How to Use a Writing Frame

The View From Above

More and more, writing is part of our job, whether we like it or not. People like me are telling you that content is king (well, not me– I think YOU are the king), that you need to blog ALMOST every day.

But that seems hard. It’s even harder when you aren’t using a writing frame (which is like an outline, I guess). Here’s How to Use a Writing Frame:

First – The Frame Overall

Let me just list out the frame:

  • Great Title
  • Related Graphic
  • Strong+Story First Paragraph
  • First Example
  • Second and/or Third Example
  • Action Items
  • Call to Action

That’s roughly what I do for every blog post. This would change slightly if you’re sending out an email, or a sales letter, so you can change it as you see fit. If you’re writing a 100 page ebook, you might have a frame like this:

  • Introduction (covers what people will get out of this)
  • Chapter 1 – explain what will be covered and what people will get (reinforcing intro). Main point of chapter 1 is to encapsulate the whole of what’s coming next.
  • Chapter 2 – first meaty point. Start with a story. Add an example in detail. Finish with actionable information. Then a transition.
  • Chapters 3 – end – same as 2.
  • Last Chapter – sum up. Give next steps. Speculate on what could go wrong.
  • Last Few Pages – a call to action to extend the relationship further.

There, two frames for the price of one (free!)

Add a Little To Each Frame Part

Depending on how big the effort, one way to chunk things is to add a little bit to each frame. So, if you have the words “Chapter 1” and you replace them with “First Points of Presence on the Social Web,” what you might do next is write a one-sentence summary of what that chapter will mean. Then, maybe you’ll jot down quickly the things you wish to make sure you cover in that chapter. Later, you might decide what order they go in. (I did that for this post).

Double Check the Order of Things

If you’re finding that things don’t flow well, one benefit to writing in a frame is that you should be able to see it sooner than later. You can then move parts around, rewrite the transitions, and move back into completing the work. There are other benefits to writing in frames.

Writing Frames and Time Chunking

Sometimes (often?), people don’t have time to write a blog post (or story or article or sales letter) in one uninterrupted sitting. My daughter came out three times while I was writing this, and if I’d had to rely on my memory and flow alone, I’d have never written the piece because I’d have become frustrated with forgetting what came next, and I’d have stopped. By putting the frame down, and then filling in the sentence and the little jots and all that, you’ve got something you can return to, when the time makes itself available.

WHERE to Write It All Out

I write most of my posts into a notepad file first. You can pick a blogging software or write into the browser, but the first time you lose a piece that way will be the last time you write that way. But by the same token, I don’t like to repeat, so I don’t put it into any kind of tricky software that makes me work to extract it. Yes, a plain old notepad file works just great. (A bonus trick: Write one that’s called your template and then save it each time as the new post name, so that you can start at a pre-set template each time.)

But What About Serendipity?

Frames and outlines and all this must really crush creativity. Some of you said that a few paragraphs ago. It’s okay.

I’m a very right-brained person. I love creativity. I thrive on it. But with writing, there’s creativity and there’s production. I make stuff because I’m paid to make stuff. Instead of worrying about serendipity, I use the frame as my lines, and then I color wildly in between them. Sometimes, I break my own rules (often, I break my own rules), but I start with the frame.

If Writing With Any Kind of Regularity Is Important

Frames and using a method like the above is a great way to start a writing habit and keep at it. Because you’ve got the technical structure laid out, you’ll never have another blank piece of paper. Because you can start figuring out how to phrase topics to fit these kinds of constraints, you never have to worry about what first action to take. It’s just a matter of filling your head with ideas to fit into these frames. Great, right?

A Sampling of Other Articles I’ve Written About Writing

I wanted to leave you with a few other posts about writing, in case you were in a groove. Some of these are variations on the theme. Others are different ways to arrive at similar results. All of them, I hope, are useful in different ways.

How I Use Mind Mapping to Write

The Writing Practice

Write Better Blog Posts Today

Build Blog Posts Like Building Blocks

And, if you want to submit your posts to places other than your own blogs, here’s the best ebook on guest posting that I’ve ever read:

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