- Get Real! What value will this blog offer? Use critical thinking techniques: guess at a “defining idea” you want to share in your post, then use your knowledge of the target market to make it relevant and topical. A pro forma blog post can only generate a pro forma response . . . at best.
- Build your brand: Remind yourself of your clear, sizzling core message. Every post should express what makes you and your core message unique and valuable.
- Editing Comes Later: The famous writing teacher Peter Elbow said to write first, then edit. Try to complete a first draft without reviewing or changing a word; go a little crazy and have some fun, since nobody else will ever see this draft. Then start to edit.
- If you’ve never used it, familiarize yourself with the mind map brainstorming model. It will help you write anything from an initial outline to the entire blog more effectively.
- Put your main point in the center of a blank page, in parentheses.
- Following the mind map outline format, add a ring of secondary or supporting topics around your main topic (If your post discusses some problem, Jarom’s excellent “Checklist for writing effective articles” will help. Adapt points on his list for your post).
- Keep adding topics in as many radiating circles as you need. For example, if my main point was “Branding with heart” and one supporting fact was that branding already defines how we communicate and consume, your third level might include “Nike Towns,” “school cafeterias” and “political campaigns.” Then the last one might be supported by “Tea Party,” “Occupy Wall Street,” and “social media campaigning” as examples.
- There’s no need to complete one thread or topic before working on another. Jumping from one to the other isn’t only feasible; this non-linear approach supports creativity.
- When you run out of space, start a new mind map with a supporting topic in the center.
- At the end, revisit your original “defining idea” and make it more eye-catching.
- I first used this process to build newspaper articles over 25 years ago. A year later it helped me write a 3,000-word magazine article that won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Draft, Edit and Polish
- Now use your outline points to write sentences, paragraphs and sections on a new page. The more detailed your outline, the faster this step will be. Revise and improve as you go along, even moving points from one thread to a more logical one if necessary.
- Keep the draft’s words and sentences as simple as possible. Your writing mantra is “short words, short sentences, short paragraphs.” (Many years ago Dr. Rudolf Flesch’s book on readability explained this; but it’s more important in the social media age than ever).
- Miscellaneous: * Begin sentences with action verbs when you can. * The first and last sentences of each paragraph should be short and compelling, and form a strong bridge between that paragraph and the one that precedes or follows it. * Avoid passive voice. * Don’t repeat the same words too often. * To keep readers’ interest, don’t use “I” or “me/my” more than absolutely necessary–it’s about them! * Stories and word pictures will also keep them more engaged. Remember, The best sentences and paragraphs are rich with relevance, proof and value.
- After your first draft, read it aloud to yourself until nothing sounds out of place or confusing. The world’s best editors are attached to your head; so trust them completely. When something sounds funny or unnatural, change or delete it without mercy or sentiment. To be a good writer, become a dedicated rewriter. Happy wordsmithing!