Scott is starting a blog. He wrote me for advice.
“I know you’ve been blogging for a long time, and you’ve done more than 1,000 posts. You also coach other people on improving their blog. I want to start strong. What’s the best process to produce quality posts regularly?”
There is no best process. There’s only the best process for you and your unique situation. Most bloggers develop their process slowly. Scott will probably start with one process and then make small changes. My experience is it will take him a year to a year and a half to find his voice and rhythm.
That said, here’s my process. It’s developed over more than a decade of blogging. As we used to say about rifles in the Marine Corps, “There are many others like it, but this one is mine.” It works for me.
Prework to Prepare the Ground
Many activities that help you produce great posts don’t directly involve the blog. You should read a lot. You’ll get ideas for possible posts. Capture the ideas, review them, and adapt them.
Review is usually the first step in creating a post. Sometimes you’ll read something that inspires you and start from there. Sometimes, like with this post, you’ll get an email with an interesting question to answer.
Pick A Topic and Noodle on It a While
Look through your ideas and your content for things that excite you. The best posts have emotional content. They are interesting or inspiring. If you’re not interested, excited, or inspired, your reader won’t be. Robert Frost was talking about poems but what he said applies to blog posts.
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”
Allow some time for ideas to percolate. Play with them a bit. Mind map or put them on index cards and spread them out on the floor. I get lots of good ideas when I walk the dog. Then my body is on autopilot and my mind is free to wander.
Capture ideas right away or they’ll flit away like butterflies on the wind. I either use index cards or a pocket digital recorder.
Put Your Stuff in Order
When ideas are in your mind, they’re connected to other ideas in a giant neural network. That’s great, but it’s not the way things work when you start to write. If you want a blog post that makes sense, you’ve got to select the points make and stories to tell and put them in order.
I use PowerPoint for that. I use the slides like I use index cards. It’s easy for me to highlight big ideas and move everything around. Sometimes I decide a post with lots of promise isn’t ready for prime time. I keep the outline but move on to another idea.
I start writing when I have a basic outline. At this point, I send the outline to my Fabulous Virtual Assistant, Brenda, who prepares the graphics we use with each post. Every post has a unique graphic that conveys the main idea.
Writing the Post
The first draft may not be “crap,” but it’s nowhere near good enough to publish. I dictate most of my first drafts. That lets me get a conversational tone from the beginning.
Rebecca at Transcription-Transformation transcribes my posts. I use a human transcriber instead of some form of artificial intelligence. Rebecca’s intelligence is not artificial. She catches things that no program will catch and makes suggestions no program could make. When I get the transcript of the first draft back, I send it to Brenda because sometimes the draft differs from the outline I sent previously.
Next, I revise the first draft. I do this sitting down. I’ve discovered that I write best when I stand up and I edit best when I’m seated. Don’t ask me why.
After I revise the draft, I read it out loud. It’s amazing what things my mouth trips over that my eyes thought were fine. I revise it again.
Next, I run my “checker” programs. I use a combination of the Microsoft grammar checker and Hemingway. It’s perfect for me at this stage of my writing career. Hemingway doesn’t give me a whole lot of extraneous and often erroneous recommendations. It also highlights the errors I’m prone to make.
There are lots of good checker programs out there, and you should find one that works for you. Beware, though. You need to understand the basics of grammar and usage. Checker programs often suggest things that make no sense. Sometimes, the program gets the grammar or usage wrong. Sometimes, the program makes a valid recommendation that you won’t want to use.
After I’ve run the draft through my checkers, it’s time for the final draft.
I take the graphic from Brenda and my “final” draft and put them together on WordPress. I put quotes around “final” because I often make changes once I see the post in WordPress.
After I’ve put everything into WordPress, I review the way it will work. I check every link. Then, I schedule it for the appropriate time. You might think that’s the final step, but it’s not.
After I publish the post, the final step is promoting it. I promote my leadership blog posts on Twitter. I promote my writing blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You might believe that if you do quality work, the world will beat a path to your door. Don’t make that mistake. Take the extra 10 minutes to promote. Thank people who make comments and who share your posts with others.
General preparation is finding interesting stuff and capturing good ideas.
Pick a topic that interests or inspires you.
Take time to play with ideas before putting them in order.
Draft and revise in a way that works for you until you get it right.
If you use a graphic, make sure it fits the post.
Promote your post. Thank people who help you.