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October 1, 2012 (Updated: February 3, 2023)
Creating a strong outline makes writing the easiest step in content creation. With just a little preparation and consideration, every piece of content can be thoughtful, well-planned, and interestingly staged for readers.
Here we’ll look at how to create strong outlines for sharebait and other forms of content. These strategies can also be applied to wire-framing infographics, websites, and any other form of shareable content.
When you receive a topic or title, take a few minutes and jot down all of your initial thoughts. If you wait until after beginning research, your own thoughts will change shades or be forgotten entirely.
Title: How to Pick the Perfect Apple
Do general research, answer your own questions, and then begin copying your sources to a blank document for later reference and credit. If there are bits of information you know will be included in the content, quickly type them in your own words so that the idea isn’t overlooked or forgotten later.
Once you have a good body of research to pull from, take the time to look up a few quirky facts. Every article needs unexpected insights to keep the content fresh and original. If the piece is about apples, then a good ‘fun fact’ for the piece might be about worm incidence in store-bought apples compared to homegrown, or how the color of an apple is genetically determined.
The best way to find unusual facts on any topic is to follow your own curiosity. If you’re not an inquisitive person then ask a child for help: kids are endless sources of fun questions.
Whether typed or handwritten, go through your notes and highlight key phrases that could be used as section building blocks. Make sure each building block has enough information to support at least six sentences. Also, be careful not to neglect intrinsic information: selected building blocks should not leave any unanswered questions for the reader.
Title: How to Pick the Perfect Apple
Chosen Key Points:
Although these key points will most likely cover the question in the title, it’s best to be safe and add one more point to give the title question due attention.
If your piece of content should be 1,000 words, then five key points should each contain fewer than 200 words (to leave room for a brief intro and conclusion). Above the sources on your new document, type in the title, leave a space for the intro, and then fill in each key point as a sub-section before leaving space for the conclusion.
Copy & paste each of your pre-typed notes into its appropriate section. Flesh-out the notes to be complete sentences if they were not already. If your research was extensive enough, all that should be left are segues, pictures, and panache.
When you begin to write the sections, applying carefully-crafted segues and witty observations, leave the conclusion and introduction blank. Those should always be written last, so that they are an honest depiction of the content (rather than a foggy idea of the content from pre-writing).
Try not to re-read the sections more than once, as any mistakes will become less and less obvious. Save review and revision for the final product. If your outline was successful, then this should be the simplest step.
After writing each section (while all information is still brewing in your mind), immediately choose and add images to the section. Afterthought images are easy to pick out because they’re related to the first few words or just the section headline: thoughtful images should support the entire section.
Based on the quality of information and level of interest each section evokes, reorganize the section order. The most interesting section is often placed first, in order to draw-in readers. Many people like to sprinkle the best sections between the less interesting/functional sections, but others prefer the journalistic approach of placing everything great in front (because readers drop-off as content goes on).
Be mindful of section segues and the flow of information: never break up a list to place a fascinating step above its logical predecessor.
Consider your intended site for publication, forums for promotion, and the client’s target audience. Re-read the entire article; re-write sentences to appeal to the targeted readers. Review your section headlines and try to craft them to be as zany or straightforward as your readership.
Read the piece of content a second time from the perspective of your target reader, making changes to the tone and style as necessary.
For those who know the art of a strong outline, writing is the easiest step of the content creation process. Readers appreciate a good outline (even though they never know about it) because the content is more thoughtfully written. With just a little practice and patience anyone can learn to lay solid groundwork for linkable prose.
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