Do you have a workflow for creating blog posts? Or are you one of those people who just sits down to write and out comes a post? I've never been one of those people. The writer in me and the editor in me have a tendency to clash. The writer wants to get something down on the page and the editor keeps slowing the writer down to go back and correct something. I needed to develop a process for creating content.
Over the years I've developed a process for writing posts that lets the writer and editor both do their thing without getting in the way of each other. It's been helping me write what I hope are better and more remarkable posts and is also helping me be more productive. The idea is to separate each of the tasks involved in creating a post and work on each task one at a time.
Let's go over each of the steps and then try to put them all together.
Brainstorm Post Ideas
The first step is to collect ideas. You want to collect every idea no matter how silly it might. Those "not so great" ideas are part of the process and many can be turned into good ideas later. I like to keep all my ideas in a single place so when I'm ready for the next step they're all easily accessible.
All you need to do is write down an idea or a title. If you want make a quick note or two. You're not trying to flesh anything out at this stage. If you do have some thoughts beyond the idea go ahead and add them, but don't feel like you have to.
Mindmapping can work wonders when it comes to generating new ideas.
Create an Outline
During this stage of the process grab one of your ideas and make a simple outline for what you think you'll include in the post. Here's the simple outline I created for this post.
- make notes and gather information
- write post
- create collateral materials
- proof and edit
- time management
Each item in your outline will likely end up being a heading in your post. Sometimes my outline contains 3 or 4 items and other times it has more like here. Your outline might change as you develop your post, which is ok. If you scan the headings of this post you can see they aren't exactly the same as the outline above. The idea is to five yourself a structure for starting.
Make Notes and Gather Information
Once you have an outline in place begin to flesh it out by making notes about each section. You can flesh sections out in any order. You're not trying to write complete sentences here. It's more akin to brainstorming. Just write down a few or as many points as you think you might want to make for each part of your outline.
As you add notes to your outline your post will start to take shape. You'll discover sections you can combine, add, and remove completely.
Search for other articles you can include to support your case or that offer more details. Take some time to scan what you find for new ideas and also to help clarify a few things you plan on writing about.
Also decide what kind of collateral materials you'll want to include beyond the links. Will your post need images? Will you need to include some code or a demo? Make a short list of items you'll need to include in the final post.
Write a First Draft
This is the obvious step in the process. Sooner or later you have to write the post.
If you've ever sat in front of a blank page not knowing what to say, you'll appreciate the notes you've made in the previous step. The notes give you something to write. There is no blank page. With notes in place writing a first draft goes quickly. Most of the time all you need to do is turn your notes into sentences.
This isn't going to be our finished post so don't worry if it's not perfect. Use stream of consciousness to write spontaneously and hold the editor off a little longer. Your first draft is not meant to be perfect. It's the clay you'll shape over the next few steps.
Create Collateral Materials
Now is as good a time as any to create or find all those things that will help support your post and help you format it. Your collateral materials might include images, links, video, audio, code, demos, quotes, etc.
Hopefully you've collected many of these while making notes for your post and others you'll create now.
Each of these collateral items can help your posts in different ways. Images and video dress up your post visually. Quotes and links lend authority to your ideas. Links also help to connect to other bloggers.
A good blog post is more than words.
Proof, Edit, and Trim the Fat
Now it's time for the editor to do his thing. Writing is a right brain activity and editing is a left brain activity. They don't work well together and are better done separately. I like to let my first drafts sit at least a day before trying to edit them to give some perspective to the post and to give my subconscious one last chance to add a few things.
Proof, proof, and proof again. You will have typos in your first draft. You will have written some poor sentences. No matter how many times you look at your post to correct them you won't find them all. Use a spell checker, but don't stop there. Read your post a few times. If you can, let someone else read it too.
Cut as much of your post as you can. Believe it or not this post is much shorter than the original draft. Include everything in your first draft and get rid of as much as you can when editing.
Finally add the collateral material you created. Find the right anchor text in your posts for your links. Add links to your other posts. Place images and code where they belong.
And one last thing. Proof again.
Putting it all Together
You might be asking why should you go through all these steps instead of simply sitting down to write. Fair question.
First it helps you write better posts to build authority. Each of the steps above requires different skills. By focusing on them one at a time you can do each better. Second you won't do this for one post at a time. The trick is to work on more than one post during each phase.
Write 5 or 10 outlines at one sitting. Spend one afternoon adding notes to several outlines. Take one or two days a week to write first drafts from your notes and another to edit rough drafts. By working this way you'll build a stockpile of posts in different stages of readiness.
As you work through this process you'll find you do some tasks better at different times. I like to start the week brainstorming. I write best mid morning. I can create outlines and make notes at any time and have found they make for a nice Friday activity to wind down my week.
This process helps in being productive even when the inspiration isn't there. Maybe today the writing isn't flowing. Chances are you can still create some quick outlines or edit an existing draft. Each step in the process adds to your overall productivity as a bloggger.
If you've struggled to produce as much content as you'd like or wish the content you do produce could be better, give this process a try. Take what's here and adapt it. The goal is to create a workflow for each distinct part of creating a post and building a stockpile of content in various states of readiness.
Do you write posts in a similar way? Do you use a different process for developing content? Please share.