This is a guest post by Loren Pinilis of Life of a Steward.
It didn’t take me long to realize that writing faster would be the key to blogging success and I wrongly thought that all the passion and ideas would easily bring all the necessary components to write often and with speed – boy was I wrong!
Writing was way tougher than I realized it would be. I knew what I wanted to say, but turning a blank document into a blog post was a process that could literally take hours – not good if I had to also find the time to promote my blog, interact with other blogs, engage on Facebook, Twitter, and all of the other things that my blog needed (like a little code, development, and design love now and again)?
So after envying people who could write 3,248 posts in a year , I read every book and resource I could get my hands on. And a few months later I had managed to slash my writing time by 30 – 50% with one powerful idea: Having a writing process.
My Writing Process
I follow a very particular set of steps that help me write faster and write better, and here they are:
1. Constantly Think About Your Content
Writing a blog post starts way before you sit down and start typing. Plan out your post topics in advance. While you’re driving, showering, or cleaning, think about what you’d like to say in your next few posts.
2. Think of your Focus
Now you’re in front of your computer and ready to pour out your heart and soul. When you’re done, what takeaway do you want your readers to have? What one point do you want to make? If you asked a reader to summarize your post in one sentence, what would you want them to say?
3. Brainstorm or Mindmap
A lot of writing for speed is about selectively tapping your creative and analytical sides (the classic right brain / left brain). For right now, keep your analytical side locked up. We’ll let him out later, but at this point he will only crowd out your creative side.
Brainstorm or mindmap points you want to make. This shouldn’t be too hard because hopefully, as I mentioned earlier, you’ve been thinking about these posts here and there for the last few days.
Don’t filter anything. Don’t worry right now about spelling, grammar, or even logic – just write down any points or lines that you’d like to include.
I personally just sit down to an open document and write down thoughts as they come to me. Many recommend mindmapping but I’ve found that doesn’t work best for me. I get carried away with the organization of a mindmap, and it ends up letting my analytical side out of his cage. This slows my train of thought and creativity.
Decide what structure would work best for your post. Having blogging templates is a great idea to help with this.
Arrange the points you brainstormed into a logical order. Since I brainstorm into an empty document, I can simply cut and paste to arrange things into an outline. Add points if they come to you and seem to fit. Cut out unnecessary points.
The key here is to look for structure and organization. This is where you’ll start turning a hodgepodge of points into one cohesive blog post. Work out transitions in your mind so that the article flows logically.
This is the most important step. At first, you’ll probably blow through this and regret it later. The more you invest here, the better off you’ll be.
5. Think of a Pre-Headline
This one’s optional, but I’ve found it helps me. Some recommend writing the headline first; some recommend writing it last. I compromise and do both.
At this point, I just think of what promise I want to make to my readers. What expectations should the headline set up that will be answered by my blog post?
This pre-headline can be ugly, wordy, and boring – we’ll refine the words later and give them more punch. For instance, the pre-headline for this article is: “A writing process to help you write quickly.”
6. Come Up with an Opening
The opening is incredibly important. I’ve found that once I can get a solid opening, the rest of the article flows much more easily. A lot of people recommend to just write the first thing that pops into your mind and edit later. I don’t do that with the opening. You can get some input from your analytical brain at this point but don’t throw away the key to his cage quite yet.
7. Write with the Creative Part of your Brain – No Editing!
Once you’ve nailed the opening, shove that analytical part of your brain back into solitary confinement. It’s time to write now. With a good intro as a foundation and a good outline, you should be rearing to go. If you’ve done the amount of work necessary to get to this point, then you should feel the post building within you.
So, write away! Don’t stop to edit. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Absolutely do not go back and reread your work. Just keep going. This is uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. If this is a problem, turn off your monitor. Seriously.
If you struggle with finding that perfect word, just type the first one that comes to mind and fix it later.
If you find that you don’t know what point you want to make next, go back and spend more time on your outline. My first efforts ended up turning into stream-of-consciousness poems because I didn’t know what I wanted to say. A stronger outline fixed this for me.
When you get to the end of the post and you don’t have the perfect conclusion, don’t worry. Just like we spent extra time before on the opening, I like to spend extra time afterwards on the conclusion.
Go ahead and cheat a little: Reread your conclusion and refine it.
9. General Editing
Now you can let that analytical monster go free. It’s time for him to go to town. Begin to edit the piece, looking first for structure, flow, overall impact, and adherence to the message. Don’t get so caught up in spelling and grammar that you miss the bigger picture.
Look for lines that could use rephrasing. Look for points that are weak or phrases that get redundant. I have a feeling as I write this that I may have just repeated “analytical brain in its cage” about a zillion times. (Yup, I did – so I rephrased it.)
Rewrite lines as necessary. Add points and cut out points.
11. Fine Editing
Proofread for spelling and grammar.
12. Finalize Headline
Now that you’ve got a polished piece, spend some time thinking of that perfect headline to really attract attention and cut through the clutter. Most often for me, this is just a careful rewording of the “pre-headline” that I did earlier.
13. Final Touches
Add in the HTML for formatting, for any links, and for any images.
Review it one more time.
One Perspective on Writing Faster
I just wrote this in a fraction of the time that I believe it would’ve taken me without the process. I still take longer to write than many of you probably do, but to me it’s not about getting it under an hour or under 20 minutes.
It’s not about beating anyone else’s time. It’s about being the best blogger that I personally can be.
From what I’ve read and from what little I’ve experienced, writing quickly is a skill that can be learned. I’m sure that as time goes along, we’ll all become more and more adept at writing quickly. I may get to the point where this process isn’t needed, but for now it’s doing a great job of helping me crank out the posts.
I’m far from a blog guru, so please tell me: Do you guys struggle with writing quickly? What are some tricks or tips that have helped you?
[Image from meredith.]