Outlining – by Sean D’Souza – covers how to use outlines to speed up – and improve – your article writing.
Like many Psychotactics books, it is very short (about 35 minutes for me, including taking a few notes).
That is good because if you are anything like me, you don’t have a lot of time to waste and would rather get to the point as fast as possible. However, that still means there isn’t all that much stuff for the price.
Why use Outlines?
Mostly, because it easy to get stuck or start wondering around outside the topic with them.
They also help focus your ideas without the extra baggage of the whole text, as well as making it easier to see bloat.
What to cover in your outline
Sean suggests the classic journalistic questions, plus a few more items – drama (a story to add interest), how, what, why, when, where, which, objections and benefits.
Keep an eye on bullet points – they can cause bloat because you expand the details for each of them. In some cases, each bullet point could be an article.
Instead they should only have a few lines each. and when you notice they could be an article, write that down for when you need article ideas.
To see if your article is any good, scan the article to see if it works – headline, first 50 words, sub-headlines and ending. You should see that it flows properly.
Sudden Switch (to general article writing book)
At a certain point in the book, it switches from outlines to general article writing. I imagine that either Sean ran out of articles about outlining (he does mention that articles can be repurposed on e-books…), or want to add a discreet plug for his article writing courses.
Either way, it is somewhat useful material.
The book is pretty good, and while I have been doing some minor outlining before writing my articles (as well as documentation and software) for years, I still felt a big difference on the flow after reading the book while writing this review. And I just read a sales page and the structure was very clear to me.
Clearly the time investment on reading is worth it. I’d say it is a little expensive for the amount of material, though. Otherwise it’d get 4 stars.