For centuries, many people have dreamt of publishing a book or getting an article published. Now we can add to that list, getting published online. For many, this is an additional way to get recognition that their ideas and thoughts are worthy. We are all experts at something...whether it is art appreciation, bike racing, car repair, household cleansers, stock purchases, and more. Getting a thank you from a fellow biker, housewife, artist, or a friend, etc. is great, but to get accepted by a publisher and have hundreds or maybe thousands of people read and benefit from our knowledge is exciting.

How does one get started in writing a life story, or a how-to article, or a research paper? There is one tool in the writer's tool box that can give any of these articles a solid start...the outline. Note, this is not the outline of the entire story, using A B C and I II III, but this is an outline of the facts the story is based on. A solid outline will keep the story or article on a clear path for both the writer and the reader.

First, there needs to be a clear subject matter and goal (eg, write about changing the tire on a bike; or how my public school education got me to where I am today). Then, the next step is to develop the simple outline.

Newspaper articles show the purest form of an outline, which can be used for all forms of writing. Print journalists focus on the pyramid article structure for their outline. The first paragraph contains: "who, when, where, why, what and how" (WWWWH). Details come next, with the final paragraph being the least important. However, a creative or fictional article would have a stronger conclusion.

One exception to this style of outlining is online writing. The best ones have the writer's material dispersed throughout the article, with the most interesting or catchy items at the beginning. It is important to pack the "wow" information at the beginning because most online readers are tempted to read only the first sentence. Generally, there is no need to list or link to a lot of sources. Have a clear topic and explain in commonplace verbage.

An example of online news writing is: "A woman was surprised at a bank ATM last night when a boy grabbed her $50 bill and ran away." Online readers do not need to see her name or age, or the bank's location until later in the article. A professionally written newspaper article would need to have this stated at the beginning. "An unidentified male juvenile stole $50 from Lucy Brown, 66, at the National Bank's ATM machine, Alameda and Broadway, at 9 p.m. Saturday."

Other tips for online writing:
Helpful, and often found in online writing are: subheadings, short sentences, short paragraphs, outlines. Paragraphs are often one sentence long. Web readers do not like big chunks of information, but tend to glance through the information to find what they are looking for. And, do not forget the active verb structures and tone. Just like the word "surfing" insinuates, web readers expect short, informative articles that allow them to move on quickly.

Another exception is academic writing which is all about letting the readers see the sources. The writer cannot just say George Washington did not cut down a cherry tree, but would have to show why this is stated. The WWWWH outline is still needed, but it refers to the facts being presented. The introduction would state that the essay will be about how "George Washington earned a reputation for honesty," and then it would be followed with proof.

As far as writing a novel, the reader should be informed of the subject and goal of the book at the beginning. No one wants to be tricked into reading a book they thought was about "famous women inventors in New England" and find out it is a book about "women farmers in New England." The journalist's form of outlining, with the WWWWH does not have to be followed in the first paragraph, but it should at least be in the first chapter.

But the one thing needed for all types of articles and novels: use great writing skills that end up with a useful satisfying conclusion, which makes the reader glad to have read your article or novel.

Author's Bio: 

Creative writing teacher and award-winning writer Kathleen Spring, offers 4-day weekend writing retreats, Spring Time Writers, in the Rocky Mtns. of Colorado. The workshops have one to three students, so that each gets individualized attention. Spring believes that people need to briefly learn some basic writing tools first, and then encourages them to develop and improve their own writing style. She has published a writing tips book "WRITERS Birthing Creative Writing..." and has a free quarterly e-mail Writers Newsletter.