How to Use Outlining to Create Your Articles

How to Use Outlining to Create Your Articles

One of the challenges in creating niche blogs is writing good content. Of course, you can use a tool like Instant Article Wizard or simply slap a few PLR articles into your niche blog. However, this solution doesn’t always produce a good result. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and write a niche blog article from scratch. If you’re writing articles for your flagship blog, you almost have to go with original material. One of the best techniques I’ve found to create both niche and flagship articles is outlining.

This Isn’t Junior High

Sitting in junior highI know, I know. You did this kind of stuff back in junior high and you hated it. The teacher gave you an article and you had to create an outline. Perhaps you had to write an outline for a report, hand that in, and then write a full report from the outline. Dull and boring stuff, right?

With this kind of forced learning it isn’t all that surprising that many people harbor a distaste for writing. Some even balk at writing an original 350 character Blogging Zoom synopsis. In their mind it has become an arduous task that brings back bad memories from their school days.

Well, what I’m talking about here is an informal system that will help you get over this mental block and allow you to write better articles quicker. This is the system I used starting in high school, on through college and grad school and now in the business world today. I’m going to focus on writing short articles here although the same techniques scale up well for dissertations, product documentation and novels.

Know Where You Want to Go

Where do you want to go?When you begin to write an article, you need to know what the major point of the article will be and how you will arrive at this point. If there is one thing that you want the reader to take away from the article, what is it? Begin by writing that down. This can be either a full sentence or just a fragment.

For a short, average sized, blog article I don’t recommend going over a sentence with your base idea. If your point is larger than this, consider breaking it up into several articles each with their own outline and point.

After you have your main point, come up with 3 to 5 sub points. These should also be short and to the point. Once again, if you have more points, you should consider breaking it up unless you want to create a long, rambling, article on purpose. If you have less than 3 points, you may not have a full sized article but an occasional quick blurb isn’t bad for most blogs.

Now that you’ve done this, you have the basic outline of the article. You know the overall destination of the article plus you know your stepping stones to get to it. Now that you have this article outline, you can start adding to it or simply save the idea for later in your drafts folder.

Putting Flesh on the Bones

Fleshing out the bonesAt this point, you can begin to add to your simple outline. I recommend starting with writing down a few brainstorming ideas on each subtopic first. Don’t try to build any structure into what you’re writing or worry about spelling, grammar and so forth. Just get the ideas out of your head and onto paper or your computer screen. After you get a little practice at this you’ll soon find that ideas spring out quickly and smoothly and your writing experience will become less labored.

Once you feel that you have down enough ideas to put together a decent article start refining your rough draft into logical paragraphs. Since the ideas are already right in front of you this usually goes very smoothly. If it doesn’t, then you may have a problem with the idea. If that happens, it might be a good idea to save it for later or discard it entirely.

You have to be careful when you’re fleshing out the article. Sometimes your quickly written rough draft idea scribblings may make it into the final article, bad grammar and all. If you notice the occasional mistake, like odd word choices or poor grammar, in my posts that’s probably what happened. Try to proofread as best you can to avoid this situation.

The Bookends

Introducing a bookThe last writing step is creating your introduction and conclusion.

Essentially the introduction will tell the reader where you hope to go with the article or put a question into the reader’s mind that your article will answer. Your first sentence should be one that grabs the attention of the reader and makes them want to read more. The rest of the introductory paragraph should also lead the reader on smoothly into the article

In the conclusion, you can restate your main point with or without your subpoints. Sometimes you may just want to let the article end after you final point without a conclusion or restatement of the points. I’ve found having some type of conclusion to be good for getting people to comment. However, coming to a halt in a niche blog article might help encourage ad clicks for more information. Try it both ways to see which is effective for you and your situation. Another method I use in conclusions is to encourage the reader to leave a comment, particularly in flagship blog articles.

After the writing is done and you’ve proofread the article, you can then go back and decorate it with links and graphics. I try to do this after the fact so that this doesn’t distract from the writing process.

That’s my outline writing system: know your main topic, find subtopics, flesh it out and then put bookends around it. Do you have a system of writing blog articles you would like to share? Do you struggle with writing blog articles? Let me hear from you in a comment if you do.


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Comment by RT Cunningham
2008-02-16 07:16:11

Awesome. I love the surreptitious links (yep, you gotta go look that up). I actually use basic outlining when I write. The theme I’m using right now, as customized as it is, has a small problem with subheaders and I need to take the time to get it working right.

Great article, by the way. :-)

Comment by jfc
2008-02-16 10:23:26

Hi RT,

I’m using the Page Redirect plug-in for the surreptitious links. Unfortunately, the author’s site isn’t around anymore and I haven’t taken the time yet to scope out which others are available. I may have to make it available for download myself if I can’t get a hold of the author.

Comment by Paul M. Banas
2008-02-21 21:52:06

All good advice, but I especially like the concept of bookends. It is a discipline that makes sure your post is a cohesive whole, and not just a random ramble.

Ending with a question is also something I need to do a better job with.

2008-08-10 01:44:04

I have the hardest time writing; although I write quite well, I’m slow and I hate being faced with a blank screen. This kind of outlining framework may help me to forge ahead, so thanks very much.

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