Writing is hard.
I’m sure you’re well acquainted with the woes of creating and publishing blog posts. You’ll think of a great idea, get to your computer, and open a word document ready to type— but no words come out.
Your idea was great; but no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to organise your thoughts on paper. And every 10 minutes, you think,
“Where was I going with this again?”
But is that what writing is? Are you doomed to play this confusing game every time you sit down to write? Or is there some way we can escape the limbo?
Ann Handley, a popular marketer and CEO of MarketingProfs, claims that the solution to your suffering is simple:
Stick to a process.
In her book, Everybody Writes, Ann details the 12 step process she uses to consistently pump out high-quality blog posts on a weekly basis. With it, she claims anyone can create easy to read, consistent blog posts without dreading the writing process. And it all starts with a goal.
1. Define a goal
Without a goal, writing a blog post is like trying to navigate through the woods without a compass. You’re going to get lost. So before you write a single word, ask yourself:
“Why am I writing this post in the first place?”
Is it to help your readers optimise their email marketing campaigns? Is it to teach them how to do a proper pull-up?
Once you’ve figured it out, write it bold and clear at the top of your page. It’ll help guide you when you begin to write.
2. Next, reframe the post with your reader in mind
Whether we like it or not, our audience is consuming our content for one sole reason: to benefit themselves.
So to write effective blog posts, you have to determine why your readers would want to reach the post in the first place. How is your post making their lives better? How are they benefiting? What are they learning? Slap it under your goal.
3. Gather data and examples
One of the best ways to supercharge your content is to leverage data and examples in your writing. Examples help your readers understand the concepts you’re presenting, and data makes your content trustable. That’s why I recommend trying to find data for every claim you make in your post.
For instance, if you tell your readers that “the average website visitor stays on a web page for only 7 seconds”, be sure to provide a link to the study where you got it from. Oh, and one more thing.
Did you notice how I used an example to explain the previous concept? Those are great, so gather as many as you think you’ll need.
4. Organise and create structure
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to rewrite my blog posts because I didn’t think the structure through. Don’t make the same mistakes as me.
So before you start writing, think about what information you want to present and how you want to present it. Is your post going to be a list (like the one you’re reading right now)? Is it going to have a narrative structure? Is it a tutorial?
It helps if you write down a general outline of your post once you figure out your structure. For this post, I wrote down some simple points I wanted to make on another document, like so:
- Intro about writing struggles
- Bring in Ann Handley example
- Give step one of writing process…
And so on.
5. Define the individual
When we read someone else’s content, we want to feel like we’re hearing directly from that person. The need for human connection is in our genes.
So when you write, don’t write to the crowd! Think of one person who may read your content, and write directly to him or her.
Make your picture vivid — what does the person look like? What do they struggle with? What questions would they have when reading your content? Write it all down. It’ll help you later when you edit your post.
6. Write your “ugly first draft”
There’s something that we all have to accept as writers if we ever want to get anything done. Your writing isn’t going to be perfect the first time around. In fact, it’s probably going to be pretty bad. But that’s ok!
In Everybody Writes, Ann describes this first draft phase as “The Ugly First Draft (TUFD)”. While writing your TUFD, don’t pay attention to grammar or sentence structure. Just let your thoughts and feeling and emotions burst out onto the paper in a fiery mess. You’ll clean it up later.
But for now, just focus on getting your thoughts on paper.
7. Then, walk away
After you’re finished with TUFD, you may be a bit frustrated or confused at the total lack of structure of your post.
But before you edit your piece, walk away from it and do something else for a few hours.
The goal in walking away is to completely remove the thought of your draft from your head. I like to do something fun or enjoyable during my periods of mental rest — it helps keep my mind clear. But I’m sure you’re thinking,
“What’s the point in doing this anyway? I’d rather just finish the post and get it over with.”
You won’t realise it, but while you’re doing other things, your subconscious will be working overtime to sort out the mess that you left on your computer. And trust me, this step is of utmost importance.
If you try to immediately edit your piece, you’re going to get stuck in the same mud that prevented you from writing well the first time around. And you don’t want to be there.
8. Now, it’s time for the rewrite
You’ve had your rest. Your head is clear. Now, it’s time to rewrite.
The goal of this stage is to dive into the mess you wrote before and start to sort it out. It may seem intimidating at first but if you take it slow and apply these principles, you’ll transform your writing in no time:
- Write full sentences. Take those unfinished thoughts and ideas you wrote before and turn them into full sentences.
Then, start to piece them together in ways that make sense for your reader.
- Rearrange your paragraphs. It’s hard to write logically on the first try. Some of your paragraphs and sentences won’t be in the right order, but that’s normal.
Take time during this phase to switch things around until they make the most sense for the reader.
- Cut the fat. As writers, we have a bad habit of including things in our blog posts that don’t need to be there.
Bloated posts, however, don’t make for the best writing experience. So start snipping! If a sentence or paragraph doesn’t support the main goal of your article, it’s best to remove it completely.
9. Write the headline
Your headline is one of the most important parts of your entire post. But don’t just take my word for it:
“[Your headline] tells the audience what you are going to deliver, and how you’re going to deliver it, and why they should keep reading”, Ann says, “…so spend time with it, think on it, and figure out how to best use that valuable bit of text.”
But that’s not all. According to Ann:
“The key [to a great headline] is this: spend as much time on the headline as you do on the writing itself. Respect the headline.”
Now, this article isn’t long enough to fit all my tips and tricks for headline creation. But I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t mention a few simple tips you should keep in mind:
- Use numbers. Numbers and lists excite readers, so make use of it when it’s relevant!
- Be specific. Don’t just say, “How To Grow Your Email List”. Instead, say “How To Triple Your Email Subscribers in 10 Weeks With Nothing but Content”.
- Promise what the readers will get. Tell them exactly what they’re going to get and then deliver it.
10. Next, have a friend or colleague look at the post
Here’s the thing:
We can only self-edit so much before we get used to our own writing style. And when that happens, we need an extra set of eyes to spot our hidden mistakes.
11. Give it one final look for readability
You’re almost there! But before you release your baby to the world, you need to triple check your own writing for the last few errors you didn’t catch. I recommend reading your post out loud for this step.
It may seem like a lot of unnecessary work, but trust me on this one. When you read aloud, it’s easy to spot breaks in cadence and flow. You can then go back and fix those small errors to ensure perfection when you’re ready to set it free.
12. Publish and promote
After you’ve completed all the steps, you’re free to publish the post and share it with your fans. Throw it on social media, post it in forums, whatever you want to do — but most of all, relish in the success.
By now, you should have a great idea of how you can create blog posts and drive quality leads to your site. There’s only one question left…
How are you going to manage them all?
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