The 10-Minute, 10-Step Solution For The Best Blog Outline via @JulieNeidlingerClick To Tweet
How Blog Outlines HelpIn a previous post, How Planning Your Blog Content Can Help You Get More Done, I laid out an argument for planning in terms of how it can help you save time. However, planning your content with a blog outline can do more than help you save time—it can help you be a better writer. It can help you train your thought process and keep you from growing a wandering thought process. It also helps you get past writer’s block.
Blog outlines are the perfect solution to prevent writer's block. #bloggingClick To Tweet
The 10-Minute Blog Post OutlineTraditional outlines have a pattern:
- Main point
- Point beneath it.
- Second point.
- Point beneath it.
- Next main point.
1. Find the Big IdeaYour post isn’t a collection of main stand-alone points (unless it is a list post of that nature), but with supported points that are related and point back to the Big Idea. If you have lots of Big Ideas in one blog post, you will have a disjointed blog post that would be better broken up into separate posts. What’s a Big Idea? It’s the thing you base your headline on. You can only have one Big Idea per post. So with outlining, you take your Big Idea (headline), break that Big Idea into a handful of Key Points, and then support those key points. What’s a Key Point? A key point is a car without wheels. It needs the rest of the wheels to go anywhere. Together, your key points lead the reader to a conclusion or place of understanding. On their own, they are merely interesting facts or ideas. So what does a ten-minute blog outline approach look like? Remember, you’re not writing the post in ten minutes, but outlining it so it is easier to write.
Blog outlines are cars. Key points are the wheels. You won't move without knowing the destination.Click To Tweet
2. Understand what the end result must beThe first thing is to approach your blog post not with the actual content at all, but understanding what you want from the post. You might ask yourself:
- Who will be reading it? What do you want them to take from it?
- Do you have specific research or data that you need to include? What kind of questions does that data beg to be answered? How many ways can that data be interpreted? How many angles can that data be applied to?
- What call to action (CTA) will you be using? How do you structure the post so that the CTA feels like a solution to your reader?
3. List what you have to mentionDepending on what your goal is, there might be specific things you might have to mention. Make a list of them. For example, it might be specific data, like I mentioned in step one. Perhaps your team has gathered up various data from your website analytics. It’s up to you to decide what context you are going to give this data, but whatever you choose, you have to include it. “Jim, we’ve seen an increase in traffic ever since we changed our site’s header design. Here’s the data. We think it would make an interesting blog post.” Or, perhaps you’ve agreed to feature the infographic or some product announcement from another brand. Whatever the case, if you have a specific piece of information that has to be in the post, you need to center the post around it or it will seem awkwardly added on. Not all blog posts will make use of this step.
4. Figure out what you don’t knowIf you’re writing a post on a topic and there’s something you want to know but don’t, your reader will feel the same. Make a list of those questions. For example, on a post about using outlines, I might have written:
- Who started blog outlines? Why? What were they hoping to achieve?
- How many different outlining techniques are there?
- When shouldn’t you use an outline? Are there exceptions?
Figure out what complementary info you don't know before you write. It builds credibility.Click To Tweet
5. Figure out what you do knowWrite down as headings, phrases, or singular sentences the things you do know. And by “know”, I mean the things you know as facts or the ideas you’d like to promote whether you have facts to back them up, or it’s merely an approach you want to take to point your reader in a particular direction. You aren’t writing the post here, so keep it brief. This is only meant to help you structure things for the outline, so avoid writing paragraphs. For example, for this post on blog outlines I might write:
- Helps me stay on track
- Outlines keep logic front and center
- Helps you find weak points where you don’t have support
- Format can be fluid
6. Organize all of the lists into related groupsLook at the lists you made in steps three, four, and five. It’s time to put order to that mess. Start at the top, and write down your Big Idea as a placeholder headline. It might be helpful to jot down your end goal from step two. Then look your lists, and began moving the items on these lists into groupings of related content. For example, I might look at the lists and decide there are groupings for:
- History of outlining
- What outlines do for writers
- How to outline
- Using outlines creatively
- Tools for making outlines
Combine what you know, don't know, audience's needs, and what you want to cover in your outline.Click To Tweet
7. Create summarizing headingsNow that you’ve grouped all of your potential content, give each grouping a heading that summarizes what it’s about. This isn’t likely to be the heading you use in the final post. It’s mainly meant to be helpful in deciding what stays and what gets cut, and how to write that section.
8. Reorder and cut the heading groupsStart to order your groups in a way that fits logically, flowing down from the Big Idea into your end goal. You might want your blog post to persuade, to sell, or to inform. You may want to present your information in terms of cause-and-effect, problem-and-solution, or compare-and-contrast. You can do so much with how a post ends up simply by what you do in this step. If you get the arrangement correct, when you write the post, you’ll stay on the path. Outlining helps writers stay on point and stay focused. If you don’t cut material that doesn’t fit, your outline is loose and will lead you astray.
9. Refine each heading groupAt this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what your post is going to be about. You have your Big Idea, and you have the sections of copy that will support that big idea topped by a guiding heading. By arranging the groups earlier, you committed to an angle. Rework the headings to help you, the writer, write copy to that angle. Again, this is likely not the final heading the reader sees, but one that gives you direction. Your final heading might be "The 10-Minute Blog Post Outline System", but the one you used while writing it might have been "The Basics Of Outlining".
10. Start writing your draftAt this point, you’re ready to write the post. You know where you’re headed, you know where you will end up. You know specifically what you need to research, and where to dump that research back in your draft. You know that your own ideas are where they should be and you don’t have to worry about forgetting to include them. An outline like this will make much better use of your time.
The 10-Minute, 10-Step Solution For The Best Blog OutlineClick To Tweet
Why I Use This Approach To OutliningOutlining should be like cartilage: strong but flexible. It should provide support, but be malleable enough to adjust it to different blog post scenarios. I don’t use every step every time. But I do use the steps listed above in some form. Most blog posts I write are often assigned topics, and not on what I’m writing from “gut feelings.” This outlining approach where I gather what comes to mind (what I know) and what I need to find out (what I don’t know) has kept me from writer’s block every single time. I don’t always magically feel inspired, but I do know this process will help me do the work.
How To Prevent Writer's Block With A 10-Step Blog Outline SystemClick To Tweet
- Find a few blog posts you enjoy, or posts of yours that you think were either successful (or not).
- Break them into outlines.
- See if you can spot what technique is at work (or not at work).
- If the post is well-outlined and it reads well, mimic the approach in your next blog post.
How Will You Write Your Next Blog Outline?Outlining, particularly for long-form blog posts, is a necessary part of your process. It gets a bad rap because we think of outlining as what we learned in school, full of Roman numerals, numbers, and letters. In reality, it’s about organizing information into groupings and finding the best linear arrangement of those groupings. The end result of creating a blog outline before writing your blog post is making you a better writer, and making your writing better for your reader. The best part? You can do it all with CoSchedule right in our custom editor, or even connecting your Google Docs or Evernote with the workflow you already rock for creating awesome content.
How To Draft The Best Blog Outline In 10 Easy MinutesClick To Tweet