How I Plan Out Difficult Topics To Write About

by John Hoff on November 21, 2011

As a fellow blogger, I’m sure you know there are various types of blog articles you can write.

You can write:

  • How-to posts
  • Quick “to think about” posts
  • Deep, thought provoking articles
  • Research articles

I’m sure if we brainstormed together we could come up with a few more.

Probably one of the hardest posts to write and really make good are the “How-to” posts. That’s because ideally we are teaching people something they either don’t know how to do or showing them the way you do it.

I’ve done my fair share of “How-to” posts and I’ve noticed when it comes to these sorts of articles, I write my best stuff when I take about a half a day and map things out really good on paper. Actually, sometimes it’s more than half a day, now that I think about it.

The point is, if you want to teach people something even remotely complex, then you’re going to have to break it down into simple steps and try to reimagine yourself way back when you were a beginner. I think this is the primary reason why many people tell me I explain difficult subjects so well…

Because I step out of my shoes and into that ideal target person’s shoes who might be trying to learn what I’m talking about – but has no clue.

Just trying to quickly write up a post off the top of your head without first giving it some real thought, for me at least, almost always leaves holes in my logic or steps to take.

I first realized this with one of my first articles I ever wrote on asset protection. For that article, I sat down one afternoon and sketched out one of the best business structures you can have to protect your assets (keep in mind I use to invest in real estate).

I remember that day.

It was about 75 degrees out, clear blue skies, and the sunlight was shining in on the couch. I sat on the couch where I could feel the warm sunlight hit my shoulders, grabbed a piece of paper and sketched out the diagram.

Okay that’s not the original sketch… that’s long gone.

But I realized something that day.

I realized that if I just skipped right to the end result, you know, the –> DO THIS part…

I wouldn’t be teaching my readers anything. Instead, I would just be “showing them”.

See the difference.

Teaching (a.k.a. “How-to” posts) involves a process of learning. But who learns anything when the answer is just given to them?

And the great part is that teaching sells stuff, right?

If you’re on my newsletter (you are, aren’t you) then you know I recently finished an article series on how to think and do like the wealthy people do.

I loved writing that series because it involved thinking in different ways then most people do, and although I had all the information in my head, I had to map it all out in a logical sequence so people who read what I wrote could follow my logic.

So writing a great “How-to” post or article on some complex topic is really about order and organization.

Okay no secret there, but here’s what I do.

First I draw a bubble chart or some kind of flow chart. I’ll also double check my sources as well as look up online to see if there’s anything I missed.

As usual with blogging, if you plan to write an article on a topic, chances are someone has already beat you to the punch. So what I’ll do is see what others have said about the subject. If I learn something new from them, I’ll quote them in my article.

Many times though, what this check online does for me is remind me to talk about this or that. In other words, I already knew that information and this other person’s article reminded me to reference the topic in my article.

Second, I will typically make an outline from my bubble chart.

And third of course is to write the article based off of the outline (disclosure: sometimes I add or subtract information to be used in my article).

Here’s the outline I did for my recent blog article series, The Secret of My Success: How I Rank Money Articles (click image to enlarge).

I also mapped out my linking structure I explained in the article.

I then used Gliffy to redo it in digital format:

I also have been brainstorming a new series where I will go into detail on landing page optimization. Here’s the bubble chart I just made for it today:

Yes I know, a bit messy and I have chicken scratch for handwriting. I’m left handed, what can I say.

My point is this.

If you want to write a stellar article which aims to explain how to do something of a complex nature, or even a simple “How-to” post, map it out and take a little time to see what others have said about the topic, even if you are an expert.

It always comes out so much better.

What’s your process for writing a complex or difficult to follow article?

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