Follow a Writing Process to Publish Blog Posts in Half the Time

I wish...!

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.

4. Outline

Decide what structure would work best for your post. Having blogging templates is a great idea to help with this.

Outline your blog post.

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.

Don't let logic stop 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.

8. Conclusion

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.

Hit Publish.

Smile!

Happy days - my blog post is done!

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.]

  • http://church39.com Ryan Scott @39Blogger

    I’m constantly trying to write faster. My problem is one that preachers have had for hundreds of years… I use 4 paragraphs to say one sentence. Practice makes perfect though right?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      hah! preaching is a gift, for serious.

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      One thing that’s worked for me is really to try and stick as close as possible to the original words that come into my mind. If I write, edit, rewrite, edit, and rewrite a few more times, then the words seem drier. And I always seem to add words too :)
      Once you’ve outlined what points you want to make, then just dumping from the creative side will give you a natural way of communicating. Most of the time, it’s hard for me to beat the simplicity that I just spit out at first.

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        thanks loren for your great thoughts!

    • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

      Lol I suffer from this. #guilty… But I am getting a lot better the more I refine my process of refining.

      • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

        It’s odd what a big difference a process makes, huh? I was surprised.

  • http://popparables.com Keri @ Pop Parables

    This post is uber useful for me-I could certainly write posts much faster than I already do. Generally takes me about 2 hours, including research or any other stuff I need to include (images, links, etc). I love the idea of turning off the monitor while writing a post. It would seem really strange at forst, but I get so easily distracted by other things on the computer-like looking up a synonym.

    The tip that has helped me the most is writing in the same place at the same time every day (or every time you write). I find that that eliminates a lot of distractions for me that seem to come so easily when I try to blog at places like Starbucks or the library. And, doing it at the same time of day really primes my brain for writing mode. Those things help a lot with #1.

    Loren…I checked out your blog and am super sad that it appears you don’t have a FB page. WHY!?!?

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Hey Keri,
      Having routines is such a great thing. I do crazy stuff too like listen to “pink noise” from the http://www.simplynoise.com iPhone app. Coffee is part of the routine too, I guess :)

      As far as FB, I’m far from a blog guru, so I may be making a really stupid decision there. I definitely plan on starting one, but I don’t want to start it quite yet. My logic was that I don’t want to throw a party and have no one show up. I’m sure I’ll start one soon when I can get a little social-proof going. Would you be one of my first fans when I do start one? :)

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        checking this out too!

        • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

          Great for concentrating when you have toddlers in the house!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      haha…! no FB?!

      • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

        Ok.. So I guess I shouldn’t wait any longer? Is it stupid to try and build up a little following first? Honest question: Is it worse to have no fb or a fb page with only 8 people liking it? My plan was to eventually send out a brief post to subscribers encouraging them to like the fb page. Basically to have a launch for the page. Maybe have a contest to coincide with the launch too – so hopefully you’d instantly have at least high double digits of likes… maybe even a hundred or more. Is that clever of stupid?

        • http://john.do John Saddington

          it’s up to you, honestly. start now or later… what’s the difference in the long-run?

          • http://popparables.com Keri @ Pop Parables

            My opinion? You should start now! Like, today, like what are you waiting for?? :) Read this post from Jeff Goins to find out why >> http://goinswriter.com/facebook-page/

            I started an FB page before I even started my blog. I know it helped to build the anticipation and create a following before I even had the blog. Of course, it was mostly just my friends and family, but it has since grown and continues to grow.

            BTW, you need 25 “likers” to get a vanity url on FB. I would totally “like” your page and recommend it to my readers. I was honestly disappointed that you didn’t have an FB. It’s the best way for me to follow blogs, since Twitter moves so fast and I don’t always check my reader. And, honestly, a lot of potential readers do NOT do Twitter or use RSS. I know most of my readers don’t.

            • http://popparables.com Keri @ Pop Parables

              And, seriously Loren, think of all the potential likers you could have gotten from this guest post! It’s not too late! And, I’ll still “like” you when you make the big jump, and share your page! :)

            • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

              You know, I never even considered it from the perspective of readers who want to keep up with the blog on facebook. I had really just thought of it more like a promotional device for likes and shares.
              So you’ve absolutely convinced me!

              I have some “real world” stuff to take care of in the next few days (not a full-time, professional blogger yet, haha) but I’ll launch it ASAP. I think I’ll probably do a contest to go along with it too – and I’ll keep you posted.

              I really, really appreciate your input. Very valuable insight :) And I’ll definitely check out your facebook page for inspiration!

              • http://john.do John Saddington

                ;) let us know when it launches!

              • http://stuartwooster.com Stuart Wooster

                I love the support the community just gave for one member to get a FB page here. Hats off to John for attracting such wonderful people to his site.

                Loren, I started my fanpage the other week with no fanfare and was concerned just like you. In the end I thought it better to have been shipped and done, rather than wait for ‘that time to come’. At this moment in time I have 9 Likes Haha!

                • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

                  Yes, I’m very grateful for the community too! I’m gonna give it a go on fb, hopefully really soon. Thanks for your input, as well. Maybe I messed up waiting so long, but better late than never I guess :)

            • http://john.do John Saddington

              wow. this is a strong and passionate comment….! love it!

  • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

    This is something I’ve really been trying to refine lately! This was incredibly helpful! Thank you Loren!

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Thanks! I’d love to hear if you have any other tricks that helped you. I’m always trying to improve!

    • Dewitt Robinson

      Ditto Dustin!

      • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

        Thanks, Dewitt!

  • http://stuartwooster.com Stuart Wooster

    I don’t have my MacBook with me everywhere and work in a factory, that would quite rightly question what I was doing if I were to start working on a blog post. So I quite often find myself writing in a black book I carry everywhere with me. Carrying this book helps me with your first tip; I’m able to start capturing my thoughts and even writing a post anywhere anytime.

    I also find the actual flow of physically writing helps me push the words out faster than if I was tapping away at the keyboard – I’m not the fastest typist.

    Great post Loren :)

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Great thoughts, Stuart. It really helps when we can process posts ahead of time. I’ve found there’s a difference between blog posts swirling around in my head and really THINKING about them deeply. I suspect your notebook serves to keep you thinking thoroughly. Great idea!

      What do you use for your notebook? I’ve found that a small moleskine notebook works great for note-taking. I have a small one (I think like 5 X 4 or something) that fits in my pocket that I will take with me if I want to take notes on something (like a meeting).
      I actually carry a super-small moleskine (like credit card sized) with me all the time. It helps me to write down ideas for blog posts that come to me – although it’s not too good for sketching out the actual posts.

      • http://stuartwooster.com Stuart Wooster

        My girlfriend bought me an A5 hardback ringbinder (it conveniently holds a pen where the ringbinder is). It is little big but I typically take lunch to work and listen to music with large headphones, so I need a bag anyway.

        If I’m on the move and carrying light then I make use of Evernote on my Android phone. I’ll use the voice recorder if time is of the essence, otherwise write what I want to if I have the patience.

        • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

          That’s cool! I’m slowly turning into a notepad nerd :)

  • http://suburbiauncovered.com/ Matt Powell

    I really appreciate the intention described here. My default is to sit down and spit something out in just a few minutes. I think I will end up with a better product if I do some planning like you describe here. thanks… very helpful and applicable.

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Glad you found it useful. I’ve found a process not only helps me write faster but better as well. Of course, you may just be way more naturally talented than me :)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      the problogger has a process… jump on it! you’re on your way!

  • Dale Aceron

    Thanks for the great tips Loren. At present it feels like such a chore to write one single post only dut to the time that it takes to spit one out fully polished.
    Question: how long did this post take you?

    P.S
    Just went over and LIKED your FB page. Excited to see some great posts and learn a few things from you.
    Dale

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      that would be a good thing to know…! great follow-up dale…!

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Oh hey, Dale. Looks like this comment slipped through without me noticing until now, so my apologies.
      I actually figured someone would ask me how long this post took. It was a very atypical post in many ways. The ideas had been brewing for literally months as I was experimenting with writing process. I also had a very, very high standard for this post since I was submitting it as a guest post to a popular blog.
      I would say that it took me probably about an hour and a half. I think it was probably about half an hour of writing and an hour of editing. That’s normally way longer than I spend on editing, but I really wanted to fine-tune the post for Tentblogger. The original post before editing was probably twice the amount of words, and I did a LOT of surgery!

      Of course, part of the reason I added my last paragraph on perspective is that I realize I’m not a fast blogger. I’ve increased my writing speed by using a process, but I still am probably slow by many people’s standards. But that’s OK with me – I’m constantly trying to improve. I imagine in a year I may be twice as fast as I am now.