Writing Tools
Writing Tools

Writing ToolsSome of my blog posts have taken a long time to materialise. If I am to continue writing for this site then I need to get a better grip on the amount of time I spend creating the content. The problem is all to do with my current process!

If I don’t set myself a regular deadline then I don’t get around to writing. There is always something more important… Even with a deadline I have a tendency to leave writing the post until the last minute. The basic idea would already be in my head and then I just sit down and start writing…

Quite often I find things tend to veer away from the initial idea as it was too vague. This can be interesting as my subconcious starts coming out to play and the ideas for future topics can soon multiply, but this is far from ideal. The post tends to grow very rapidly and then requires heavy editing to try and focus the point a bit. This can lead to a lot more time than there should be going into each post…

Posts on a specific, targeted topic, tend to be more interesting anyway. To help with this in future I need to create a more focused approach to writing posts. Putting your head down a letting the words wander off wherever they want should definitely be a part of the process but there should also be some structure.

Hopefully this might be useful to other budding bloggers but also will become a reference for myself when creating future posts.

Overview

OK so what’s the best way to write a post in a restricted amount of time? One solution would be to write shorter posts, which do not need much structure and so should be quicker to write.

I find that my posts tend to average out to around 1000–1500 words no matter how long I spend on them. This could be due to my wandering off topic but even if I spend some time on a post then that seems to be the happy medium between a worthwhile read and still easily readable in a reasonable amount of time.

If I can get ahead of myself then I might try varying the length of the post depending on the topic. Some ideas are more of a quick comment and these wouldn’t need a full blown essay, others may require a lot more detail to be of any use. Either way, from experience, the majority of my posts are likely to gravitate towards that happy medium. That being the case it’s time to take a look at what is involved in creating an average sized post.

I’m going to put down an estimated amount of time for each section but this is completely untested as of yet. I just want an idea of what to expect and then I can update this as I start to use this process. Obviously these timings are purely a guide and you do not have to follow them. It all depends on how much time you can spare and how important you deem each post. Some posts are likely worth a lot more of your time and some may be worth a lot less, it’s a matter of priorities and experience…

Find A Topic

You need to have something to write about. Trying to pick an idea out of thin air can be a bit tricky so it’s best to create a list of ideas.

  • Brainstorm new ideas20 minutes – Set aside some time for brainstorming ideas at regular intervals, maybe once a month depending on how often you plan on posting. Grab a pen and paper, or your preferred medium, and then make yourself comfortable. Some people find music helps inspire them, others find focus in silence so this is entirely on you. Then just start writing down ideas as soon as they pop into your head. You could just create a straightforward list or you might prefer a mindmap type structure where you could link ideas together into groups or topics. The possibilities are endless so you may need a bit of trial and error to find out what works best for you…
  • Collate your ideas10 minutes – Spend the next 10 minutes going through the list. Tidy up and ideas that don’t really feel right for whatever reason, maybe you don’t have anything to say on a subject or you don’t know enough yet. Thinking about the items you created in a bit more detail may very well help you add to the list. Just remember that the goal is to have a decent list of possible topics for future blog posts at the end of those 30 minutes.
  • Select a topic5 minutes – When it comes to starting a new post simply look through the list of possibilities and pick one that resonates with you at that moment in time and then you are ready to start creating a post on that topic.

Draft Post

There are two parts to drafting a post, creating a basic structure and then adding some words. You may find it easier to do these at consecutively or at separate times, that is up to you.

Gather Your Thoughts

  • Write down your thoughts20 minutes – Dump every thought you have into words. Write brief sentences and do not try and put things into any sort of order or structure yet.
  • Group thoughts together5 minutes – See how these thoughts relate to each other. To make the post become a bit more coherent move the thoughts around and group them together.
  • Add headings5 minutes – Look at what is contained in each group and try and come up with some appropriate headings. You may find that some groups are related so you may want these to just be paragraphs or you may want to create some separate subheadings.

Flesh Out Post

  • Create summary10 minutes – Looking at the thoughts you have got together so far try and create a brief summary of what you want to get across in this post. This summary will eventually become the intro but for now it is useful to define the point of the post a bit before you start fleshing it out.
  • Draft content20 minutes – Now you have an idea what you are trying to cover in this post you just needs to fill in the blanks a bit. Go through each heading, edit the thoughts and try and flesh them out a little, brevity is still important though as you do not want to waste readers time, so try and keep to the point.

Finalise Post

Again this can be split into two parts depending on what works best for you:

Tidy Up Post

  • Proof read5 minutes – Read through what you have got so far. This should give you a feel for the post as a whole. You can then see which areas may need a bit of tweaking.
  • Insert images10 minutes – Some posts may require some extra images in the body of the post, photos for a post about a recent holiday for example or screenshots for a techincal How To post. Select any suitable images and insert them into the appropriate position within the post.
  • Add links5 minutes – Add links to other posts or external sources if required
  • Tie up loose ends10 minutes – Based on the proof reading and any additions required to do with the images or links, go through the post and tidy things up and tie things together wherever possible.

Finalise Post

  • Create intro5 minutes – Go through the original summary and turn into a suitable, short introduction to the post. This is what the readers will see on the main listing screen before clicking through to the main body of the post. It should briefly explain what the post is going to be about and hopefully lead the reader to want to read the post of the post.
  • Add image(s)5 minutes – Find an appropriate image to feature in the post. This should appear at the start of the message to add a bit of a pull to the article. Really short posts may not really need this but I think it’s nice to have an image to help personalise each post. This can be any random image and doesn’t have to relate to the post. I try and use my own photos but WordPress plugins like PhotoDropper can help with this.
  • Populate keywords5 minutes – Select categories, tags, SEO keywords etc. This will help organise the post locally but also help get the post picked up by search engines like Google.

Conclusion

This works out at roughly 1¼ hours per post, plus the occasional brainstorming session. The actual timings are likely to vary slightly per post but I want to try and aim for around 1½ hours per post going forward. Even if they overrun occasionally to 2 hours then I would still be happy with that. This would be a dramatic improvement on my current process.

Hopefully if I can stick to this then I may be able to chuck in the occasional shorter post during the week as well as there are a few things that come to mind that don’t really deserve a full blown post like this…

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Image: Pete O’Shea

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