I use the acronym “W.R.I.T.E.” to describe each of the necessary steps for
W – WEIGH your idea options.
R – REACH a formatting decision.
I – INTRODUCE supporting points.
T – TELL the relevant details.
E – END by polishing document.
Let’s take a quick look at each of these five steps…
Every lesson begins with determining what you’re going to write about for that specific lesson. As a general rule, there should be ONE primary focus in terms of your lesson topic. What will you write about?
While you probably have many ideas to begin with – and we’ll cover how to find COUNTLESS ideas in future lessons – I do want to give you four quick ways to find ideas to write about that you can use for any of your lessons…
- Competitor’s bullet points. That is, you find an existing sales page for a product (ebook, membership site, special report, etc.) that is related to yours and you look at their bullet points. Usually this will spawn many ideas to use as topics for your own lessons.
- Magazine cover stories. Another method is to look at the covers of magazines related to the topic of your membership site. This will also yield ideas to write about … and fresh ones come with every new issue! (Note: You can also check your library for past issues or hunt for them online)
- Bookstore lists. Drop by your favorite bookstore (or browse online for every greater convenience at Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com) and search for books within your category/topic and look for (1) The subjects of the books themselves and, (2) additional ideas in the table of contents or on the back covers.
- Ezine article subjects. You can also visit your favorite online ezine article directory (EzineArticles.com, GoArticles.com, etc.) and look within categories related to your topic for existing ezine articles. Many of these will serve as suitable ideas to build lessons upon.
Of course, I tell you to do this to find IDEAS. Obviously, you don’t want to copy their content or even use a similar format or structure in organizing your lessons. Just use these methods to brainstorm ideas to write about.
Next, you’ll want to decide how you’ll organize the content of your lesson. While there are many different methods of doing this, I personally recommend one of the “big three” when it comes to sharing information …
- List. A list is simple that: a set of ways, tips, keys, suggestions, ideas, methods, techniques, hints, etc. (I.E. 20 Membership Site Ideas. Ring any bells? or 20 Ways to Get More Leads.)
- Tutorial. A tutorial is a set of chronological steps to complete a process. If the topic of your lesson can be described in “how to” format, then it is a tutorial and should be organized in sequential steps. (Most of my lessons are arranged in this format.)
- Q&A. A “questions and answers” format is used when you identify a series of key questions related to your topic and then provide answers to them. (I’ll talk specifically about this kind of lesson later … you will want to use these at specific times within your sequence, but don’t worry about that now.)
After you have decided which of these three formats works best for the lesson you’re about to write, it’s time to move on…
That is, come up with the appropriate list, steps or questions that you’ll be using as the foundation for your lesson.
- If you are going to use “list”, then share as many as you can possibly think of … up to twenty. When you are sharing “ways” or “tips” or “ideas”, the more you can share the better. Why? Because not all of the ideas will be relevant or interesting to the individual reader. But, if you include numerous ways to do xyz, it’s likely one or more will strike a chord and keep them happy.
- If you are going to use “steps”, then I recommend you keep it to single digits. The more steps there are to complete, the less likely your reader will actually do them. Less is more. Keep it to 9 steps or less, preferably 3-5 steps.
- If you are going to use “questions”, then I recommend that you keep it to 10 questions or less. And it’s important that you organize your questions in the best way so they are chunked together by topic.
As a general rule of thumb, I also recommend (and do myself!) that you try to share at least 2-3 tips or examples for each of your major points.
(Notice that I do this a lot and people respond with emails of gratitude on a daily basis – it really is beneficial to the reader to get as many different perspectives on information as possible.)
Look back over the first three steps that we’ve covered so far … each of them have additional “sub-points” that further clarify or illustrate the major point.
After you have determined your format, it’s time to…
That is, fill-in-the-blanks for the points and sub-points that you’ve mentioned in your outline.
Write 1-3 paragraphs for each of your points/sub-points and you should have a nice lesson fleshed out.
Just to give you some additional ideas on “telling” the relevant details, I’m extracting a short brainstorming tool that I shared in my Small Reports Fortune course…
One of the things that you’ll find invaluable to you as an information writer is what I have labeled as a “starter swipe file”.
Just to further prove that I “practice what I preach” about using definitions as “enhancers”, here is one J…
|DEFINED: “Starter Swipe File” A “starter swipe file” is a collection of ideas to write about written in a single sentence formatted template. Example: One of the biggest reasons people fail in ___ is ___. I could use this starter sentence to create paragraphs of content about virtually any topic in the world – One of the biggest reasons people fail in marketing is…One of the biggest reasons people fail in dieting is…One of the biggest reasons people fail in reaching goals is…One of the biggest reasons people fail in homeschooling is…One of the biggest reasons people fail in relationships is… These starter sentences allow me to quickly find something to write about anytime I want to build content into a document – At the beginning as I outline it, |
During the writing process as I struggle for ideas, or
At the conclusion of the document when I find portions of the document need more information.
Now, I encourage you to build your own swipe file of sentences that you can use to get you started on writing. You’ll find that you have favorites that you refer to in EVERY lesson you write, while there will be others that are just perfect for certain scenarios.
Like I said, I encourage you to build your own swipe file. But, because I’ve been doing this for a long time and have a very good index already created, I’m going to share fifty (yes, that’s 50!) of my own starter sentences that you can use as a catalyst for your own writing.
At the conclusion of this list, I’ll use several of them as examples just so I know you’ve got a good grasp of what I mean here.
Note: You’ll probably want to print these out on a separate sheet of paper (maybe even laminate them) to refer to anytime you write.
- One of the biggest reasons people fail in ______ is ______.
- The greatest lesson I’ve learned about ______ is ______.
- The biggest mistake in ______ is ______.
- Here are the top seven reasons why you should ______.
- If I had to narrow it down to five steps, they would be…
- The real secret to ______ is ______.
- One thing that almost no one knows about ______ is ______.
- Three of the best web sites for ______ are ______.
- The absolute worst way to ______ is ______.
10. A secret weapon I use for ______ is ______.
11. Here’s why you should never be afraid to ______…
12. Five proven ways to ______ are ______.
13. The best model I’ve seen for ______ is ______.
14. Two questions to ask when making this decision are______.
15. The best example of ______ is ______.
16. Here’s what you do when ______ happens…
17. The one thing you’ve been told that’s wrong is ______.
18. New evidence suggests this about ______…
19. The one lesson I wish I had learned years ago is…
20. Here’s how to protect yourself from ______…
21. The one question you must ask before ______ is…
22. Three simple exercises to help with ______ are ______…
23. A simple way to organize your ______ is ______.
24. An easy to follow system for ______ is ______.
25. An effective way to speed up your results is ______.
26. Here’s a simple 10-step checklist for ______…
27. An often overlooked way to ______ is ______.
28. When you face this problem ______ , here’s what to do…
29. Should you ______? Take this quiz…
30. If you’re a beginner, then the first thing to do is ______.
31. If you’re experienced, then here’s an “advanced” tip…
32. Seven warning signs of ______ are…
33. Your three best options for ______ are…
34. A way to get faster results from ______ is ______…
35. It only takes a few minutes to ______.
36. Five things you can do today are…
37. For ______, this works like crazy…
38. Why your ______ won’t work.
39. Something every ______ needs to know is ______.
40. The best way I know to ______ is ______.
41. A simple shortcut for ______ is ______.
42. Here’s a “rule” about ______ you should BREAK…
43. The biggest waste of time for ______ is ______.
44. If I could only do one thing for ______ it would be ______.
45. You can actually cut ______ by ______.
46. The eleven key ingredients of ______ are…
47. My best advice for ______ is ______.
48. Five ways to improve your existing ______ is ______.
49. A good way to reduce costs is ______.
50. Here is a daily schedule you can refer to for ______…
What an incredible resource this is for you! (It’s invaluable to me.) There are so many different “angles” represented in this list (the fastest way to do something, ways to improve, shortcuts, schedules, questions, exercises, lessons, mistakes, etc.) that you could mix-n-match and never stop coming up with ideas to write about in your next lesson.
Now, just to make certain you understand how to use these templates, let’s work through 3 of them together…
Example: “The biggest mistake in ______ is ______.”
If you were writing a lesson on homeschooling, you might use this template as “the biggest mistake in homeschooling is choosing the wrong curriculum.” You would then go on to explain why that’s the biggest mistake and how to avoid it.
Example: “The one question you must ask before _____ is _____.”
If you were writing a lesson on hiring a ghostwriter, you might use this template as “the one question you must ask before hiring a ghostwriter is ‘do you have references’?” You would then write as many paragraphs as needed to explain why references are important, address what the reader should look for in a ghostwriter’s references, and so forth.
Example: “Here’s how to protect yourself from ______.”
If you were writing a lesson on “setting up a web site”, you might use this template as “here’s how you protect yourself from FTC compliance penalties”. You would then explain ways to avoid potential problem with unsubstantiated claims, hype, etc.
You begin with one of the template sentences and, then, you simply take as many paragraphs as you need to thoroughly explain things.
It’s a writer’s secret weapon, a cure for writer’s block, and a brilliant way to brainstorm ideas anytime you want all rolled into one.
5. END by Polishing Document
Once you’ve written the content for your lesson, you’ll want to fine-tune it. Generally speaking, there are three things that I recommend you do in putting on the finishing touches for your lesson…
- PAD. That is, look for areas of your lesson that need further explanation. Are there any areas that are not clearly explained? Are there areas that are noticeably weaker than others? Make sure your points are understandable. Try to add in as many examples as possible to better illustrate the points. Toss in a few more tips here and there where needed. You can add interview transcripts, quotes, research and other bits of information to get the points across better and add a bit more meat to the report.
- POLISH. Use different fonts to distinguish areas of your content. Change colors. Use alternative styles such as bold face, italics and underline. Indent text where appropriate. Use bullet points. (Especially on lists.)Insert headers, footers and graphics (just don’t overdo it!)
- PROOFREAD. The final “smoothing out” you need to make certain you do is to proofread your entire document for typographic and grammatical errors. Better still would be to allow someone else who is qualified to do it for you. While this isn’t a deal breaker by any means (quality of content is MUCH more important than quality of grammar in information based lessons), it certainly is a good idea to put your best foot forward.
Well, that above covers it! Now the only thing left to do is get writing! J