The 60-30-60 Framework: A Non-Writer's Help Guide

by Mandy Boyle October 18th, 2011 

framework

Working through a writing project always seems easier when you have a framework to go on.

For some people, an effective framework is an outline full of bullet points. For others, it's a few notes scribbled on a napkin.

No matter what type of prewriting you do, it's an effective way to organize your thoughts and give yourself a roadmap. When it comes to writing a 500-1000 word article for a website or another project, working with a framework makes the word count seem less daunting (I've been there – staring at 439 words hoping that it's 500).

Giving yourself a foundation to build your story on can be a great tool – but if you're not sure where to start, here's one of the most common frameworks you can experiment with.

If you're a non-writer in search of a guideline to get you through article writing, this might be a good tool for you.

The 60-30-60

Sounds like a safe combination, doesn't it?

The 60-30-60 method is pretty simple:

  • Spend 60 minutes doing research,
  • 30 minutes building the foundations of the article, and then
  • 60 minutes writing to bridge the gaps.

The great thing about this framework is that it gives you a time frame to work from so that your next article writing assignment doesn't turn into a time suck.

60 Minutes Of Research

research

I've been an SEO copywriter for a few years now and in that span I've written about everything from wedding favors to welding equipment. It's a tough job, especially when you're not the client. When I find myself staring at a keyword phrase asking myself, "How the hell will I write about this one?", I head to Google.

I, like most people, rely on search engines to guide me in the research phase of my writing framework.

I usually start with keyword phrases I know I'll be working with, as well as some broader subject related terms. My search usually results in me reading through case studies, industry blogs, magazines, or online communities. I'll get into what I look for in a bit.

In some unique cases, I'll go beyond my computer to learn about a particular subject. For example, while writing copy for an equestrian website, I called my cousin. She's been riding horses her whole life and could give me some insight into what I was writing about.

Other times, I'll ask the client for supplementary materials. The more information they can give me about a particular subject, the better. When you have a large knowledge base to pull from, research becomes easy and only gets even easier with time.

Once I've started looking, I usually take notes. In most cases, this involves me opening up a notepad file and dropping in snippets of text or links to articles that can help me as I write. Swipe file tools and techniques come in handy at this stage, so if you have a file to work from, see what you can put together or dig up.

My goal during the research phase is to get the basics of whatever I'm writing about down: the who, what, when, where, why, and how. If I can't find answers to all of those questions, I'll focus more on the why and how because ultimately, that's what engages readers.

I'll also consult sources ranging from Wikipedia to industry publications to get an idea of what it is I'm writing about, how people interact with the subject, and what words are used to describe it. The more in-depth or challenging the subject, the more sources I consult. I want to be able to write about a particular topic confidently, but in a way that's still relatable to most readers.

Keeping to the 60 minute time frame will be challenge at first, but as you gain more experience, get to know your resources, and put together swipe files, you may find that you need only 30 minutes or less to get the information you need to start writing an article that's worth reading.

30 Minutes Of Foundations

foundation

With research in hand, it's time to put together the intro, body, and closing of your article.

This is sometimes the most difficult part of the writing process for me because when I write, I usually skip around.

I may start with the closing first and then work my way backwards. Other times, I'll get the middle done but have trouble with the intro and closing.

Do whatever feels best for you in this stage – just make it your goal to get a basic outline completed so that it's easier to write when you need to.

When putting together the outline, you have a lot of options. You can take the academic approach and do thesis statements for each paragraphs, or you can turn your outline into a bulleted list of points you'd like to emphasize throughout the article. You can also design a sort of roadmap for your article, indicating where your most prominent information tidbits will be dropped in. Whatever works best for you, do it.

Getting comfortable with the article you're writing happens in this stage because it's the first action you take toward getting it done.

I can't tell you how many times I've spent hours researching only to get to this point and let my story flop. Sometimes it happens, but really try to give your muse a push during this time.

You don't have to write like Shakespeare at this stage of the game, but at least have a basic idea of what you'll be writing about, what points you'd like to make, and how you'll lead your reader through the piece.

You don't need to be an expert writer to know if point A logically connects to point B :)

60 Minutes Of Fill-in

create

The bulk of your writing will occur here, but in some cases, you may find that your 30 minutes of foundation building created most of an article.  Trust me, it's a nice surprise when it does!

For the last hour of your framework, follow the guide that you've created.

Spend time writing, revising, and editing until you get a piece that is both interesting and cohesive.

Skip around if you want to, starting with the subjects you feel you know best.

Save the tough stuff for last or get it out of the way in the beginning.

The goal here is to fill in the blanks in your outline.

Feel free to use some of your sixty minutes to refine and rephrase. Read your article out loud a few times. Let a friend or co-worker proofread it for you. At the end of your hour, you should have an article that makes sense, conveys key information, and sounds like it was written by someone who understands the subject.

Not all readers are looking for flowery language or clever writing. In many cases, they're just looking for solid information.

If you make that information available in your article, easy to consume, and easy to find, you've completed your task – even if you don't consider yourself to be much of a writer.

The best part about this framework exercise is that you have complete flexibility; the only thing you're changing is your timeline.

I'm not saying you should skimp on the time spent to create quality work (quality always trumps quantity in my opinion), but if you find yourself stuck and need a bit of a push to get an article done, this is a framework that might work for you.

Plus, everyone from experienced copywriters to newbies can practice it. I know I will the next time I'm presented with a copywriting project on welding equipment.

Mandy Boyle

Mandy Boyle gets her daily fix of copywriting as the SEO Team Leader at Solid Cactus. She is also a published freelance writer , co-founder of NEPA BlogCon and was probably a baker in another life. Cupcakes, anyone?

Mandy Boyle

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4 Responses to “The 60-30-60 Framework: A Non-Writer's Help Guide”

  1. What a great post, Mandy! I am no longer concerned that it takes me more than 2 hours to write a post. I never used a framework even though I have a process. Framework makes a lot of sense – I cannot wait to try it. Thank you for the tips.

  2. Victor says:

    Great post, having a method to the madness definitely helps streamline writing. I think it also forces you think clearer about whatever it is you are writing about.

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