Good doggie, nice doggie.
Yes, dogs will often do exactly what you say.
A cat, on the other hand, has a mind (and will) of its own.
In the realm of content creation, the outlines you write for your articles often behave like cats. You try to rein them in, but they just meow, snarl, and end up going their own way. And, if you don’t take control, your outline will drive you crazy.
But you can make your article outline sit up and go “woof” on command — once you understand how to do it.
Let’s look at an example …
How to shave a cat
Let’s say you’re beginning to write an article about cartooning.
The topic of “cartooning” is way too vast and wild for a single article.
So, we need begin to tame this huge topic by taking a step down to a related sub-topic, for this example let’s say, “cartooning faces.” Now we have some control, but still a lot less focus than we’d like.
Should we talk about grumpy, sad, hungry, upset, curious, desperate, tired, or upset cartoon faces — you get the idea, don’t you? We know we’re dealing with faces, but we’re still slightly out of focus.
So let’s step down one level lower … let’s focus on “angry” cartoon faces.
Now you’re more than sure that you can tackle the “angry cartoon faces” topic. You can plainly see that an outline is already starting to form in your head. You can describe what an angry face is, why you need to learn to draw one, when do you avoid it — ah, the outline tumbles out of you like a torrent.
The topic was wild. The sub-topic was somewhat in focus. Ah, the joy of the sub-sub-topic:
- Topic = Cartooning
- Sub-topic = Cartooning faces
- Sub-sub-topic = Cartooning angry faces
Should you always try to shave a cat?
So … should we never outline a topic or sub-topic ever again? Should you always be paring your article outlines down to sub-sub-topics instead?
If you write an article about “pricing,” you will most certainly have to give your client the idea of what your idea of “pricing” is all about. Your idea of pricing will most certainly be different than mine.
If you write on the topic of “talent,” you still have to tell the reader what you mean by “talent.” Again, what you see as talent may be totally different from what I’d see as talent.
So heck, yeah, you’ll have to write those topics and sub-topics, but it won’t bug you as much. You’ll now know where your sub-sub-topics are going. And that gives you an obedient set to work with.
This leaves you free to then allow the nature of the “topic” and “sub-topics” to be a little more cat-like, because your sub-sub-topics will indeed be woofing obediently.
What the heck am I saying?
All this sub-sub-sub might be making your head crazy, so let’s summarise:
- The broad topic is wild. It can go anywhere. For example, “cartooning” is a broad topic.
- The sub-topic is more obedient, but helps to focus it a bit better, e.g. “cartooning faces.”
- The sub-sub-topic is where you hit pay dirt. “Cartooning angry faces” helps you focus with absolute clarity. And the outline tumbles out easily.
- The topic and sub-topic are still very useful and not to be disregarded. You still have to use them to get the client to understand your position on the topic, but those work better as content landing pages.
- However, now that you have your sub-sub-topics in place, you’ll feel less stress to wander off on a tangent, and can use the topic and sub-topics to get your point across clearly.
- In effect, when brainstorming you go from topics to sub-topics and then to sub-sub-topics. When outlining, you may want to start at sub-sub-topics and work your way upward.
Topics and sub-topics tend to meow a lot, they tend to do their own thing.
But if you go through the steps of brainstorming the topics, then sub-topics and finally sub-sub-topics, you’ll find that all three of them will become more dog-like, much more obedient to your content creation goals.
Woof, woof, woof!
About the Author: Sean D'Souza runs a zany marketing site at Psychotactics and deconstructs headlines in his spare time. Learn how to assemble (and audit) your headlines in seconds with Sean's powerful headline report, when you subscribe to the Psychotactics Newsletter. And don't miss his binge-worthy, music-filled podcast, The Three Month Vacation.