Why a detailed outline may not save time in writing


I just read an article that says you can write faster if you do a complete outline before you begin. I say that’s not always true, at least for me.

The author says a simple outline might be a series of questions–who, what, where, why, and when. A complete outline will answer those questions. With the questions and answers in hand, logically organized, you will have enough material to write faster than you would with just a simple outline.

Basically, she recommends thinking through what you want to say before you say it.

That’s often good advice. But sometimes, it’s not.

This blog post is a good example. I started with the idea that I wanted to say something about outlining, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say. It wasn’t until I started writing that I could see what I thought.

When you don’t know what you want to say, rather than forcing yourself to think it through, (a very left-brained process), just start writing. Let the right side of your brain, your creative mind, tell you what you think. It’s called freewriting. Just start typing or moving your hand across the page and see what comes out.

That’s how I wrote this post.

If you do know what you want to say, sometimes a short outline is all you need. That’s what I use for most of my blog posts. I jot down four or five points I want to cover and get started. It wouldn’t be worth it to take the time to create a detailed outline, nor do I believe it would make for better writing.

What takes the most time is crafting the opening and ending. You’ve got to get the reader’s attention and leave them with a memorable twist or marching orders. You can’t outline these. I often re-write openings and endings several times in order to get them right.

For longer writing, a detailed outline makes sense, and sometimes I use them. But sometimes, longer writing is nothing more than a collection of shorter writing and a detailed outline isn’t needed.

I just completed a new course and I did create an outline. Some parts were very detailed. Others were very brief. What I found is that the writing I wound up with is very different from the writing I imagined (and outlined) when I started.

Writing is like that sometimes. A creative journey. No maps, no GPS. You just fill up the tank, and go.


How to use someone else’s blog post to get traffic to your website


You read lots of blogs, right? For work, for news, for fun. You might think most of it isn’t something of interest to your clients and prospects. But you might be surprised at how much of it is.

Your clients and prospects are interested in lots of things that can make their lives better. They want to make more money, cut expenses, protect their credit, and get a better return on their investments. They want to get their kids into college and plan for retirement. They want to know how to be safe when they travel.

No matter what your clients are, they are also consumers.

So when you see an article entitled, 6 Things You Should Never Say to a Police Officer, and share it with your list, you’re providing them with value. The next time they see something from you, they’ll be more inclined to read it. And the next time they need a lawyer, they’ll be more inclined to think of you.

When you come across a post that’s interesting or useful, you probably do share it via social media. But when you share a link to a story and someone clicks on that link, it will take them to the website with the original story. Wouldn’t you prefer to have them go to your website?

Why not write your own article on the subject and share that link?

People will come to your website to read your article (and then onto the original), but by coming to your website first, they may see something else you wrote and be reminded that they need to hire you. When they share your link with their friends and followers, those folks will also come to your site first and hire you, sign up for your newsletter, or see something else they want to share with their friends and followers.

If you are a criminal defense lawyer, an article on what not to say to a police officer is a natural. You can add your comments, agree or disagree, and tell stories about your clients who messed up. What you have to say could be even more interesting than the original post.

If you are not a criminal defense lawyer, you can still comment on an article like this. You might have a personal experience you can share or know someone who has. You can ask a criminal defense lawyer for his take on the subject and add his comments or stories. A quick search may lead to a another article or two you can link to.

A blog post doesn’t have to be authoritative. It doesn’t have to be long. A few short paragraphs are fine. Tell your readers you found something you want to share, and why you like it (or don’t).

If there is a connection with what you do, yes, that is better. Your post will be longer and readers will stay on your page longer to read it. Your post will also be more valuable. That can only lead to more sharing and more appreciation.


How to get your email deleted (aka, don’t do this)


One of the email lists I subscribe to starts every email with, “Hello everyone,” and every time I read that I get a little bit annoyed.

I’m not everyone, I’m just me. I don’t care if there are 1000 people getting the same email, when you write to me, write to me. Use my name or just start writing.

This is a basic copywriting premise. Write to your reader in “me to you” language. Don’t call attention to the fact that I’m part of a list and you really don’t know who I am. Even if it is a newsletter and everyone knows it.

I open her email because she has some good things to say. But often, I delete her emails just as quickly. Why? Because her emails are ONE BIG FAT WALL OF TEXT.

Long emails are fine, as long as the content is good. But her emails make me work.

Long paragraphs with no breaks are hard to read. She should use short paragraphs. And short sentences.

Like this.

Break things up and make them visually inviting. Use bullet points and numbered lists. Let me scan the message and get the gist of it.

And then, get to the point. You don’t need to do a warm up, you’ve got my attention so tell me what you want to tell me.

The first sentence of an email is critical. It is a headline for the rest of the message. It determines whether I will read the second sentence, and beyond, so it must grab my attention by promising me a benefit or making me curious.

Of course I won’t be reading that first sentence if the subject line of the email doesn’t get my attention.

If the subject doesn’t grab me, I won’t open the email.

The subject of your email is the single most important sentence in the entire message.

One recent email from this woman had the following subject line: “Wow, another level”.

No, I don’t know what the email was about. I didn’t open it.


“Do you want the male version or the female version?”


“Do you want the male version or the female version?” That’s something my wife and I say to each other fairly often.

It’s our way of describing how we want to hear “the story”. (What the heck were you thinking?)

We’ve discovered that when you’re telling a story, men want to know the bottom line first, then a few details. Women want to hear the beginning and middle of the story before they hear the end. They want to share the experience.

So if I get home from the market where I’d run into an old friend, I’m going to say something like, “Joe and Sue separated. I saw Joe at the market today. Pretty sad.”

My wife, on the other hand, might come home and say, “You’ll never guess what happened today. I was at the market in the bread aisle. Oh yeah, I got that sourdough you like. Anyway, I saw Sue and she looked terrible. Not a stitch of makeup. She looked like she just got out of bed. I asked her how she was doing and she said ‘not good’. She and Joe have been fighting for months. They went to counseling and really tried to work things out but Joe got fired and started drinking again. . .”

Male version. Female version.

I don’t know if there is any scientific basis for this. I could be dead wrong. Maybe it’s just that my wife and I are different.

The point is that people are different and you have to know who you are talking to. Some people want you to get to the point. Others want to hear the details.

If you’re not sure, just ask, “Do you want the male version or the female version?”