6 Proven Content Sections For Every Book, Course, And Digital Product

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Ahoy and happy Monday!

Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into 1 of the 10 biggest problems all writers face:

  • Distractions
  • Over-editing
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Self-confidence
  • Generating ideas
  • Impostor syndrome
  • Writing consistently
  • Finding time to write
  • Loose feedback loops

(And, of course, if you want to crush all 10 of these AND master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)

This week, we want to help you write literally anything on the planet without ever feeling stuck again.

You’re going to want to sit down because this framework will blow your mind.

Every single book, course, or digital product basically has the same 6 sections:

  • Thinking
  • Emotion
  • Myths
  • Action Steps
  • Examples
  • Templates

What is a book? A book is X chapters of these 5 sections.

What is a course? A course is X modules with these 5 sections.

What is a digital product? An eBook, or a mini-course, or a free/paid download, or a newsletter with these 5 sections.

These 5 sections are the fundamental building blocks of literally every single written product on planet earth. And if you understand how each one works, and the “role” it serves in your content, you will never experience Writer’s Block again.

The product will write itself.

So, let’s dig in!

The Content Section Stack

Here’s how each one of these sections works, when you should use it, and what value it provides to the reader.

Section 1: Open With The “Thinking”

Every great book, course, or digital product opens with the “thinking,” first.

The writer and creator needs you to understand the new and different POV before she or he can give you action steps, templates, and a path forward. This is achieved by articulating:

a) Where you are headed (North Star)

b) Why it matters

c) The reward for reaching the other side

For example: books like Think Again by Adam Grant, or Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill make the case for why you should “think differently.” Well, every great product benefits from having an opener that articulates some sort of new & differentiated thinking. That’s how you get the reader, listener, viewer, customer, or student to trust you on the journey forward.

You must present them with a new & different way forward.

Section 2: Set The Emotional Context

What comes next is the Emotion.

This is how the reader, customer, or student then feels about this new path.

  • What are the fears holding them back from wanting to move forward?
  • What are their hopes, dreams, and ambitions that might inspire them to “take the leap?”
  • What has been getting in their way in the past—and how do they feel about it?
  • How do they feel about themselves, right now, before they’ve begun their journey & successfully transformed?

The emotional component of your content is as valuable (sometimes even more valuable) than any of the action steps you provide. In fact, there are some writers and creators who launch entire products and courses where all they do is speak to the “emotional” obstacles holding their readers back.

It’s worth noting, however, that most writers & creators think of Emotions and Action Steps as completely different (you have “motivational” content, and you have “How To” content). In reality, How To content benefits tremendously from Emotional context, and Emotional content benefits tremendously from How To/Actionable content.

Which is why it is such an important “section” to have in whatever it is you’re creating.

Section 3: Debunk Myths

Next are the myths.

The reader/customer/student has bought-in to your new & different thinking, and they also feel emotionally understood because you have spoken to the underlying feelings that are currently swirling around inside of them.

The last “section” (before moving into Action Steps) is to help them understand where they went wrong in the past.

  • What myths and “faulty beliefs” has the reader internalized that are no longer serving them?
  • What myths about the industry is the reader still blindly believing?
  • What myths are keeping the reader from being able to “see things clearly?”

Pointing out these “myths” helps the reader do a quick audit of their past and come to a conclusion as to where they went wrong—which is a crucial part of them fully buying-in to the journey ahead.

Section 4: Provide Action Steps

All of this—Thinking, Emotion, and Myths—has to come first.

Only then is the reader, customer, and/or student ready to start putting things into action.

Action Steps are the ACTIONS the reader needs to take in order to facilitate a meaningful transformation in their life.

  • Step 1: Do this. For this reason. To unlock X.
  • Step 2: Now do this. For this reason. To unlock Y.
  • Step 3: Finally, do this. For this reason. To unlock Z.

The problem with content that is exclusively Thinking or Emotion-driven is that while it can be incredibly informative for the reader, it isn’t actionable. The reader doesn’t know what to do with it. Similarly, content that is 100% action-oriented might be helpful when put into practice, but unless the reader understands WHY it’s important, the likelihood of them following through is low.

The magic combination is facilitating understanding (Thinking, Emotion, Myths) and then pairing that new understanding with Action Steps.

Section 5: Offer Relatable Examples

The easiest way to make your Action Steps “stick,” however, is by rooting them in examples.

  • Who is someone else who took these same Action Steps and saw success?
  • What happens if someone doesn’t take these Action Steps? What mistakes will they make?
  • What are inspirational case studies that PROVE these Action Steps work?

Action Steps without examples make the reader question whether or not they are being given the right information. Whereas Action Steps with examples, case studies, before & after transformations, and “proven results” reinforce to the reader they are in the right place—and all they have to do is follow the instructions on the box.

Section 6: Give The Reader A Template

Of course, there is one last friction point keeping people from taking action.

They don’t know where to start.

Every new Action Step in life feels a bit like a blank canvas. Even with the most detailed instructions, forward movement is a bit like watching someone else paint a picture and then trying to do so yourself by memory. It’s very difficult.

The way you inspire readers, customers, and students to overcome the obstacle of “getting started” is by removing the “blank canvas” problem and giving them a template.

  • “Here, color inside the lines.”
  • “Here, fill this in.”
  • “Here, just replace these words with your own.”

Having a template removes the last excuse in the reader’s arsenal, which is, “I don’t know where to begin.”

Now, they do (and, like training wheels, they can let the template go as their proficiency increases).

When all is said and done, these 6 sections essentially outline the sections and/or modules of any book, course, or digital product:

  • Thinking
  • Emotion
  • Myths
  • Action Steps
  • Examples
  • Templates

And you can use this stack over and over again.

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Enjoyed this edition? Click here to share it on Twitter!

You might also like...