Writing is difficult.
That’s just how it is (which is probably why you stopped by this guide to writing blog posts).
Unfortunately, writing is always going to be hard – it’s what keeps copywriters in business. When you do it you’re going to:
- Doubt yourself
- Feel exposed
- Bang your head against a wall that won’t move
- Waste a lot of time
- Search for ideas
- Hope your muse comes along
- Search for the right word and not come up with it
- Hate what you wrote
- Think it’s all terrible
- Erase perfectly good sentences
- & start again while feeling absolutely depleted
I know that because I do it every day and it doesn’t change that much. Sometimes, I can repurpose my previous work and facilitate a lot more writing in a lot shorter time, but mostly it’s Sisyphean.
Hard work it is, but impossible it is not (despite the Sisyphus reference). And, good news, there are a few simple ways to make things easier on yourself.
So, without further ado…
The Grub Street Guide to Writing Blog Posts
#1 Create a template
It’s really boring to write the same blog post, with different words, every single time, but it does make you efficient. So, If I were you, the first thing I’d do is create a template. This gives your brain somewhere to start, so you’re not sitting there with Apple’s spinning beach ball in your head failing to get a grip on what you want to write.
How do you create a template?
The easiest template is the same one you followed in university, college, and high school:
- Intro – tell the reader what you’re going to say
- Body – Make your points
- Point 1
- Point 2
- Point 3
- Conclusion – tell the reader what you said
This is your basic blog layout, and really the basis for most communication in the real world. But let’s get a little more specific, because you learned that template 20 years ago (or was that me?) so there’s not much new there.
Remind the reader of their problem
- Take a sentence or two to really delve into the problem, so the reader:
- Knows you’ve dealt with this problem before
- Starts to feel their own frustrations again
Let the reader know you have a solution for them.
Before, you were helping them remember the pain, so now you want to let some light in so the reader:
- Knows you have a solution
- Feels like they’re going to learn something that will make their lives better during your post, whether that’s a solution to their problem, or information they can use.
Break that solution into three easy parts for the reader
This is the body of your post. It’s here when you use your expertise to help your reader. You could just spew it all out in one long diatribe, but readers prefer smaller, bite-sized points so they can follow along.
For example, if I was writing a blog about creating the best ham sandwich, the three main points would look something like this:
- Get ham
- Get bread
- Put it together
Of course, not everything breaks neatly into 3 points, but everything breaks down into more than one, making it easier for the reader to digest the whole concept.
That’s it! For bonus points, reiterate your main points in an easy to understand manner and remind the reader how your blog post helped them.
Once you’ve created your template you at least have a way to break down your writing into easy bites you can tackle.
#2 Start with a problem or Nobody cares about you
Everyone has that friend that talks about themselves non-stop, and never asks you a question about yourself. When you get stuck talking to that friend, you’re not engaged. Chances are, you’re thinking about what you’re going to have for supper, or what you’re doing on the weekend, or even just how the hell you’re going to get out of that conversation.
Don’t be that friend.
You know a lot about your profession/business. That’s great, but most of your audience doesn’t really care about all that stuff.
What they do care about is solving the problems that are making their lives more difficult. Everyone in the world is experiencing some kind of discomfort they would like to overcome. So when you start your blog post with that problem, that gets attention.
- Now, this isn’t the only way to start an article, but it is the easiest and requires the least amount of writing-ability.
If you really want to catch your reader’s interest, and you’re ready to spread your writing wings a bit, put a little pressure here and take a few sentences to really focus on how annoying that problem is. If you can start to evoke those feelings of frustration, annoyance and/or pain in a way that will keep the reader’s attention, it will push them to want the solution even more.
#3 Tell the reader what you’re going to write and why that should matter to them
We’re impatient, and getting more so every year (or that’s what it seems like to me, but I may be getting old). So now that your reader knows you understand their problem and are going to help them find a solution, they want it now.
Of course, the problem is:
- Solutions are not always easy
- You’re trying to hit word count to impress Google/Bing/Ask Jeeves
So what’s a blogger supposed to do?
You’re going to tell them what you’re about to tell them, i.e. give them a sneak peek, a trailer for the action below.
Think of this as the big, plate glass window in a store. By opening the store visually to the outside, it makes it much less intimidating, and much more inviting. Now, people know exactly what they’re getting into, so they’re much more willing to invest some time to look around a bit and hear what you’ve got to say.
#5 Explore the topic in a way that keeps the reader central
Now we’re in the meat of the thing – your expertise, the thing you wanted so badly to tell everyone about. So, cut it up into bite-sized pieces and dole it out for all to enjoy.
But, always remember, the reader needs to stay in the centre of the picture. So ask yourself:
- How acquainted is the reader with my vocabulary?
- Will the reader understand these concepts without explanation?
- Am I talking about myself too much, or am I still interested in what the reader wants?
I tend to break most concepts into three equal parts, because it’s a great number. Of course, some longer posts get broken into more pieces, and that’s fine.
As long as every paragraph has a purpose for being there, and that purpose is to help the reader through the problem you hung at the top of the Christmas tree (err, post?) you’re doing fine.
#6 Remind your reader what you said, and how you added value to their life
Finish the whole thing off with a quick recap to make sure the whole class understood, then add the cherry on top (bottom?): Tell them how they benefited from reading it.
By leaving them there, you know they’re feeling good about themselves, the article, and you.
We’re not going to stop here in this guide to writing blog posts. If you read now, you’ll get:
4 More tips that should keep you from pulling your hair out while you write
1. Allow yourself to suck
Every writer has been told this a million times (though usually in different terms). So, now that you’re a writer, you need to hear it as well.
That first word you type is going to feel off. The first sentence is going to sound stupid, and the first paragraph is going to be completely wrong. All of that is ok, because this is your first draft (check out the heading below for more info on first drafts).
If you never allow yourself to write that terrible first sentence, or first paragraph, then you’ll never get to the second paragraph or the second draft. Then writer’s block settles in, you flip over to another tab on your browser, and before you know it, half the day is gone and your post looks something like:
The most important (followed by a blinking cursor)
Of course, by this time you’ve forgotten what was so important you needed to write about, so you close your laptop and tell yourself you’ll get it done tomorrow..
Feeling anxiety yet? My wife is.
2. Your first draft should never be your last
If, however, you preserve and push past the self-criticism, you’ll get that first draft done. It’s tempting here to just hit publish and hope no one reads it too closely, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
Of all the writing tips I’ve included in this post, this one is the one I use without fail: close the tab/word processor and leave that piece alone for at least a day then come back and re-write.
As soon as you’re done writing that first draft, you are completely unable to edit it. At this point, you’re too close to it, like a mother with her child. She’s looking at that child through rose-coloured glasses just like you’re looking at your writing. What you wanted to say is still fresh in your mind and you will read it into every sentence.
But, if you leave it alone for a couple of days, and forget about the piece completely, you’ll come back to it with fresh eyes (well, fresher eyes). Suddenly, that sentence that seemed to make so much sense is complete gibberish.
The good news is, you can take that gibberish and change it. Then keep changing it until it’s not gibberish, but don’t get caught in a feedback loop of editing. No piece of writing is ever perfect, but it will be good enough.
3. Editors have hard jobs and they are awesome – every writer needs one
I hate editing. I always have, and probably always will. If my wife (and writing partner) wasn’t such a great editor, I would hire one.
The thing is, unless you’re going over every letter with a fine-toothed comb, you’re going to miss some silly typo, and someone on the internet is going to point it out.
So, whether you have an employee you can Shanghai into doing it, or you have to bribe your family to, editors are a must – as long as they are willing (and encouraged) to be brutally honest.
Even just a second set of eyes (who are willing to critique) is amazing to have. They will catch silly typos you’ve missed, and be tripped up by the same tortured language (that you understand because you wrote it) that all your other readers will be. That makes their feedback invaluable.
4. Don’t follow the ABCs’
No one jumps on Google thinking ‘I hope someone will try to sell me something I don’t want.’
If people sense your post is just designed to sell, and all they want is a recipe for beef tartare or something, then they’ll bounce because they know they can’t trust you. That lack of trust makes it impossible to create a relationship with people you’re selling to.
And this is why your blogs need to focus first on helping the reader. Call to action are completely acceptable when they make sense, but they should never make the reader feel like they’re talking to a used car salesman (even if you sell used cars).
Following up on our guide to writing blog posts
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide to writing blog posts that will get you writing so that you can actually push out content, and not just look at a blinking cursor. There is, of course, lots more to learn, which we’ll continue to cover in this blog (most notably the worst, in my opinion, part of writing blogs: SEO)
So check back on our blog regularly for more tips and guides to writing blogs, and we’ll see you later space cowboy.