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Write Like Contributors From Fast Company and Salon.com

An outline to help brains prone to tangents focus.

Photo by Kristina Krause

As I prepare to develop pieces for the next couple of months, occasionally I’d catch myself drifting and not adding notes to anything. Then I thought back to what I did the last time I felt stuck: pick a couple of written pieces from writers (or publications) I follow, and build a piece based on how they structure their work.

Instead of asking myself: ‘What would Malcolm Gladwell write?’ I changed it to: ‘How does Malcolm Gladwell structure his pieces?’

That revelation led me to use that question whenever I felt like a piece wasn’t “there” yet. Usually I’d find the issue would be that I hadn’t addressed a specific point in the structure.

Since Malcolm Gladwell writes REALLY long pieces, my backup question would be: “What is the structure best used for this piece I’m editing?”

(I’ve been spending a bit of time doing screenwriting exercises — this structure might sound a bit…like the three act story arc.)

Based on posts from Fast Company and Salon, this is the structure I’d refer to:

  • Inciting Incident (1-2 Paragraphs) – Why do I want to write it? What is the source of my frustration? (Problem I’m trying to solve/Benefit for the reader to keep reading)
  • Inputs (3-5 paragraphs) – How did I get to my epiphany? (What Information is needed to help me solve the problem? How did the experiment go?)
  • The Change (1-2 Paragraphs) – Did I discover something unexpected? Was there a solution? Did I come out as a better person? (A reason for the reader to implement a similar change in their life)

Why Fast Company and Salon? Aside from being sites where I’ve found (and shared) content from, they are both high traffic sites: Fast Company is at 11 million while Salon is at 22 million.

Similar to when I work a track, I found that if I have something to latch onto…its easier to see where the next step would be.

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Discovered a new artist, delighted by an ad, or found a way to reconnect with an old friend? Send me the lowdown via Twitter. 🙂

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