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Do you Write Outlines for Your Blog Posts?

Do you plan your posts or do you just write them free flow as they come?

This is a question that one of our members at ProBlogger.com (Mark Dykeman) started off a conversation with in the last week.

Mark talked in the thread about how he does both (sometimes he uses bullet points for his main points and then writes on each point while other times it just comes) – but I thought it’d be an interesting question to open up to everyone.

What’s your approach?

My own approach is mixed and sometimes starts with one approach and ends up as the other but in general the way I work depends upon the type of post:

Pillar Content – in most cases if I’m setting out to write what I refer to as ‘pillar content’ (or a big post that is on a central theme of my blog) I generally like to have some kind of plan before I start. Like Mark I’ll usually start out with a list of points that I want to cover that I’ve brainstormed (and perhaps a quick note or two on each). Then I work systematically through the points one by one and write a paragraph or two on each.

Other Posts – other posts that are not quite as structure in their form tend to be written in a more freely written way. For example if news breaks on something relevant to my niche I will generally bounce off a press release or another blogger with a few of my own thoughts. If the post is like this one and is more of a ‘reader question’ type posts I again will usually write it without a formal outline.

I should say that often my posts are a bit of both. Sometimes I’ll be halfway through writing a free flow/non outline post and I’ll suddenly be hit with inspiration for about 5 other things that I’ll want to say in the post. I generally stop writing at this point and capture the points that I want to cover and in doing so write a bit of an outline for the rest of the post before coming back to where I was.

Other times I might be writing a post that I’ve got an outline for and the post will evolve in a direction that makes a lot of the points I’ve outlined irrelevant and I’ll scrap them (or at least put them aside for a future post).

What about you?

Are you someone who plans posts in detail? Or do you write best when you’re writing in a more freely flowing style?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Galvahaha says:

    Think a post out in advance? Hmmm.

    Since my posts are simply stories – and not a list of things that will make you a better person – advance your career – or inspire you to a higher level of blogging income – I like most other commenters above – simply use the free-flow method as well. Quite often I will start off with a story about my Aunt Myrtle in North Upscaleville – only to find out at the end that the real story that comes out only mentions the fact the old broad is rich. And then I clean up all the parts that no longer fit and reorganize the structure to give the best reading experience.

    I use no bullets in my planning. But I always have something that just has to get out.

    I would love to be someone that teach others all my great wisdoms and move them to a state of greater financial bliss – but at the moment – I just hope I can make you laugh – and maybe if I’m lucky I might make you think to.

    But I do enjoy your posts very much! Very helpful indeed, yet I am still waiting for a google ad check to appear in my mailbox :).

  2. I know it shouldn’t be like this, but I tend to write posts on the whim of the moment. If I remember something that helped me lose weight, or a particular piece of knowledge that I think will be valuable to my readers, I fire up my text editor and I publish it right-away.
    I’ve been getting good feedback, though: some readers have told me that they can tell the passion that I put in my posts, and, to me, that’s the best compliment ever!

  3. Cathy says:

    I would say I am free flowing, It depends on the day, if I see an article or some other form and READ it will give ideas of my own.
    I do however come across some good information and at times like to share.
    All depends. Thanks

  4. I start with a title and bullet list in a draft to document the idea. When I feel inspired or passionate about the topic I write the post.

    I have several titles with bullet lists waiting for me now– no writers block- I have too many ideas and not enough time.

    Usually the title gets changed and the bullet lists sometimes turns into a paragraph for each point. I know I need to “let go of more words” I’m working on it.

    Great topic.

  5. Jon Peltier says:

    The majority of my blog posts are step-by-step tutorials, teaching people to do useful things in Microsoft Excel.

    I don’t usually make an outline, but I still follow a logical and linear process. I follow the featured protocol on my computer, taking screen shots as I go. I upload the images, and put them into a new post. Then I fill between the images with descriptive text. If I’ve omitted a step, I go back and take another screen shot.

  6. Susie McCray says:

    Deciding whether to use an outline or not, in my opinion, really depends on what I’m talking about. When it is some really good information that I think will be helpful, I’d rather plan what I want to write. But if it is just me wanting to share how I feel about something, I write freely.

  7. Sometimes I figure out a structure, and then fill the outline with stuff, sometimes I just write the full post from the beginning.

  8. Rupesh says:

    First I surf web and try to get the knowledge. Then I write free flow articles. I edit my article once before publish. Thanks for starting this topic.

  9. I tend to write my blog entries in a Word document where it is a free flowing process. Then, I review and make the necessary edits before I copy, paste, and add the finishing touches i.e. pictures and links in WordPress.

  10. Prasanga says:

    It is easy to let the words flow, but I have chose to review clickbank products and that need some research before writing the review. I think it is more fun to write free flow content, but this is tough because there got to be atleast 400 words. It is quite hard to come up with that amount words with a free flow writing. If there is some research done then it is easy to come up with 400 words. great post thanks for sharing.

  11. hokya says:

    i usually visit other blogs, then make an outline post (about what effective post is) on my local connection (offline)

    but, i still write my post originally, not plagiarizing them… :-)

  12. Outlines and brainstorming are key to any writing…period.

    Content for sites, blogs, or term papers…it’s important to have a path and have a solid collection of defendable points. Otherwise you can get off topic easily and end up talking about smurfs when you really need to be discussing the topic that you’re being paid to present.

  13. I also try to structure and outline a long post on a more general topic. It gives my readers clearer understanding of the content and a better vision into the overall subject I write about.

    Quick news and SEO tips among other website promotion tips published at my blog follow a different plan. They’re flowing as the heart of the matter needs to be swiftly pointed out and put forward.

  14. Jason Ulsrud says:

    I’m fairly new to the blogging world and have never classified myself as a writer. Mostly I write based on what strikes me as something that needs to be said.

    I don’t put a great deal of forthought into what I write. However, I will review it 3 or 4 times and change grammatical errors. So if you find errors in this comment, it’s because I’m typing on my iPhone.

  15. Flek says:

    I do agree with Gina. Though I make some outlines before making a post, the most successful posts were those which has been made without any outlines. Till the day the good posts ( at least I believe so) are the ones that are spontaneous.

  16. scheng1 says:

    I dont do outline. After all, I can edit the post anytime. I dont want to treat blogging as essay exam or college coursework.

  17. I write a weekly 700-word Hope and Inspiration blog column, much like the format of a newspaper. I don’t make outlines. I create a first draft in stream-of-consciousness form–just to get everything down before I forget. Then I go back in and edit as many times as needed to make the essay as clear and concise as possible.

    This is when I make weak sentences stronger, take out all adverbs, etc. I do all of this off-line, then paste it into my blog.

    To check out my column, “What It’s Like For Me: Coming To Terms With Humanness”, go to http://www.JanisLynJohnson.com.

  18. Spencer Fry says:

    Without a doubt I always outline my articles. I don’t spend a lot of time doing so, but I want to get a sense of the structure I’m going to present.