Sitting down and writing an engaging and informative post from start to finish in one sitting just doesn’t work for me. I’m sure for some people it’s possible. You know, those annoying over achievers that probably knock off a dozen blog posts after their 5am half marathon run each morning?
And that’s just how they start their day!
If you’re new to blogging, trying to complete the whole process at once can be even more difficult. What’s the solution? Well as the old saying goes “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Breaking up the process into smaller tasks is the key to success. You will also need to work on the difference tasks at different times.
I find that crafting a good post involves a number of skills and more importantly mindsets. That’s the key for me. Sometimes I’m in a writing mood and sometimes I’m not. Matching my mood to the work effort required is the way I have found to become more productive. I’ve also found that at certain times of the day I’m more productive at one aspect of blogging than another so I leverage it instead of fighting it.
Here’s the process I use:
This is the most important step and the one that can also cause the most amount of procrastination. Properly researching a post will ensure that the content is top drawer and useful to the reader. It can also result in analysis paralysis. It’s easier to find and save good information than it is to create something so ensure you find what you need, save the information for later and then move on.
Using tools such as RSS, Google Alerts and Twitter can be great ways to have good research “stuff” delivered right too you. These methods are also great ways to find ideas for blog posts. They can also become time sucks.
Building an intelligence network that gathers information for you is the key to maximizing your research time and efforts so invest some time to think about building out your system. Just remember if you spend all of your time surfing your feeds doing “research” you won’t have any left to invest in blogging.
Once you have found the information you need: a quote, a link, a picture, an idea you need a place to store it all. You can go old school and use a notebook or you can use an online tool or you can simply use Microsoft Word or Notepad. There are tons of choices, but for me the answer is hands down no contest. It’s Evernote. Evernote is the virtual landfill for all of my research and ideas and anything else I need to remember.
When I find something I want to use in a post, I send it to Evernote, tag it and forget about it until I’m ready to use it.
Having a system to collect information, save it and organize it for when you are ready to blog is what will speed up process and make you much more productive.
This is probably the most important part of blogging that beginners never do. Rather than sitting and cranking out a post from start to finish, once I’ve collected a ton of research I write outlines.
Generally while doing research, reading or anytime genius decides to strike and a topic occurs to me, I open a new Evernote note and give my post idea a title. I don’t worry about crafting the perfect title because I can always change it latter. The important thing is to capture the idea immediately and create an empty bucket to fill with my ideas and research.
I continue creating new posts with only titles until I’m out of research and ideas. Then I begin to drop in points, links or other information into each note without writing the actual blog post. It’s simply an outlining and information organizing process at this point.
Generally once I’ve processed my research I have 10-12 blog post ideas open with some basic research in each. Then I go back thorough them and look for duplications but more importantly to see if the topic is too big and needs to be broken down into smaller posts. Other times I’ll just hit delete if it’s really not working for me or it’s something I just don’t feel will be a fit for my audience.
Next I go through each outline and figure out how I want to structure each post. Is it going to be a how to post? An editorial piece? A survey of a topic? I have a number of templates I use to both speed up and keep my writing for any particular blog consistent. But basically I lay out the introduction and my main headings, which will be my key points and structure. I learned how to do this in grade nine when we started writing essays. It turns out, all that stuff was useful after all.
Then I cut and paste my applicable research under each heading, once again without actually writing anything. This shows me where I have enough information and where there are holes that need to be filled. I can then either go back to my research and fill them in or conduct more research to complete the post. If it’s a small amount of info I need, I may just go find it but if there are big holes I move on to the next post.
At this point it is also another great opportunity to determine if I need to split a topic into more than one blog post. This happens a lot and can easily turn 5-6 posts into 10-12 posts.
The key is to quickly outline 10-12 posts in one sitting and then have them ready to go when you are ready to actually write. That way, there’s no excuses when it’s writing time.
Ok, time to write. I’ve done the research. I have 10-12 blog posts laid out and ready to go. I’ve scheduled time in my calendar to write. Now I’m not waiting for inspiration to strike and staring at a blank screen. It’s time to gett’er done!
I have topics with headings and my ideas already organized. All I have to do is open up the first post and fill in the blanks. I write quickly. I don’t worry about editing, style, punctuation, spelling, repeating myself, anything. I just write. I bang out as many posts as I can.
If a topic is just not working for me, I save it and move on. This way I avoid writer’s block and ensure I get some quality work done.
When I’ve completed my writing hour I should have a few solid drafts that will make it to publication. I’ll probably have a few real stinkers too. If a topic isn’t working for me or isn’t on brand for one of my blogs, I generally don’t delete it. I just save it and move on. Who knows, I might be able to repurpose the work later or use it as a guest post on someone else’s blog. Although sometimes it’s just so bad I hit delete and make like it never happened.
This is where the hard work begins. Editing is a completely different skillset and requires a completely different mindset then writing. That’s why I don’t do them at the same time.
Editing while I’m writing is likely to take me out of the creative zone as I stress out about which word to use, whether to use a semicolon, a comma… blah…blah… blah… So I don’t. I save all of that for the editing phase.
When I’m ready to edit, usually a few hours after writing or even the next day, I open up all of my draft posts and just get at it. I start at the top of each post and do a logic check. Does the post flow properly? Does it need to be reorganized? If so I do it now.
Then I deep read. I go through the post section by section and clean them up.
When I’m happy with the post, I hit save and move on. I don’t publish. I’m editing not publishing now.
I almost never publish on the same day that I’ve finished with a post, because like all writers, I’m never quite finished with a post. When I’ve been editing for a while I miss things. I also begin to lose the reader’s perspective. So often I wait till the next day and re-read my posts for a final proofing as a visitor to my site would. I’ll even sometimes read them out loud to make sure they work for me. Luckily rather than making me look crazy, it only adds to my eccentric writer persona. At least in my mind anyway. The dog has other opinions. Reading out loud helps me catch those little things that take away from the work or greatly add to it so it’s worth the awkwardness.
At some point the post is ready to go. I may not be completely happy with it. It may not be my best work ever, but it’s time close my eyes, hope for the best and hit publish.
What keeps many people from ever publishing or takes up way too much of their time is the desire to obtain perfection. Let’s be honest… I’m not writing for the New Yorker here and neither are you. We are simply trying to communicate our thoughts, ideas and expertise to our community. If we miss a comma, they will understand. Unless your blog is about grammar…
At some point it’s perfect enough. Get over it and just hit publish.
The whole point of the creative process is to ship. If no one ever reads your work, they can’t take any action, learn anything new, understand a concept or whatever it is you want to communicate.
How many people do you know are “working” on the greatest book never written? Are going to finish that song? Novel? Or are launching that killer business idea?
Why do they never finish? I think for two reasons.
First if they never publish that book, it can’t suck. It will always be a great idea until it’s in the hands of real readers who may not agree.
Second, if it were easy everyone would be doing it. Everyone isn’t. If you do, you’ll immediately separate yourself from the pack but in order to do that, you gotta ship!
Work with a creative team
Why try and do it all yourself? Why not leverage and engage a team. Have the people with the most expertise in your organization outline the posts and then have other members of the team research and write the posts. Doing a team effort blog keeps the entire organization engaged in the process but it also ensures motivation is kept high. If you owe someone your piece of the work it’s more likely to get done.
Hire some help
Don’t be afraid to invest in some help too. You may be awesome at generating content but a terrible editor. No problem. Hire one.
I’ve found that working with editor’s have not only improved the quality of my work but also the quantity I produce. Having a professional editor go through my work has taught me how to better craft my writing and do it much more efficiently. This means I’m catching mistakes earlier and tightening up my work as I write which results in a better read as well.
Can’t write or edit? No problem there either. You have expertise that you want to get out there in front of visitors to your site but maybe you don’t want become a writer. Or it could be that you don’t have the time to devote to all the steps. That’s ok, you can still become a blogger.
Why not dictate and record a bunch of ides and have them transcribed? Your voice will come through without all the messy having to write stuff. Or consider outsourcing the whole thing? A professional copywriter can interview you and then work with you through the process so that it’s your content, your voice but they do all the nitty gritty work.
Outsourcing part or all of the process will keep you on track producing content. If a copywriter or editor is waiting on you it will ensure you get the work done.
Blogging is a process. You need to find the process that works best for you. Then you need to make it a habit. Scheduling time to make it happen is difficult but absolutely necessary. Like anything you do, you will become better at it the more you do it. And the more you do it the greater returns you will begin to see on the time you’ve invested. Work hard at it, use your own voice, don’t beat yourself up, your work is perfect enough, SHIP, and don’t be afraid to ask for some help.
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