The most wondrous architectural structures were built from a blueprint. The greatest inventions started from a series of outlined experiments. The most fantastic journeys were first planned out and strategized before the first step was taken.
All great writing needs a process and structure too.
In the previous blog we looked at brainstorming, organizing and outlining, and writing the all-important first draft—all essential stages. But all you’ve got at this point is a raw, bulky, slightly coherent compilation of words and ideas.
Here are the final steps in the blog writing process that will take you from chaos to completion.
I’ve heard this truth from so many writers that it’s almost common knowledge: Material isn’t written, it’s re-written. The most accomplished writers know this—that the real work, genius, artistry, and enjoyment come in the editing and rewriting phase where your objective is to hone and whittle your work into the best possible output. This is what separates the pretenders and dreamy ideologues from the accomplishers and seasoned professionals.
Depending on your time constraints and quality aspirations, this phase can take as long as the other three combined because this is where so many concrete and final decisions are made. Rewriting is a bit more cumbersome than when you wrote your first draft because of the detail and decisions involved.
Of course, by this time you’re far more familiar with your content and objectives. And it’s often easier to edit something than it is to create it from scratch. Issues to consider: Is my title and theme clear? Are my main points well defined and supported? Does my work have a logical progression of thought from beginning to end? This stage separates the amateurs from the pros.
Polishing and verifying
This stage separates the pros from the artists. Why do you have to go over your work again and again? To get the exact words, the eliminate mistakes and unneeded thoughts, to achieve the right timing and flow. But you don’t have the time to be so “picky”? If you want your work to shine above the best and be a true artist, you’ll do what it takes to get it right, however long it takes. My experience has been, even with final drafts, that there’s always something I find, either glaring or less obtrusive, that can be improved.
Not to mention the fact that all your quotes and data need to be verified and validated. Especially in our fast and furious, data-driven culture where everyone wants material “right now,” the pressure to simply produce and post can result in catastrophic calamities. Get it right the first time and you won’t have to make retractions later. And diminish your reputation in the eyes of your readers. When is your blog done? The true artist knows when he’s communicated what he wants to communicate in the way he wants to communicate it.
Optimization for search engine purposes is the topic for a whole set of other blogs, but essentially, if you want all your hard-earned work to be seen by the largest number of readers, you need to make sure they can find it. Considerations like the optimal keywords, how many times to use them and where, and how to label pictures and posts for greatest impact are just a few of the things you need to take as seriously as the content you’ve just created. It’s an absolute must in the world of online writing.
Ideally, you’ll have been thinking about keywords and how to position them within your work before you started your first draft. Always ask yourself: Who are you trying to reach? What words will best attract them? What topics and issues are people searching for and needing help with? That’s really the purpose of writing online: to connect your expertise and experience with all those online readers who can benefit from it.
Wow! That’s a lot of steps and a lot of work. But that’s why the best-written material doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. It is the result of a well-thought-out idea executed through a well-thought-out system.
Of course, blog writing isn’t all accomplished the same way. It’s a creative endeavor. But most of the best blogs by the best blog writers tend go through a certain process of idea creation, outlining, first drafting, refinement, and optimization.
Knowing the various writing stages and how to successfully navigate through them can mean the difference between maximum efficiency and outstanding output or simply going through he motions and hoping you get to your destination safe and sound.
You’re capable. You’re equipped. You have a process. Now, slay a few lions and write some excellent blogs!
Jim Ramsbottom is ThinkWell's writer-in-residence. When he's not authoring blogs (for clients or himself), white papers, animation scripts, website copy, or marketing content, you can find him writing screenplays or re-watching “Breaking Bad.” He’s an ardent of the Hopi proverb: “He who tells the stories rules the world.”