Inspiration is a fleeting thing, as most of you know, but a content calendar and post schedule rarely wait for you to be inspired to write. How do you write when you really have to and you are not feeling it? You master the art of structuring your article, and you rely on that to convey the information you have in an engaging tone.
Why is structure important for inspiration?
Structure is a writer’s secret weapon. In his masterclass James Paterson talks about the importance of outlines, and how by having one you will not write yourself into a corner. You will tell your readers a story, rather than getting half way through your article and realize that you have to start over. In fact he tells his students:
Don’t think about the sentences, think about the story. Write the story down.
Regardless of what you are writing about, having a structure can help propel your writing in the direction you want it to go. Granted, James Patterson writes best sellers, and I write about website management, and occasionally fishing. However, I want to share with you how I incorporate structure, and turn it into articles that people want to read. It has helped me at times when I have felt that my heart wasn’t fully in it.
Crème de la crème of article structure
Let’s have a look at my article “Sack Your Cheesy Valentine’s Day Plans and Go Fishing” , posted last February on FishingBooker, a company that books fishing trips worldwide. It reached over 40, 000 users through social sharing, and it was posted in honor of Valentine’s day with the aim of getting people out on the boat for the most romantic holiday of the year.
Things to consider before you start writing:
- What is the business aim of this article. In other words what are you trying to achieve with it.
- How much time do I have to write it and do I have any specifications (word count, tone).
- How much do I know about this topic.
Put in your markers
Decide on your paragraphs. What will each paragraph bring to the whole and how will you move your reader to complete the action you are asking them to.
Here is how I started outlining my Valentine’s Day piece.
What do people usually do on Valentine’s day, what’s familiar, what’s outdated and what is often disappointing. Familiarity and being able to relate both have the tendency to hook your readers in.
Tell them not to do what they always do. Challenge them. Offer a new, fresh idea for Valentine’s day. Have a catch, here is mine “This year forget the cheese and order the fish!”
Have the “awwww” factor. Show them how “cute” fishing together is, and show them an easy way to book their fishing trip. If you are lucky you will come up (or google) the perfect line – “You never know, after your day of fishing there might be two less fish in the sea.”
Consult each paragraph again
Do they need breaking up into smaller paragraphs? Does each section bring me closer to my aim? Am I missing something important?
In my case, paragraph two got broken down into four paragraphs that all focused on different romantic moments at sea. Here I wanted to convey the idea of romantic fishing, so creating a few images in my readers mind felt like the right decision.
To answer the above questions, yes my article is persuading people to book a fishing trip. Paragraph one is hooking them in with my familiar approach, then I challenge them to consider a new idea. Paragraphs two to four show them how fishing is the new thing to do on Valentine’s, and my final paragraph throws in a cheesy pun and hopefully gives them that “awww”moment, as well as a way to make their new Valentine’s day idea a reality (a CTA).
Pad it out
At this point, you have your structure and your article direction. You have left very little to your creativity. You have done 60% already, and you just need to fill in the blanks. If you are struggling still, go back to your research. Read over material. If that doesn’t work, and you have the infamous writers block, take a break. Or as James would say:
Do not torture yourself. That’s how people get blocked.
So really don’t. Go home, have a walk, go back to it in a few hours or days. (all depends on your deadline)
Write your title
I tend to leave title writing till the very last moment, as for me it’s the hardest part. In the competitive online world today your article get’s tossed aside unless your title screams “hey this is a very fun and informative article”, all in optimally 50-60 characters. Google will typically display the first 60 characters, so ideally you don’t want to go over and have your readers only see your title partially.
Structure, structure and nothing?
After structuring your article there is always something, you won’t have nothing. It can happen that you still feel that you can’t finish your article successfully, and sometimes it takes an outline and research time for you to realize that perhaps this article isn’t for you. Know that at this point you have given it your best to make it work. Content calendars and strict deadlines can be tricky and do take their toll, so maybe this one time you can hand the article over to someone else. If not follow your structure, and trust that with a good outline, your story will flow. Only you know that it’s not your best writing, and not every article you write can be.