This is a guest contribution from Ali Luke, author of The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing.
Great content, posted on a regular basis, is vital to your blog’s success.
But most bloggers, especially those new to writing, struggle to produce high-quality posts as quickly as they’d like.
This is usually because they’re following some poor writing practices, like:
- Sitting in front of a blank screen, trying to come up with an idea
- Going off on a long tangent in the middle of a post, only to end up deleting it
- Getting distracted by Twitter, Facebook, Skype…
- Editing every sentence as they go along – making very little forward progress
- Adding in bold, subheadings, images, and so on while writing
If one (or more) of those sound familiar, follow these steps and you’ll be able to create great content, fast.
It can take ages to come up with one idea – but once you start, it’s often easy to come up with many more.
Instead of staring at the screen every time you sit down to write a post, come up with a whole batch of ideas at once.
Set aside time at your most creative time of day (first thing in the morning can work well) and start brainstorming.
Jot down everything that comes to you, even if it seems trite or unworkable – a not-quite-right idea may lead you to a great one.
Step #2: Pick an Idea and Create a Plan
When you sit down to write a post, turn to your ideas list and choose one that seems to grab you. Before you jump into writing the post, though, take five – ten minutes to create a plan.
Some post ideas come with a ready-made structure: “10 Tips…” or “5 Ways…” or “How to…” posts are easy to plan. All you need to do is work out the numbered subheadings or steps.
Other posts may be a little more complex – but the same principle applies. Work out the key points you want to include, and get them in the right order.
Some writers like to plan in a linear format, by writing a list; others prefer to use mind-mapping, throwing ideas down onto the page and organizing them afterwards.
Step #3: Switch off Distractions … and Write
Writing is a high energy activity, and most bloggers find it very easy to give into the temptation to do something else instead.
Once you’re into the flow of writing, it’s best to avoid stopping: if you pause every few sentences to check Facebook or Twitter, you’ll not only waste time, you’ll also struggle to get going again.
Get rid of any tempting distractions before you begin. For me, that means closing Twitter and Facebook, and often putting on music to drown out background noise (I have a husband and 3 month old baby in the house…)
If you find it tough to focus at home, try writing somewhere else. Take your laptop to a cafe, or use a computer in your local public library. You’ll probably find that it’s much easier to concentrate.
Don’t stop to edit while you’re writing. It’s fine to quickly correct a typo or two, but if you’re constantly deleting and starting again, you’ll never get anywhere. Instead, plough on forward to the end of your post’s first draft.
Once you’ve got that draft written, set it aside for at least an hour or two before editing. That way, you can see it afresh – and you may find that much of it is better than you originally thought. You’ll also spot issues like overly-long sentences, and poor word choices.
It’s often useful to separate editing (where you’re changing and improving your post – perhaps cutting or adding whole paragraphs) from proof-reading (where you’re just looking for typos and spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes).
Step #5: Add Formatting
You may want to combine this with step #4 – but I find it’s usually best to add formatting once my post is truly complete. That way, you won’t find yourself rewriting sections that you’ve already painstakingly formatted to look great.
You don’t need to spend long on formatting: a couple of minutes spent putting your subheadings into a header format (usually H2) and adding in bold text can make a huge difference to the readability of your post. This is also a good opportunity to split up long paragraphs and make sure any quotes and lists are formatted properly.
If you follow these steps when you write, you’ll find that you get posts written much faster – perhaps in half the time that it usually takes you. You may find the content creation process more enjoyable, too – instead of struggling to get the words down, they’ll flow easily onto the page.
Do you have a question about writing faster, or any tips to share? Let us know in the comments!