How You Can Write Blog Posts Quickly Like A Pro
Writing is difficult.
You feel exposed when you write especially if your work is published.
I get it.
Your words become public property (despite your intellectual rights). It’s the reason why it took me 5+ years to start my Actionable Marketing Guide (but you don’t need to wait, you can use my simple 5 step blog post formula outlined below.)
Yes – you can do it just like I did.
As the saying goes, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice, practice, practice!!!
To sit down at your computer or paper and write, takes regular practice. The writing fairies don’t just show up on demand.
Louis CK learned to create his comedy routine by starting from scratch each year. He borrowed this idea from George Carlin.
Don’t take my word that consistent writing practice is needed.
- Stephen King, a prolific author, advises that you must write regularly to get those pieces of writing gold.
- Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone claims she’s written almost every day of her adult life. “If you’re not in the hospital with two broken arms, write every day. For 20 minutes.”
- Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way recommends writing daily morning pages.
Regardless of what you call it, you need to train your mind and body to write. When you watch athletes you don’t see all the hours they poured into training, the same is true for writers.
Before you tell me you can’t write or didn’t go to Harvard, read Boost Blog Traffic’s Jon Morrow’s On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas. (I’ll wait while you read it and Morrow’s Copyblogger interview.)
In addition to his major physical hurdles, Morrow put in hours studying what it took to write stellar content. Then he was an editor at Copyblogger. (BTW—Get a free copy of Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks. It’s worth your time.)
Most writing gets down to 3 basic skills anyone can learn.
- Language knowledge. This is a fancy way of saying the basic grammar you learned in elementary school.
- Writing practice. This is the time you spend putting words onto screen or paper.
- Reading. This serves 2 functions: you learn what good content is and you gather new ideas. (BTW – did you know that reading was a top activity across age groups? )
Accept that your early writing will be what Everyone Writes‘ author Ann Handley calls “The Ugly First Draft (TUFD)”. The stuff will make you cringe. BUT have faith it will get better.
The simple 5 step blog post formula
Listen, every writer has to start somewhere.
Why not borrow what’s worked for others? Louis CK took George Carlin’s idea and made it his own.
Use my 5 step blog post formula. Of course, it can be applied to any type of content creation.
1. Capture ideas
Ideas for blog posts, articles and content are everywhere. They’re in your email inbox, social media feeds and your customer questions. Ask yourself:
- What points stand out?
- What information is missing that I can provide?
- What do I have to say on this topic?
The hardest part is seizing these thoughts and putting them someplace where you can later find them and add new items. This allows ideas to marinate.
Many bloggers keep this type of file on their computer, phone, Evernote or paper (Moleskin anyone?) where they jot down ideas. When they’re at a loss for a post, they’re not starting from scratch.
3 Places to find blog post ideas
- Look at successful articles. Which posts performed best on your site and other sites? (Check their top posts!)
- Brainstorm alone together. Get your team together. Give everyone 15 minutes to generate ideas on their own and compile them into one big list. This prevents people from squashing others’ ideas.
- Create a swipe file. Take ideas that work well in another category and apply them to yours. This is one reason to read widely.
Once you’ve got your list started, gather related points and research. While you’re at it, collect relevant images and charts. Also jot down “working” titles. I love the word “working” since it implies I’m doing something about it but I’m not committed yet. As Upworthy notes, you need to crank out at least 25 bad titles.
2. Develop an outline of your article
My first draft advice: Never sit down to write without a plan. You need a destination and route before you start.
To this end, organize your notes into an outline. If you’re lucky you learned how to outline in school. While I understood the general concept, it ‘s taken me time to stop and outline content before I dive into it. This is critical if you’re writing for a special media entity or business since you have points you must make.
Most articles follow a set of established formats. When ClickZ first asked me to write a column, I turned them down because I couldn’t figure out how to write on a regular basis.
I found a structure after my first few articles that you may find useful. I call it my 5 point blog post outline.
- Introduction. I wrote something relevant to the reader or found something in the news to get to my topic. Journalists call this the lede. It should relate to your title or you’ll loose readers immediately.
- Explanation of main concept. I often use research and data. Readers like this since it grounds your blog post in facts and establishes trust.
- Show and tell. Provide at least one example the concept in action. This makes the ideas concrete for your readers.
- Tips and tactics. This makes my content actionable. It tells readers how they can use the concepts.
- Conclusion. This ties your article together referring back to your title and opening.
While some of my content has evolved beyond this basic structure, I always make it a point to add research, examples and tips. Henneke did a great job with her article, 47 Headline Examples: Steal These Nifty Formulas From Popular Blogs.
If you’d prefer another approach, review a few bloggers you admire and analyze their article formula and use that as the basis for outlining your articles. This doesn’t mean copying their content!
3. Write your ugly first draft as fast as possible
Once you’ve got your outline, take a break. Even better put it away until the next day. John Cleese calls this the hare brain and tortoise mind.
Then crank out the ugly first draft. If you don’t have a block of time, work in phases. Write one section at a time and then the next. Don’t stare at a blank screen.
3 First draft writing tips:
- Don’t keep going back over the opening sentence or paragraph. Write straight through until you’ve covered everything.
- Start where you have the energy. You can move the content around later.
- Make notes on new ideas on a pad or in your draft but don’t stop writing the draft. This saves the idea while it keeps you focused.
I’ll let you in on a secret: If I don’t have an strong idea and an outline, my articles take significantly longer to write and they’re not as good.
4. Edit, edit, edit
The dirty little secret about writing is that most of it starts out pretty crappy.
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo
The more you go through an entire article, the more your writing will improve.
Among the rules to follow are
- Write like you’re talking to someone you know. This is the lost art of letter writing. Create a persona for your audience. Write in the second person so the reader feels you’re writing for him. Notice how I say you a lot?
- Use short words, sentences and paragraphs. The US average reading level is 5th grade. Choose easy, short words over long ones. Most people scan when they read online so keep sentences and paragraphs short.
- Skip the jargon. Corporate-speak makes your writing stilted and trite. It’s a stop sign for your readers. Find a word your mother would understand.
- Order your content to make sense to your reader. Once you’ve written your first draft and edited once. Re-read it. If you’ve got a tight deadline, read it aloud to hear if anything doesn’t flow.
- Go back to the beginning. Do you pull your reader in and compel him to keep reading? As journalists say, “Don’t bury the lede.”
5. Optimize your content for maximum reach
Polish your writing so that it reaches the maximum potential audience.
Here’s where an editor is useful. If you don’t have one, get a colleague, family member or writing buddy to read your article. Otherwise, at least read it through once out loud.
Optimize these 6 factors:
- Focus your content on one keyword phrase. It should be related to your search categories.
- Draft your headline to pull readers in.
- Check that your lede links your headline and article. You don’t want prospects to bail early. Derek Halpern makes the lede physically short to help get readers engaged.
- Include links to other resources. It’s your reference section. Want to boost your visibility? Mention thought leaders. Let them know after the piece is published.
- Add photographs and charts where appropriate. People are visual beings. Catch their attention.
- Format your content for scanability.
You too can write blog posts if you practice writing and feed your mind with reading.
To improve your writing, build up your writing muscles and habits by using my simple 5 step blog post formula.
What are your favorite blog writing tips not included in my simple 5 step blog post formula?
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