Blogging is taking you longer than you think it should.
In fact, it’s taking up more time than you actually have to give to it.
There are other things in your business that need getting done, and blogging is starting to ooze over into those things, making you frustrated.
So frustrated you’re about to flush that oozy blob of blogging down the toilet and just forget it.
Before you do, try this one thing:
Take 5 minutes to outline your blog post using these three simple steps.
An Outline? Really? For a Blog Post?
I’m a fan of outlining for writing in general, but there’s a very specific reason it’s worth your while to make an outline for blog posts in particular:
Since you’re an expert in your field, you’re going to have a lot to say about any given blog post topic.
Without a plan, that translates to trying to write All.The.Things at once. And lemme tell ya, those 10 pages of word vomit are going to take you a much longer time than making a quick outline and then using it to write your post.
Plus, long rambling posts are hard on your readers. Those folks are looking for actionable tips, clear advice, or a dose of inspiration.
So do yourself and your readers a solid and give this outlining thing a try. I promise to make it painless.
Here are the three quick steps you can use to create an outline that will save you hours of frustration.
Step 1: Narrow the Topic by Brainstorming
Let’s say you’re a gardening consultant. You get a great idea to write a blog post about greenhouses. But what about greenhouses?
Hmm… Great question. Sounds like a perfect brainstorming prompt!
If you take this topic and think on it for a minute or two, you might realize that you can tell people…
- Whether or not they need a greenhouse
- How to build a low-cost greenhouse DIY style
- The best brands of pre-fab greenhouses
- How much to water in a greenhouse
- How feeding plants is different in a greenhouse
- Whether or not they need pest control in a greenhouse
- Which plants thrive and which ones die in a greenhouse
- How to find the right site in their garden for a greenhouse
- What they need to know about greenhouses and ladybugs or other helpful insects
- How to prevent mildew and mold in a greenhouse
…and a whole lot more!
The interesting thing is that coming up with more topics actually helps you focus.
?If you know you have a whole separate blog post about preventing mold and mildew, you don’t have to scramble to try and cover that in depth when you talk about finding the right site for the greenhouse.
Plus, look at what happens when you start parsing out the topic — you end up with tons more content ideas! Pretty good, right?
It’s pretty much a blogging smorgasbord!
Once you write and publish those other topics, you can add links to related articles so that someone who’s interested in greenhouses can read all of your great content by following links.
Write your topic at the top of a blank Google Doc/notebook page, or make it the title of a new voice memo.
Write or speak all your ideas for the topic. Get as specific as you can. Try to come up with working titles. (Working titles describe what the post is all about but don’t have to be clever or concise.)
Step 2: Choose and Define Your Blog Post Topic
Once you can see all the other possible topics for your main idea, it’s actually a lot easier to narrow down your topic and set some parameters about what you want to cover.
Zooming in on a specific aspect of the topic will help your readers because you’ll be setting up one clear focus for them.
Choose just one — not one and a half or two or seven — idea from your brainstorm list and start to define it.
(You can write about ALL your ideas. Just not all at once.)
To define your topic, think about the type of post you want to write. There are many ways to deliver information.
?You can provide step-by-step instructions (ahem!), tell a story, outline possible mistakes, debunk a myth, or answer common questions.
Listen to your gut and decide which of these (or which combination of these) feels right for this topic.
Remember that most people appreciate specifics, so think about including a relevant example if you can. That could be an anecdote about your own experience or about a happy customer, or it could be a hypothetical situation your readers are likely to relate to.
In your same brainstorming doc/voice memo, answer the following questions:
- What do you want to say?
- To whom?
- What’s the scope?
- What’s the key takeaway?
- How will you deliver the information? (A story? Tips? Examples? Step-by-step instructions?)
Step 3: Outline That Sucker
An outline is a container for your thoughts. It holds onto your plan while you draft so that you don’t have to.
An outline can be as simple or as complex as you like.
I myself am a big fan of Ye Olde Bullet Pointe Outline. It’s very low commitment and comes with built-in hierarchy-making at the click of the “Tab” button.
Lemme show you what I mean using the ” How to find the right site in their garden for a greenhouse” topic.
I can start with a framework I know works:
- Content 1
- Content 2
- Content 3
- Content 4
That was easy! I just used a paint-by-numbers recipe that works for EVERY SINGLE BLOG POST EVER.
Next, I’ll put in the purpose of each content paragraph. That will help keep me on track as I write so that I don’t get lost or go off on a tangent.
- Define the problem and solution
- Wrong Places
- Best Place
- Second Best Place
Now I can fill in more content and use sub-bullet points to remind myself of any details I want to include.
Here’s an example:
- bought a greenhouse, now what?
- Define the problem and solution: want/have greenhouse but don’t know where to put it.
- don’t want to waste money/effort with greenhouse in wrong place
- Wrong Places
- Best Place: Most sun from fall through winter
- south or southeast
- most sun Nov. – Feb.
- Second Best Place
- greenhouse is a great addition to your garden, but only in the right place
- Call to Action: download free greenhouse checklist PDF
You can use sub-bullet points to catch details you think you might forget to include as you write. If you’ve got the information really etched into your brain because this is a topic you know backward and forward, you might skip ’em entirely.
Sub-bullet points also come in handy if you have inspiration about an opening line you want to use, or a way to wrap up your post. Make sure to capture those in your outline. There’s nothing more frustrating than a flash of brilliance you forget. 🙁
Your outline is done when it’s a plan you can use to write. It can be as sparse or as filled-in as works for your individual writing style.
Start with the paint-by-numbers bullet point outline.
- Content 1
- Content 2
- Content 3
- Content 4
Customize it to the number of content sections you need, and to fit the type of blog post you’re using. For example, if you’re writing a post that’s a story, use headers to break up the narrative at key moments.
Add as much detail as you need to remember your ideas.
That Wasn’t Too Painful, Was It?
Et voila! Now you’ve got an outline that will keep you on track as you write a really solid, focused blog post that will help your audience learn something important about your industry or see why they need your help.
In just 5 – 10 minutes, you can execute the simple steps of (1) brainstorming smaller topics about the big topic you want to cover; (2) defining the scope of the post; and (3) making a super-quick bullet-point outline.
You’ll be able to dive into your blog post draft with confidence, knowing that you’ve got a coherent plan.
Plus, you’ll get the added benefit of coming up with a handful of additional topics. And that’s treasure for any committed blogger who’s always on the lookout for new content.
Wish you wrote about gardening so you could steal those 10 ideas for blog posts? What about something even better?
?What if you could borrow my brain to brainstorm topics about YOUR business each month so you always had great ideas to write about?
That’s just one of the things on offer in Blogging Flow, a unique new membership program coming soon. Click here to learn more and be the first to know when doors open.