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.