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Outlines & Drafts

Discussion in 'Copywriting' started by YMC, Sep 27, 2010.

  1. #1
    Was eating my lunch and doing a bit of forum reading. Came across an interesting discussion on outlining. A writer posed the question "Am I the only one who no longer outlines?" The forum thread virtually had no outliners. Someone posted a link to a blog post that advocated outlines. Virtually every writer participating on the blog agreed that making an outline was a must. While both conversations might be driven by a bit of "me tooism", it got me wondering how the writers on DP create their magic.
    Maybe it's just my experience with outlines and drafts that jades me on this. In school I hated outlines, particularly ones that were due before the actual research began. I hated them even more when I had to stay within the confines of that outline.

    I had my own form of cut and paste before word processors existed. I would take my first draft and literally cut out sentences and paragraphs and tape them in between the rewritten words in the second draft. Drove my freshman English professor crazy that I was doing drafts so "wrong". Personally, I thought it was crazy to rewrite perfectly good paragraphs simply to create a "new" draft. She thought documenting the "process" was more important than the quality of the final piece.

    My tape and scissors are now rarely part of my process but I often move paragraphs and ideas around in my pieces as I am writing.

    So, fellow DP writers, do you or don't you outline? What's your process of putting your pieces together?
    YMC, Sep 27, 2010 IP
  2. dyadvisor

    dyadvisor Peon

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    YMC: I like your question, but when you referred to structure did you refer to content structure or subject structure? Or both?

    85% of the time my own personal subject structure is this for paragraphs. Title is the top priority to attract attention. It contains a 4 keyword phrase and 5 additional words within a 70 character space frame. Then the paragraphs (usually 8) are as follows:
    1. This is to capture the reader's interest by uncovering an emotional feeling. Within the first 164 characters each word of the title is used.
    2. Here is where the reader's conviction starts, the writer expands it by convincing the reader that it would be wise to take care of that emotional need. If the article directory permits it, put the name of the firm, and the http within the first 100 words.
    3. further expansion of paragraph 2
    4. Still working on conviction, a good time to add a short story the reader can relate to or visualize.
    5. Here is where the keyword phrase is used again. The concept switches to desire, having the reader see the benefit of taking action.
    6. More of paragraph 5, with a true fact if possible
    7. Choosing the best solution for the emotion uncovered.
    8. This is the summary leading to the bio box and website close. Include the keyword phrase. Last sentence MUST tell them to get more information (bio Box) or (link if on website).

    Every person's method is different. I like to go back and splatter in a lot of motivation words, make sure I am using present tense, so it sounds like a conversation with the reader, using “you”, avoiding “I.” The goal is to make it interesting to the reader, while at the same time getting the author enough of the correct readers. -----glad to hear other approaches, good topic----
    dyadvisor, Sep 27, 2010 IP
  3. YMC

    YMC Well-Known Member

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    The conversations referred to subject structure. The participants were primarily copywriters rather than article writers but I thought the general conversation of to outline or not to outline really is universal among writers.

    One person went so far as to make her outline and include target word counts for each section. Again, seems like too much focus on the process and not enough on the product to me. It usually takes a few attempts before those one line zingers that make the point perfectly are discovered. And, not every piece has them. I just can't imagine plotting out, "Ok, when I talk about green widgets, I'm only going to use 100 words to make my point."

    I was taught for journalism as well as public speaking and informative writing to generally follow the format...tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, tell 'em, tell 'em what you told 'em.

    When writing, I usually start from the top of the piece and write to about 3/4 through. I then refine the meat of the piece and once that's done I rework the intro and ending.That's generally the point when if I'm going to use a metaphor throughout the piece, it gets woven in. If I'm familiar enough with the topic, sometimes the metaphor is worked in from the start. The intro's often rewritten several times.

    I don't know before I start if I'm going to write 700 words or 1,200 words. Part of me wonders if I'm fighting something I saw as silly in school that could actually help streamline my writing. The other part of me doesn't like the idea of spending so much time planning a piece rather than doing research or actual writing.
    YMC, Sep 28, 2010 IP