The 6-Step Process to Turn Ideas into Published Blog Posts

The 6-Step Process to Turn Ideas into Published Blog Posts

You have a great idea for a blog post – and that’s a good start.

But you need more than just ideas. If you want to grow your business, you need published content – and that means turning your idea into a written blog post.

This is where you probably get stuck. Maybe your idea is so good that you’re afraid you can’t do it justice. Or maybe you love coming up with ideas – you have notebooks full of them – but sitting down to write the actual post doesn’t seem like much fun at all.

What you need is a simple process that works every time. A process that leads you from initial idea to published post so easily that you’ll wonder how you could ever go off track.

Here it is, in 6 straightforward steps:

Step 1: Assess Your Idea

Some ideas are gold… and some are just fool’s gold. They look shiny and exciting, but they have no real value. How can you tell the difference? Really good ideas:

  • Suit your audience. You might love the idea of writing an in-depth essay that analyzes two obscure writers, but if your readers want quick and easy tips they can apply to their own lives, they’re going to tune out.
  • Suit you. If you’d rather gnaw off your arm than write a post on Grammar 101, then tackle another idea instead. You don’t have to be wildly passionate about every post you produce – but if you don’t feel any enthusiasm about the subject at all, that’ll show through in your writing.
  • Fit into one blog post. If you have a great idea that’s way too big in scope to be covered in a post, don’t write a long textbook. Think about breaking the idea down into a blog post series or even an ebook. Or take just one aspect of the idea and write about that. Leave the rest out.

Once you’re sure your idea is genuinely valuable, you can move on.

Step 2: Plan Your Post

One common mistake people make all the time is skipping the planning stage. They jump straight from idea into writing.

Maybe you even have a friend who writes like this – but chances are that your friend is an experienced writer with a natural grasp of structure (or someone who has a lot of patience for rewriting).

Planning is essential. It lets you figure out how your post should be put together so you can tackle any problem spots before writing hundreds of words.

One effective, simple way to plan is to create a mindmap. Jot down the title (or topic) of your post in the centre of a page, then write all the ideas that come to you around the side. This gets your creativity flowing, and it lets you capture what’s on your mind. You’ll find that new thoughts come to you easily.

Once you have a mindmap, you’ll probably want to cut out some of the weaker ideas and merge together any similar ones. I like to number each idea so that I have a logically-ordered outline for my post. (If you’re writing a how-to post, the order is usually obvious. For a list post, you might try ordering steps from easiest to hardest.)

Step 3: Write Your Post

Some people tie themselves in knots at this stage, trying to perfect every sentence as they write. It’s much more efficient to get your thoughts down on the page, however imperfectly, and then edit what you’ve written.

Here are three ways to make the writing stage easier:

  • Don’t write the introduction first – start with the main body of your post. Go back and add the introduction at the end.
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes. Write (and don’t stop writing) until the timer goes off. If you often struggle to stay focused or procrastinate about starting, this trick works really well. (Vary the time if you want – you might prefer to start with 15 or 20 minutes instead of 30.)
  • Leave gaps. If you realise midway through writing your post that you need to look up a URL or research a statistic, jot a note to yourself in the text and keep writing. You could use [square brackets] or another notation, like yellow highlighter, so there’s no chance of missing these notes when you edit.

If you’re still feeling stuck or blocked, try these 7 Tips Pros Use To Get Words on the Page.

Step 4: Edit Your Post

It’s tempting to sit back and breathe a sigh of relief once you’ve written your post – but you’re not done yet.

Whether you’re new to blogging or an old hand, your posts will be improved by editing. And editing means more than simply scanning through for typos and spelling mistakes. You’ll want to:

  • Address the “big picture” problems first. Perhaps (despite your plan) the structure of your post isn’t quite right. Make any major cuts, additions and rearrangements before going any further.
  • Next, read through slowly and watch for clumsy or confusing sentences. Rewrite any sentence that don’t quite work. You might want to try reading your post out loud – this can help highlight awkward phrasing.
  • Finally, check for typos and similar errors. Be on the lookout for missing words – it’s easy to accidentally leave out a word when you’re typing, and these won’t always be picked up by your spelling and grammar checker.

You’ll appreciate the extra time you put into editing your posts, and your blogging results will tell you that you made the right choice.

Step 5: Add Text Formatting

When you write for a magazine or other print publication, you’re normally just responsible for the words – a designer handles the layout and formatting of the piece.

With your blog posts, you’re on your own. It’s physically tiring for people to read on a screen versus paper – and there are plenty of distractions – so you need to make good use of formatting to hold readers’ attention. Think about using:

  • Subheadings to help break up your post and let the reader know what’s coming next
  • Bullet points to add white space for readability and to make easy-to-skim lists
  • Bold text to emphasise key points – it’s great for readers scanning your post
  • Block quotes to indent and format any quotations that you’re using
  • Images to grab attention, to add information, or to simply break up the text

It’s often a good idea to add formatting last once you’re happy with the text of your post.

Step 6: Preview and Publish

Before you hit the “publish” button, it’s always a good idea to have one last look at your post. Hit “preview” in your blog’s software, and look for:

  • Any special characters like curly quotes or dashes that have been mangled – this occasionally happens, and you might need to retype them
  • Headings / subheadings that wrap so that a single word is on the second line – try rewriting them to be shorter and on the same line
  • Any typos that you didn’t spot before – do one last read-through to check

Yes, these are minor issues, but it takes just a few extra minutes to get your post looking as great as possible so you create a fantastic first impression.

So, over to you!  Do you find one of these steps harder than the others? Do you have any great tips to share with us for a particular stage of the writing process? Let us know in the comments.

Post by Ali Luke

Ali Luke is an experienced writer and blogger. She runs monthly day courses in London for new and intermediate bloggers that cover software, writing advice, and strategic tips, providing one-to-one advice in a small group setting. Whether you run your own company or belong to a large organization, come learn how to take your blog further.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. Good stuff, Ali!

    One interesting thing I’ve found is that when you have an idea that’s too big, and you break it down (just like you mentioned), it gets a lot more manageable.

    But I’ve also found that if you break it down further, it becomes much more actionable, and much easier to write.

    I used to get stuck in very general topics, and still do sometimes, but breaking it apart and drilling down helps a lot.

  2. Hi Ali,

    Great post once again. I do agree. Especially when it comes to the aspect of planning, Personally;

    “Failure to plan means that you are just planning to fail….”

  3. Hmm, I want to add a tweak here. Mindmapping is NOT the same as thinking. It’s an intuitive, creative process. For my money, the best way to go about mindmapping is to think FIRST (ideally, AWAY from your desk/computer) and then mindmap.

    All the other advice is excellent.

    • Thanks, Daphne! Thinking is always goo. :-) I actually find I think best with a pen in my hand, but I’ve certainly been known to daydream about blog posts while walking, on the bus, in the shower, etc…

  4. I’m most guilty of violating Step 4.

    Typos aren’t a big problem for me because I’m a “red squiggle on the page Nazi” and I fix them as soon as they appear figuring I’m saving time by editing those out while I’m typing. I have this extreme desire for doing this and I have to admit, I’m afraid to do the equivalent of “free falling” and just typing everything and THEN going back to edit. I know I break all the rules but after putting together 278 posts and thousands of pages of notes, and hundreds of pages of sales letter content, I can safely say I’m addicted to this habit.

    What bugs me most is when I do the whole confusing sentence thing where I’ve left out a word or written it all weird because I rushing to get the stuff out of my head. This is the one I need the most work on and I thank you Ali for reminding me to read my stuff out loud to make sure it flows.

    • Lewis, it sounds like your current method is working pretty well! I tend to fix typos as I type too — it’s more distracting not too — and I’ve certainly been known to restart a sentence that wasn’t working. So long as you’re generally making good forward progress, a little bit of “tidying up” as you write is probably no big problem.

      It’s ever so easy to miss out a word when you’re typing fast (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this!) and reading out loud is my only sure-fire way of spotting this…

  5. This is the kind of post I must share with my students. Many of them take an initial idea and start writing. I stress the fact that the more you can figure out (plan) before you start writing, the writing will be easier and better.

    For me personally, I’m currently in the middle of a monolithic post of my own that MUST be broken into smaller pieces. I like what Henri said about making posts even smaller in scope so that they’re more actionable.

    Best,

    Sarah

    • Sarah, your advice to your students is spot-on (and please do feel free to share this post with them, I’d be delighted!)

      Good luck with getting your post broken down into actionable chunks. Hope the writing goes well!

  6. My memory is terrible so I absolutely need to write ideas down as they come to me. The world’s greatest writings may have been lost when I didn’t have a pen..NOT! hehehe

  7. Thanks so much for this article. I immediately started using my mind-mapping app to create my next writing project.

  8. What a nice post Ali. So much useful information. I think every blogger (a newbie and an experienced blogger) should print it out and have it in front of them before writing any post. In fact it doesn’t apply to writing posts only, but to doing any kind of writing. Great job!

  9. Hi Ali,

    I do find that planning is important to the task of writing but I often find that what I initially planned to write tuns into something quite different. Flexibility is the key for me or else I get locked in and blocked.

    cheers Carole

  10. I love this post. For an aspiring writer like myself, I get SOO lazy and unfocused. It takes me two hours to write at least 500 word post. Way too long. I’ll put the 30 minute timer to the test. And also try to rewrite AFTER I have something on the page…not while. Thank you.

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