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Do you ever feel like you’re hopelessly stuck between Point A and Point B?
Point A: I want to write a blog post, but all the ideas are unorganized and bouncing wildly around in my brain.
Point B: I now know exactly what I’m going to write about and precisely how I’m going to get it done.
I know I’ve been there. It happens to the best of us.
Without the right tools, getting from Point A to Point B can be a maddening task. Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that cutting corners and attempting to write a blog post without creating an outline is like hiking into the wilderness without a map — it is just never a good idea.
Outlines are immensely important to the blog post and content creation process. Let me share with you the exact process I follow when creating an effective outline for blog posts:
1. Find Your Topic and Message
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is a step that is easy to overlook. The purpose of Tenacious Travel is to: 1. Educate my audience 2. Entertain my audience and 3. Help my audience solve problems. Each blog post I publish should have a clear and focused topic that focuses on accomplishing these three goals.
Let’s use my post about sleeping better in hostels as an example.
What’s my topic? Sleeping in hostels.
What’s my message? Follow my advice and you’ll start sleeping better in hostels.
2. Brainstorm Your Ideas
Focus on creating a list of main ideas that support the overall subject of your blog post. As you focus on the purpose of your post, let your thoughts flow freely as you put them onto paper. For example, my post about sleeping in hostels has eight clear and established ideas:
- Choose the right hostel
- Pick the right bed
- Ask for extras
- Wear yourself out
- Put away the screens
- Take melatonin
- Use earplugs
These ideas didn’t just jump onto the paper naturally as I typed the article — they came to me after I jotted down my scrambled thoughts onto a piece of paper and picked out the best ones. That’s brainstorming.
3. Map Out Your Main Ideas
When you get your main ideas onto paper, it’s time to organize them. Ask yourself: What is the best possible way to shuffle all these lovely ideas into their most meaningful form? In my opinion, it is best to both start and finish with your most effective ideas. Readers have a tendency to skim through articles and focus on their beginnings and ends, for better or worse.
Of the eight ways to sleep better in hostels, my strongest ideas are:
- Choose the right hostel
- Use earplugs
Perfect. I’m going to start and finish with these two ideas and organize the other six ideas thoughtfully between them.
4. Map Out Your Supporting Points
At some point, you’ll need to back up all these wonderful ideas of yours with strong evidence and helpful explanations. These supporting points for your ideas are the heart of your blog posts, and a proper outline will keep that heart beating strong.
Refer back to the main ideas you established in your brainstorming stage and pull out specific ideas that will support and strengthen their topic. List these points underneath your main ideas — again in a logical and effective order — and now you’ll have a neat and tidy trove of information to help you along the way.
Here’s another example.
Main Idea: Use earplugs
- Earplugs block out snoring, shuffling, and snooze-buttoning in hostels
- You can also use earplugs on planes, trains, and buses
- Earplugs are super affordable and take up no space in your bag – a no-brainer
Now I’ve given strong evidence and helpful explanations to support my main point. I’m convincing the reader to start using earplugs when they go to hostels. They’d better.
5. Organize an Intro
Now that all your brilliant ideas are in place, you’ll need to convince your reader that what you are writing is actually worth reading. And, you’ve got to do that immediately. Brainstorm some more to plan out a concise, effective, and colorful way to draw the reader in, and tell them what they can expect to read and why your writing is worth their time.
Outline your intro after your main ideas and their supporting points — knowing the direction of your blog post beforehand will make writing your intro far easier.
For my ‘sleeping in hostels’ blog post, I spent time brainstorming and outline a simple, yet colorful intro that fellow hostel-goers can relate to:
Let’s face it: sleeping in a hostel room with eleven strangers doesn’t exactly come easy. Chances are, one person will snore like a freight train, someone else will stumble into the room drunk at 3:00 a.m. and a third person’s alarm will go off well before the sun rises, and they will hit snooze repeatedly.
God only knows what stunts the other eight people will pull.
Here are eight valuable tips I’ve learned throughout my years of travel that help me sleep well in hostels in spite of my unpredictable surroundings. Every. Damn. Night.
I caught the attention of the reader, related to a common problem between us, told them I have a solution to the problem and promised eight tips to help resolve their problem.
6. Organize a Conclusion
An effective conclusion should seamlessly and thoughtfully and tie right back to the intro. Provide the reader with a sense of completion and reinforce that what they just read is, in fact, important and relevant. Jot down some ideas on how to challenge the reader to take what they learned into the real world (aka. Call to Action), but never introduce any new ideas to the reader in your conclusion. It’s too late for that!
Here’s my conclusion for the ‘sleeping in hostels’ blog post:
Failing to get a proper night’s sleep while you’re traveling can be downright maddening, and no $9 hostel bed will ever be worth the savings if you can’t find a way to get some decent rest. A sleepless night will wreck travel plans and ruin opportunities.
Hostel rooms are full of distractions and noisy strangers that will keep you awake if you give them the chance. If you’re having trouble sleeping well in hostels, just know that there’s hope (as long as you take some of my advice.)
Trust me, I’ve slept through it all.
See how my conclusion ties back to the nightmarish noisy hostel room scenario I created in the intro? Notice how I challenge the reader to use my advice in the real world? See how I tie it up with one last tidy sentence proving that I know the topic like an expert? By doing so, I’ve reinforced confidence and faith into the reader, and I can thank my trusty blog post outline for that.
7. Edit and Tweak Your Outline
Any good blog post outline should have more than one draft. Subsequent edits of your outline shouldn’t take long, it’s just a matter of tidying things up and reorganizing one last time before the real fun starts.
My first draft of my ‘sleeping in hostels’ outline was out of order, filled with dozens of cramped ideas, and dreadful to look at. I thoughtfully whittled my ideas down into a clean and easy to follow outline and the writing process flowed like water. It was all worth the effort.
Always Use an Outline for Your Blog Posts
Want to know something funny? Many of my early blog posts on this website were created without an outline. I’d gotten lazy, ignored good writing habits, and writing had become a chore. It wasn’t fun anymore. The whole process had become jumbled, tedious, and stressful.
But, I snapped out of it (for my own sanity) and forced outlines on myself in order to give my writing structure and direction again. It worked. Creating blog posts is still far from effortless, but now that I use outlines, the process is smooth and seamless.
If you are having trouble writing blog posts and feel stressed out or unorganized like I did, remember that the solution is seven steps and an outline away.
It’s your ticket from Point A to Point B.