completed now and I’m pretty pleased with the results.

    I think I’m going to submit chapters to the writing group. Haven’t submitted anything to them for many months, so we’ll see how this goes. You may be back by then!

    I looked at the Gravatar site – that made me nervous. I’ll need someone standing by my side to do this. Such a wuss. LOL!

    Be well,
    Shari *: )


    • I LOVE that idea. I can’t wait to read it. I have no Alzheimer’s in my family tree, but I’m scared to death of it. If I’m not back with the group by the time you start submitting, I hope you’ll send it to me anyway.


  2. Morning, Jacqui,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is one of the tips I’ve been waiting to learn and now I have it in concise form. You must have read my mind!
    Next question: How can I use the picture icon of me (that I “drew”) when I send notes to you? I always get that universal blue squiggle.
    BTW: Just started my next book, Where Did Mama Go? Two chapters already written, and a sketch of characters, and outline of format. Yeah!
    Feels good to be writing creatively again. How is your novel going?
    Be well,
    Shari *: )


    • go to ( and fill out a profile. You can put as little or much as you want. That’s a good questions to cover on my AATT website!

      That’s a great title–is she up a tree? in a treehouse? Who knows? Are you going to share it with our writers group?

      Novels going well. I will send edits to my agent this week–hopefully he agrees that I fixed all the problems. Then it’s off to publishers. Katie bar the door–who knows what will happen! (That’s a very old time phrase I resurrected for my novel only to find in Ted Bell’s latest book. What a coincidence!)


  3. Storybook is fantastic for outlines (and you can download a basic version for free). Allows you to link in characters and locations and allocate date/time to all your scenes then sort by chronological order.


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