One of the keys to creating a great piece of writing is to start by creating a great outline. And yet many writers completely overlook this step, particularly when they’re writing short pieces like articles and reports.
However, creating a good outline ensures you focus your writing on the most important topics, which makes the piece more enjoyable for your readers.
So here’s how to create this outline:
Step #1: Pick Your Topic
You’re already working in a specific niche, so now you just need to pick a topic for your article, report, ebook or other content piece. Obviously, you want to choose a popular topic.
You can do this by:
- Looking at paid products (on sites like Clickbank.com and Amazon.com) to see what topics are selling well.
- Check out niche forums and blogs to see which topics generate a lot of interest and discussion.
Step #2: Choose Your Primary Goal for This Piece
Once you’ve picked your topic, then you need to decide what your goal is for this piece. You can also decide the approximate length.
- Is it an article for your blog? If so, what is the goal of this article? E.G., is it to get people to join your list?
- Is it a presell report? If so, then the goal is to “warm up” prospects and get them to click your links.
- Is it a paid ebook? If so, then the goal is to give your readers in-depth instructions and encourage them to take action.
Knowing your primary goal will help you keep your writing focused on the goal.
Step #3: Do Your Preliminary Research
If you’re not an expert in the niche, then you’ll need to do some initial research in order to determine what steps, tips or topics you need to cover in your piece.
Note: A simple keyword search (such as “how to teach a dog to sit”) will uncover hundreds of similar content pieces, so you can look at these pieces to determine which topics you need to include in your article, report or ebook, too.
Tip: If you’re writing a book, go to Amazon.com and search for similar books. That’s because Amazon let’s you take a peek inside the book to see the table of contents. These tables of contents will give you plenty of ideas about what topics to include in your book.
Step #4: Create Your Outline
Once you have a good idea about what topics to include in your content piece, now it’s time to create your outline.
If you need guidance as to how to order your topics, just go back to your research to see how other popular content pieces ordered their topics. Otherwise, here are a few general guidelines
- Logical order. If you’re describing a step-by-step process, then obviously your outline will list the steps in order.
- Beginner to advanced material. Self-explanatory – put the easier material at the beginning of your piece.
- Fastest results to slower results. If you’re listing different tips or strategies, you might order them from those that get quick results to those that take longer to implement.
- Mix of tips. Here you might put one or two of your BEST tips in the beginning and then put another one or two of your best tips at the end.
Next, you should assign an approximate word count to each section, which will help you stay focused on the most important parts of your content piece.
Finally, don’t forget to look at your outline to ensure that it helps you meet the goal of your content piece (such as preselling a product or teaching your readers a process). If your outline looks good, then you can start writing!