The Stages of Writing a Blog PostSep 11, 2021
For those of you who are too busy to go through this lesson, here’s the secret to great writing according to Stephen King:
Take out the bad parts.
If this sounds like useless advice, you have yet to understand that great writing is all about rewriting. And you rewrite by taking out the words that aren’t necessary.
So, if you want to write the type of articles that get tons of engagement, you need to develop a process that ensures you create an article that's clear and concise.
Yes, in this lesson we're going to go through all the stages of writing a blog post, while also discussing the way our process influences structure. And the other way around.
Pro-tip: there's no universal recipe to writing an article, so feel free to go through the following lessons, and then adapt what might work for you into your own process. There's no right or wrong way.
Writing the First Draft
Writing the first draft can often be the cause of a lot of headaches, especially among those who are most often plagued by "writer's block."
The truth? It's easier to write a first draft if you keep in mind a few key notions:
1. Know your main takeaways. What do you want to express? What are the main points you want to share with your audience?
2. Be aware of the emotional undertone of your article. We often struggle to write because we think in terms of "information." The truth is that information can be arranged in many different ways, and we can remove most of the ideas we want to share, and the article will still make sense. The emotional undertone, however, is what someone feels when they are reading your article. Try to feel the emotions as you write your first draft, and ask yourself, "what do I want my reader to feel?"
3. The narrative is yours to control. This is an issue all creatives struggle with, at least from time to time. They forget the narrative is theirs and only theirs. What does that mean? You can write your ending first, then your introduction, and try to tie them together. Or the other way around. Or you can write a few main takeaways, and then try to expand upon them.
Here's a trick that might help you when writing an article. Like I said previously, it's important to know your main takeaways.
What are the main ideas you are trying to express? Write them down. Now, you've got a list.
The reason most articles are in the form of lists is simply that a list is the easiest thing to write down. Either you write a series of steps/events or a number of ideas/notions, the underlying principle stays the same: if you know your list, you can easily write it down, then expand upon it.
Editing the Article
Editing an article often feels like an almost impossible task. because truth be told, editing is far more than just proofreading.
Editing is about two main concepts:
This means that whenever you edit your articles you are asking yourself a set of questions:
"Would it be better if I deleted my first paragraph?"
"How clear is that sentence?"
"If I delete this, does it still make sense?"
That's what editing is all about. Making sure the reader knows exactly what is going on and they don't get bored trying to get to the next step in the journey.
Rewrite the Opening
Writing is, mostly, rewriting. This is an important notion that I recommend you internalize on a rational and emotional level.
I'm not kidding. This simple concept will also help you with writing your first draft, as you no longer feel the pressure of writing perfection into existence, and also with your editing, and you understand that editing is the most important stage in the process.
At the same time, and as we've talked about previously, the introduction deserves that we do our best in tinkering with it until we're proud with the end result.
That's why rewriting the opening paragraph, editing it for clarity and conciseness, and making sure that it's enticing enough to get people to read on, are some of the most important steps in the process of writing an article.
Spend as much time as you need working on your opening line.
"If I delete it, does it still make sense? And if yes, isn't it better to use the next paragraph as my introduction?"
Do this process in order to know for sure what your true opening line is. Once you recognize it, try to make it so that it "promises a reward."
The reward is whatever knowledge the reader might gain by going through the entire length of your article.
Rewrite accordingly. Be honest in your assessment when trying to figure out if you're giving too much away or not enough, or if you're just lying to your readers as to what is your article truly about.
Add Images/Graphics and Format the Article
The fourth step in the process is to enhance the article by adding images, charts, graphics, quotes, bullet lists, and key takeaways.
If you still feel that your article is a bit long (and not that clear and concise), then you can effectively replace entire paragraphs with images, graphics, or charts.
When creating an infographic, for instance, it forces you to be as brief and concise as possible, given the limitation of the medium itself.
Alternatively, you can break down large paragraphs into a set of bullet points, sharing only the essence with your readers, and giving your article a bit of white space.
Add Tags and Categories
Imagine a paper filing system. Each page in the system must be filed away in the right drawer. There are only a limited number of drawers, and thus each one must cover a rather broad area.
In your blog, categories are best used in this way:
- Limit the number of categories: resist the temptation to add new categories because a long list of them will not be read or browsed by anyone.
- Every single post must go into (at least) one category.
- Categories are navigation elements: do not just think of categories as a way of labelling posts, they are a core element of your navigation, which means they should be factored into your site’s architecture and navigation, and displayed appropriately.
On the other hand, tags aren’t categories. They are supposed to add to your categories; the tags don’t describe the posts themselves, but rather sections within those posts:
- Use the same tags over and over again: if you have a series of posts on article writing, you could tag them as “journalism,” “writing,” or a hundred other variations. The important thing is to reuse the tags on every post you write on the topic.
- The tag cloud is easy to scan: a list of categories is easy to be recognized because it is in a list.
Tags have a lot of potential; they can be used to replace searching, they help you reach more readers in the Wordpress Reader. If you use less than ten tags, they appear there, where everyone who follows that certain tag can read your post.
Categories and tags are useful, given that you use them properly.
Publish, Share and Promote
It's time to click on that publish button.
Of course, our job isn't done. This is, indeed, the last stage in the process flow of content creation, but it's also the first stage in the process flow of content marketing. This means that you've got to distribute your content.
If content is king, distribution is queen. Don't doubt it for even one second.
That's why you have to develop a clear plan you can set in motion the moment you click that publish button.
You can share your article on various social networks, send it out in an email newsletter, republish it on Medium, and even interlink it within older articles of yours.
The options are truly endless, and it all comes down to how much time and effort you want to invest in this part of the process.
For instance, you can go beyond the mere sharing of links to your articles on social, and create derivative content (social media posts) inspired by your articles and share those as well.
There are no limits. Truly!
But my suggestion would be to start small, with a few easy ways of sharing and promoting your content, and then slowly work towards more avenues, derivative content, and more.
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