Like any writing practice, a blog writing process is very personal. Your process will emerge from application, hiccups, and adjustments along the way. You also might adopt practices from others’ workflows.
After more than 300 posts on various sites, I have settled into a good routine, which I outline below.
1. Generating ideas
For some bloggers, generating ideas can be quite a challenge. I use two methods for keeping the ideas flowing. One method is social listening, or intentionally curating news, social media feeds, and newsletters related to content that aligns with your blog and its audience.
Another method is keeping an ideas file, which lists possible topics for future posts. Every time I come across what might be a good idea, I add it to the file.
2. Choosing an idea
While generating ideas can challenge some bloggers, for other bloggers the challenge is choosing the best topic from too many possibilities. I struggle with this one a bit as I have enough ideas to double the amount of posts on this site easily.
Thinking about your audience and how they might benefit from the topic provides the best starting place. News values also can help with narrowing topics.
But like all creative endeavours, sometimes inspiration disappears when faced with a topic and a blank screen. One way to avoid this blockage is to write regularly — make a daily habit of writing something, anything. Another way to avoid this block is to write about topics that resonate with you personally — an approach that works well for personal blogs but might cause some issues with professional or monetized ones. I have too many started posts that remain unfinished, in part due to lack of sustained interest and in part due to time.
3. Starting a draft
Graduating an idea from the ideas list to a post means starting a new file and adding notes to it. I do no outside research at this stage.
Instead, I start with the topic, ask what I know about it, and ask what questions I have about it. As I pose these questions, I develop a short outline of what the post might look like.
I also look for my main point for the post. What is the “big thought” I want to share with my audience? How do I want to share that thought? What do I want people to take away from the post?
While it helps to have that “big thought” (also called a thesis or sometimes a lede) before you start writing, I find that working through my notes and posing the questions can help with developing that thought. Rarely does an idea have a big thought emerge from it at this stage.
4. Researching and composing the draft
Once I have enough notes and questions gathered into my file, I move to conducting research and composing the draft. While some prefer to finish researching before writing, I find doing both processes at the same time more productive. The research and the writing grow with each other.
The questions listed in my notes provide a starting place and a way to contain the research so as to avoid Internet rabbit holes. What information do I need to do more research on? What sources might provide that information? Is there consensus among writers about this information, or is there disagreement? Where are the gaps? What might still be missing? Further, what is my take on the information?
As I look for details, I begin to develop answers to the questions. I also find good posts and sources to link to, an essential part of any good blog post. For example, in the case of this post, one question was, what have others written about this subject? The results of that search appear in this post’s opening paragraph.
Research generally takes much longer than the actual writing. Once I have a depth of information, finding the “big idea” and composing the draft go rather smoothly.
5. Editing the draft
Once a rough draft is finished, I try to leave the post alone for a while so I can approach it again with new eyes. That timed distance reveals things I might not have seen otherwise because I was still too close to the content.
In editing, I look for the main idea and how it flows through the post. I remove unneeded details, repeated information, and unnecessary words. Longer paragraphs are pared down as much as possible. Same with longer sentences. Shorter words are substituted for longer ones. And, of course, correcting typos. So many typos.
6. Polishing the draft
Polishing the draft means putting on the final touches, not a complete revision. In this case, I look for adding and revising subheads, spot checking language, and finalizing the images.
7. Posting the … post
The final step is posting the, well, post. Before even opening the content manager, I make sure to have the photos, captions, headline, keywords, and the post itself in one place to make uploading and setting up that much easier.
I also avoid finishing the draft and posting it in the same session. Again, that distance reveals things that I might not have seen otherwise, such as better phrasing or formatting.
Overall, the writing process outlined above is just one of many. Your process will be personal to you, and as with any advice from posts like these, your mileage may vary.
Do you have a tip to share from your own writing process? Leave it in the comments below.