Maybe you’ve been tasked with writing a post for the corporate blog. Or maybe you’ve just decided that blogging will improve your online presence and personal brand (it will). Whatever the reason, you’ve got what appears to be a monumental task in front of you—not only do you have to figure out what to write, you also want to figure out how you are going to get people to read your post (I struggle with that part all the time). Because you want people to read it. Sure, blogs can have a diary- or journal-like quality to them (writing to help you cope) but the Internet also empowers our writing with a capability to reach a tremendously large audience.
Okay, enough about that. You need to write your post. So, first, don’t panic (you’re welcome, Douglas Adams). Second, get yourself a “distraction free zone.” If you want to be able to write effectively (unless you are one of those rare people that can mentally block everything out), you are going to need some peace, quite, and solitude. That means no phone. Put it in a drawer or something.
Alright, now that you’ve successfully sequestered yourself (and you aren’t panicking), writing a blog post is actually very easy if you follow just a few simple steps:
- Step 1: Know Your Audience. Find out who you are writing for. When I am writing for LinkedIn, I write for one of two audiences. I either think about what people need to know in their jobs (like how to be more creative, for instance) or I think about what kinds of challenges people are facing in their day-to-day lives (like coping with what feels like an addiction to social media). I keep that audience in front of me, usually on a little piece of paper to remind me that I need to keep focused.
- Step 2: Jot down some ideas. No matter how crazy they are, write down ideas for your post (by the way, the more ideas you write, the more ideas you have for your next post). I use Evernote for this a lot. Why? Because when I get struck by inspiration somewhere else and I have my phone with me, I can add to the list easily. Regardless, don’t throw any ideas away. Hopefully, whomever asked you to write a blog post (even if it was yourself) gave you a little guidance as to the topic.
- Step 3: Formulate a plan of attack. Also known as…an outline. Of course, the extensiveness of your outline is really up to you. I keep mine pretty brief, just the high-level ideas and one sub-bullet explaining what I mean to talk about. But an outline helps organize your thoughts. Remember, if you want people to read your blog post (and maybe even want to read another one that you write), you have to keep it organized. You can’t just ramble on and expect people to understand what you are trying to say. Harken back to your high school English teach or that college writing course you had to take. I’m not advocating for a five-paragraph essay but you should have a thesis, your points should build upon each other (and be supported), and you should have some pithy closing that wraps everything up.
- Step 4: Write. Don’t stop. Just write. Forget about how you want to say something. Forget about how it looks on the page. Forget everything but getting your thoughts down. To be honest, that’s what I’m pretty much doing with this blog post right now.
- Step 5: Revise. Sure, sometimes what you write down in Step 4 comes out pretty much the way you want it. It’s not uncommon, especially for more experienced writers. But everyone revises (even Stephen King). Revision is actually part of the writing process. It helps you check the flow of your thoughts as much as it allows you to monkey with the language. One of my biggest pet peeves? Repeated words. Yeah, when I repeat the same word, too many times it becomes repetitive. So I try not to repeat words too closely together. Get my drift?
- Step 6: Read aloud. You got it. Your blog post may be on the screen (or paper, depending upon how you like to write) but when people read it, they actually sound out the words in their head. Sure, it’s their internal voice reading your blog post but, none-the-less, it’s a soundtrack that you need to be aware of.
- Step 7: Have someone else read it. A second, third, fourth, fifth, whatever pair of eyes is always helpful in pointing out flaws in your argument, repetitious language, poor grammar, typos, etc. In my opinion, don’t ask people to edit your work, just ask them to give it a read and tell you their gut reaction. Good? Bad? Indifferent? Helpful? Boring?
- Step 8: Revise again! Once you’ve got a few gut reactions, go through it again. Make changes. If someone edited your piece in Step 7 (don’t worry, there are always those people that will), incorporate what you want. Ignore the rest. Just revise it. Remember, revisions are part of the writing process.
- Step 9: Publish it. Or give it to the person who assigned it to you. Whatever, you need to be done with it. If you don’t ever get to Step 9, no one is going to read it. And like I said before, you want people to read it.
I’ll admit—I’m an experienced writer. With multiple books under my belt, published articles, and lots of blog posts, I’ve probably written over a million words in my life. This post? I actually wrote it just shy of 20 minutes with only a rough idea of what I wanted to say. But that doesn’t happen every time. In fact, there are times where writing a good post will take me days to work out the flow, find the appropriate facts to support my position, and revise the language to make it an enjoyable read. Here’s a quick look at my own process that has been adapted from the 9 steps above:
- Got an idea (helping people write a blog post), wrote it down.
- Fleshed out the idea in my head and started writing.
- Wrote crazy, crazy stuff but kept writing. Didn’t stop for anything. (hint: good distraction free zone)
- When I was finished, read it a few times and then made major edits.
- Then I gave it a deep read, changing how sentences sounded (I do read aloud), caught a bunch of repeated words, made sure I was making sense
- Boom! Published it.
That last step usually takes the most confidence as a writer because you are unleashing what you’ve just poured your heart and soul into on the world. But I’ve come to a point where I know when I’ve written something I’m happy with and that I think other people will enjoy reading.
Okay, that’s it! Just 9 simple steps that will help you write a blog post like the best of them. Now, of course, these steps don’t take into account your writing experience. If you are a newbie writer, these steps may take a while. Maybe a week. Maybe two. But once you get the hang of this, writing a blog post can actually become habitual, where you internalize these steps as you bang out post after post after post. Just don’t feel intimidated. Everyone can be a good writer with practice and commitment. And if there’s one thing I can tell you the world needs, it’s a few more good writers.
What is your process for writing? Do you follow a different set of steps? I’d love to hear about it!