When writing a new book, I always start with a content outline. If I build a good outline, the book basically writes itself. Why? Because a good outline will act as a prompt for everything you need to write. If you've left anything out of the outline that your book needs, it will show up as you write.
This formula has worked for me for every book I've written as well as every content strategy I've built for myself and my clients.
FEAR WRITER'S BLOCK NO MORE
Writer's block (when your butt isn't in the chair and your fingers aren't on the keyboard and you're making every mental excuse not to write when really you're just stuck because you're fixated on being stuck) is paralyzing as a writer. By having a guide pull you along, writer's block diminishes as words and ideas flow more readily. Having a solid outline will keep your writing fertile and allow you to get 'er done.
With blogging making a comeback and the power of publishing books at your fingertips, there is no reason not to build a content strategy that drives traffic, builds relationships and makes sales. Or, if you're doing it for fun like a family blog, you never have to worry about what to write. It's as if you have a magic genie feeding you writing prompts and all you need is a pen or computer.
In On Writing, Stephen King said the way to become a good writer is to read. A lot. I agree with his simple advice, and will add you have to write a lot as well. Put your butt in the chair and write. Get 'er done. Don't think you write good enough? Sorry, no excuse. Dictate your thoughts and get it transcribed and edited. Believe me, there are always going to be worse writers out there. Always. If they're not letting writing quality stop them, you shouldn't either.
PASSION PREVAILS IN PUBLISHING
You can come up with a great idea for a book (if I had a dollar for every time I met someone who said they had a great idea for a book, I'd buy Apple stock), but if you don't write a book that expresses that great idea, no one will ever know. You can be the most passionate person about a certain topic, but if you don't write about it, no one will ever understand your passion or get insights from your perspective.
Communication has reached a surprising level of colloquialism and spit-in-the-face of grammar and proper language usage—it has become a publishing free for all. I LOVE THAT. However, when I encounter poor writing, it stops me from reading because it's so painful to read. It diminishes the credibility of the writer. It lessens the potential of that writer inspiring me, persuading me or educating me. So how do you get better at writing? BY WRITING.
Bottom line, no one is going to even be able to respond to what you've written—good or bad—unless you actually write. So I hope this how-to guide helps to get you going.
HOW TO BUILD A WINNING CONTENT STRATEGY THAT ELIMINATES WRITER'S BLOCK
CREATE A strong OUTLINE YOU CAN BASE ANY BLOG, BOOK OR CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY on.
- Clarify your content's purpose. Answer the question, "What do I want the reader to know/feel/do as an outcome of engaging with my content?" This is your content's mission statement and should guide everything you do moving forward. You're putting time into creating content, so make sure your purpose or why you're doing it is clearly defined. This should act as a compass for every page you write.
- Identify your target reader. If this is for business, it will be prospective clients. If this is for personal, it will be friends and family. Make sure you are clear who they are and how you want to impact them with your content. The more niche your topic is, the more niche your target reader is. Take the time to build an ideal reader profile. Notate how they'll respond and what they'll create or do after reading your material.
- Explore your end game. What happens after your content is complete? How are you following up? What are you writing next? Where/when are you asking the reader to engage or buy? Don't be myopic with your current content creation (even though it can be daunting) and fail to look beyond "THE END" where you can capitalize on opportunities that may arise as a result of publishing content. This will also help you build a marketing and promotional strategy which should begin before the book or post is even published.
- Build your outline. This is the x-factor to getting content created. Follow this simple formula to create a great outline that virtually writes your content for you.
- Categories. Brainstorm a list of 20-30 categories related directly to your content's purpose. For example, if you are writing a social media blog, your categories may include the popular social channels as well as etiquette, branding, competitor analysis, style, scheduling, resources, etc. Once you have brainstormed as many categories that you can, select the best and merge the rest until you've arrived at a set amount of categories.
- Topics. Underneath each category, brainstorm at least 10 specific topics that explore and expand on the category. For example, if your ongoing content marketing focus is about your 600-employee company, you may have categories that mirror departments (Human Resources, Operations, Sales, etc.) and topics that mirror individual employees, what they do and why. Consider it the best practices, opinions or educational nuggets related to each category. You decide! Be as detailed as you can so you can extract more aspects out of each category. Don't assume that your reader knows what you know. They don't. And even if they did, they haven't heard it from your unique vantage point.
You can plan this out using a grid or spreadsheet, or draft it as a simple outline. The amount of categories and topics should correlate to the amount of chapters or posts you intend to publish. Once you have a thorough outline, all you need to do is write what you know—you don't have to come up with what to write about, your outline does that for you.
Now, write. And when you take a break from writing, read. If it worked for Stephen King, it will work for you.