Throughout the months of blogging, several people have asked me how I consistently produce content. I don’t have a magical process that guarantees anything but I can definitely share tips and tricks to write more and get blogging to be a habitual thing for you. The first step and really the most important part of blogging is to love writing. If you don’t, then stop reading here. There isn’t any more advice I can give you. If writing is up your alley, however, here is a guide of 12 things I do leading up to publishing a post.
1. Develop your ideas
Writing always starts with an idea (or a few). I carry around a Moleskine notebook everywhere I go to jot down ideas because I don’t trust my memory. Without it, ideas disappear so make sure they’re written somewhere. Anywhere. To get more ideas flowing, I recommend talking to your network of friends, family, colleagues and everyone in between about your ideas. They could direct you to resources that might be useful. I know we’re not in the pen and paper generation anymore but I strongly encourage you to take notes this way because you’re free to let your mind wander without limits.
2. Fill that Google Drive with Docs
Once I have enough substantive ideas, I’ll create a Google Doc and type out all the snippets of notes I have in my notebook and anything else that comes to mind. Google Docs is great because most of the writing and editing for my posts are done on the go. At this point, I focus on getting my ideas out rather than crafting perfect sentences. Just focus on doing a massive brain dump. It’s easier to work with mediocre sounding ideas than nothing at all. Also, you should remember that oftentimes, you’ll have to write way more than what you end up publishing and that’s okay.
3. Figure out a structure
Identifying a structure is a critical part of my process. Finding the right one depends on the type of blog post I’m writing. The goal is to make my articles as digestible as possible, especially for people who don’t read every word (too long, didn’t read = TL;DR). Generally, most articles I write are list-based like this one so I look for common themes. Start with a list that highlights the main ideas and do a lot of cut and paste with the notes you took. Try to organize your writing by topic and themes. Keep in mind that the structure can change as you work on the article.
4. Write, edit, repeat
Now that I have a structure to work with, I will go all out and write as much as I can for the body of the article. Don’t work on the introduction and conclusion just yet – they should be reserved for last. Use your notes and begin crafting full, complete sentences. If you sound like a fourth grader, who cares. You are not going to start out with sophisticated sentences. I try not to limit myself so I focus on writing and go all out. I’m not in the mood to write, I’ll edit. Write when you want to write, edit when you want to edit and repeat the process. Don’t put any pressure on yourself and do what you can.
5. Let it simmer and marinate
I experience a lot of writer’s block during this phase. It’s inevitable. In these situations, don’t force yourself to write. Just let the draft simmer and marinate for a couple days and get back to it (a fancy way of saying stop working on it). If you’re still stuck, step away again. I have tons of drafts that are sitting idly in my Google Drive because my brain can’t handle them now. Some of my posts took up to six months of going back and forth before they were published. Stepping away from a draft can help clear your mind so that when you return to it, you can pick up from where you left off and produce an amazing piece.
6. Work on the introduction and conclusion
I always leave the introduction and conclusion for last. It’s almost impossible to properly write them without solidifying the body of the article, at least in my experience. The first thing I think about is whether I want my article to have a triangular or reverse-triangular structure. A majority of my posts are reverse-triangular where the most important information is in the introduction. Usually, it’s a summary of what’s to come. With the conclusion, I focus on my reflections or any learnings involved. If this phase takes a really long time, don’t worry. It’s completely normal. These are the hardest to write.
7. Polish it up
Congratulations for completing a full, first draft! It takes a lot of effort to get here so it’s worth acknowledging. This is where I usually start to get nitty gritty and think about making my sentences sound more eloquent and fancy. I’ll pull up a thesaurus and think about diversifying my vocabulary or making my sentences concise. Read your draft and figure out if anything crucial is missing. Keep refining your work. This is also the stage where I migrate my draft from the Google Doc into a WordPress post and edit from there. Putting your writing in a new environment is extremely helpful to getting it polished.
8. Have some fresh pairs of eyes proofread
This step is so important. I can’t completely edit my own work. My eyes overlook a lot of mistakes. That’s why you absolutely need a fresh proofreader. If you can, get a couple of them. Different people have different styles of editing. Some may help you with grammar while others help elevate your voice and suggest ways to incorporate your personality. Be picky about who you ask. I usually rely on those who are incredible writers and editors themselves. Finally, be extremely communicative and specific about the types of edits and feedback you need. Make the job easy for them.
9. Insert media
If an article needs images or videos, this should be the last step. Until you have a solid final draft, it’s incredibly difficult to choose the pictures and videos you’ll use to enhance your article. Be selective about the media you choose. I am not a fan of blowing up my articles with images unless they are necessary. I let the writing do all the talking. If I’m writing an article about food, fashion or design, I’ll use images so that it’s easier to visually comprehend my work. If I’m talking about a concept, then maybe not. Find your style and see what works best for you.
10. Read it out loud
It sounds silly but before I publish, I alway read it out loud to make sure I’m absolutely pleased with the piece. Read it as if you are presenting it to an audience. If you notice a typo or stumble on a sentence, fix it. If you find yourself out of breath, break up the sentences and make it easy for the reader. Do this a couple of times. Sometimes, you will notice errors after publishing but don’t worry. You can always go back and edit. No one will notice, hopefully. Don’t dwell on making it perfect. I try to believe in the fact that my writing skills will improve faster if I produce content that is about 80% satisfactory.
11. Hit publish
This is my favorite part. This is also one of the most difficult parts of the process because I’m a perfectionist and strive to put out quality content that is well-written. Many of my articles sit as drafts for a long time because there are parts that I want to continue working on. There comes a time, however, when you just need to hit that damn publish button and get it out the door. Writing on a consistent basis requires you to compromise with your perfectionist. It has been a difficult pill to swallow but I’m comfortable saying that I’m finally okay with publishing not-as-perfect articles. Don’t think too hard. Publish it and celebrate!
12. Share it with the world
Many of my writer/blogger friends tell me that the process can get depressing without an audience (I’m looking at you, Jean). It’s hard to motivate myself to write, knowing that it wont be read by a lot of people. But since I love writing, I don’t really mind. I am trying to grow my readership so I always share my writing on social media and tag the crap out of it. You should too. Even if you don’t get likes or retweets, just keep sharing. I understand that it’s a bit scary to share your work and put yourself in a vulnerable state. Build that conviction to stand by your work. It will take you far.
There you have it! You’ll realize that the writing process is different for everyone so what works for me may or may not work for you. It’s important to experiment and see what you enjoy. Test out different styles of writing. In the early stages of blogging, you should focus on quantity over quality. Be open and flexible about making mistakes. Love and embrace feedback. And finally, the most important piece of advice of them all: blog for one reason only – because you love it. There’s no way around it.