Writers are full of them.
We have sticky notes, notebooks full of scribbles, and napkins tucked in pockets… all full of ideas. Maybe you’re actually organized (I’m not) and have a folder or document on a computer with a list of things you plan on writing about. Maybe they’re scrawled across the bathroom mirror in eyeliner.
Our problem is not coming up with ideas; that’s the easy part.
Our struggle is with getting those ideas from their scribbled notes into an actual readable, published blog post.
There are several reasons we get stuck somewhere between coming up with a great topic and actually getting it onto the screen…
Fear: Perhaps it’s a really, really, really awesome idea, and we’re just not confident enough in our own writing ability to feel we can sufficiently cover it. Or maybe it’s a complicated topic, and we’re afraid of getting something wrong or leaving out a key point.
Work: While coming up with topics and jotting down brilliant ideas is fun, actually writing about them just sometimes feels too much like work. Simple procrastination, putting off something that’s not-so-fun, is often the major obstacle between our ideas and that publishing button.
Indecision: Sometimes with the dozens and dozens of fragmented thoughts and brilliant ideas floating around, it’s impossible to settle on just one. We jump from one to the other, bouncing around to whatever appeals to us in that single moment, and by the time we hit the desk chair (or couch with a laptop), that one is gone and something else is forming.
No matter which of the above reasons are plaguing you, or if they all are, there is a simple process that can take you through to the other side… and get you something more tangible than a bunch of randomly jotted ideas or half-finished blog posts.
Here are the steps…
Take a close look at your newest (or current favorite) idea:
Amongst the masses of ideas are good ones, bad ones, and golden ones. You need to figure out which is what, and pull out a really great one to work on.
- Make sure your idea is something you actually like. We all come up with ideas that we think would be great for our readers, but if it doesn’t move you, it won’t read well.
- Choose something that speaks to your readers as well. You have to like the idea, but so do your readers. Writing about cats on a dog blog just isn’t going to fly… unless you can tie it in somehow.
- Check how much material you have. If the topic is super-long and involved, create a series out of it. Epic is not a good term when applied to blog posts. If your readers want to read a book, they’ll buy a book.
Create some sort of game plan:
Maybe you’re a mind-mapper… one of those who can create detailed circle/square/thought-bubble maps that branch into ever-tightening topic branches. Or maybe you prefer a good old-fashioned ABC-123 outline with bullets.
Even if you’re barely inclined to jot down a list of points you want to make, just get something down on paper before you actually start writing.
Creating even a rough plan will allow you to quickly move through your points when writing, and keep you from getting stuck or running off on a tangent.
Write the body of your post:
Unless you already have a killer intro planned out, just jump right into the meat of the topic. Don’t worry about the title or introduction, you can add that later. Just getting your thoughts and the main points of the idea onto the screen is what you’re going for here.
Ignore typos, and if you hit a roadblock (say, something you need to fact-check or a point you’ve spaced on) just skip a line, type yourself a quick note and highlight it, and move on.
If procrastination is your issue, set a timer or turn on a playlist that’s 20 minutes long. Write non-stop (even if the writing sucks) until the time is up. You’ll probably be surprised what you can accomplish!
Fill in the blanks:
Congrats! You’re halfway there, and the hard part is done… you have your idea written!
Now you need to go back and fill in the spaces you’d highlighted that needed something filled in. Research your facts, add links, or form points you were struggling with… this part is often easy since everything else is already written. Those blanks you drew earlier will probably jump right out at you when you can see the context laid out.
If you haven’t already, write your introduction.
Review and revise your post:
Now you start from the first sentence and read through the whole thing. Fix any typos, check for confusing or muddled sentences, and edit out any redundancies.
This is where you polish your grammar and language, and add any small snippets that really enhance your post.
Play with formatting options:
In this step, you’re restructuring things to make your blog post really pop.
- Add bullet points for list-type bits.
- Bold your most important points.
- Add block quotes or separate quotes by italicizing them.
- Make sure there are plenty of white spaces… meaning break up long blocks of text into smaller paragraphs.
- Create some subheadings and either use heading options or make them big and bold.
All these make your post more visually appealing and easier to read on a computer screen.
Preview your post:
I know, I know… you just did that, right?
What I mean is, actually USE that too-ignored preview button on your blog dashboard. It gives you an actual view of what your blog post will look like.
This step is important because blogs are famous for butchering formatting and special characters. Those things that look perfectly normal in your editing window might come out on the other side with ^’funny& characters inserted in weird places.
The only way to catch it is to either preview, or publish and let your commenters tease you about it.
Push the PUBLISH button.
Do the Happy Dance.