For some of us, writing comes easily. For others, it’s math. Or sports. Or organization. Everyone has something that just seems to click with them one way or another. For me, it is grammar and writing.
We’ve all heard that Content is King if you want your blog to be successful. The real question is how do you achieve that? Writing well doesn’t have to be a mystery, it just takes practice. This month I want to touch on some basic writing steps: Prewriting, Revision, Editing, Evaluation, and Publishing.
Before you start writing, think about the topics you’re most familiar with or most passionate about. Brainstorm new ideas (remember, the art of brainstorming means there are no bad ideas–you can cull through them later). Once you have a list of relevant (to you) topics, you can consult your list any time you’re suffering from writer’s block.
Now it’s time to plan your post–in other words, how you’re going to write about that topic. Will you tell a story? Do you need to back up your opinions with facts? Will you use humor? Outlines are extremely useful when planning how you are going to write about a topic.
Outline done? Get those words out! Start filling in the gaps left by the outline and write your little heart out.
As you get your words out of your head and into your blog post, consider what is missing. Look at what you’ve written and see where you can add description or clarification.
I tend to write declarative thoughts and facts and I rarely take the time to explain them. For this reason, I constantly need to re-read my posts and discover what questions readers may have. I usually need to add background information or resources to clarify or support my point.
You can do the same by writing your post then stepping away, even if only for 15 minutes. Coming back to a project usually provides a new perspective. If necessary, re-work the organization or flow of your post.
Editing isn’t just about re-writing. It’s about reviewing and correcting your work. I find that in the throes of writing The Next Great Blogging Post, I often write homonyms (site/sight/cite, here/hear). Spell-check isn’t going to catch that I can’t here the dog barking; I’m going to have to catch it on my own.
Taking a break from your writing before attempting to edit is always a good idea. If you don’t have time, though, try reading the post from bottom to top. I sometimes read my writing backwards (not literally, I just read the words in reverse order). For example,
Here is a sample sentence.
If I were going to edit it, I would read it as
.sentence sample a is Here
I’m more likely to catch a mistake that way.
In addition to re-reading your article and correcting grammar or spelling mistakes, there are a few things you can look for specifically to tighten your writing.
- Clear the dead wood. Look for words that aren’t necessary. For instance, many times the word that can be deleted without changing the meaning of your sentence.
- Consider whether your writing is meeting your targeted audience’s needs. Are you writing for the lowest common denominator or have you chosen to write to a more experienced reader? Re-write as necessary to keep it consistent and interesting for your audience.
- Make sure you have topic sentences for each paragraph. A topic sentence gives your readers an introduction to what the paragraph is about. Can your readers scan your article just by reading your topic sentences?
- Re-read your conclusion. Have you brought your ideas to an end cleanly? If you are asking your readers to complete a task (e.g., sign up for a newsletter, leave a comment, etc.), have you clearly asked them to do that task and told them how?
Step away from your writing again. Reflect on and evaluate what you have written. Can it be shortened and still have the same effect on your readers? Is the humor invasive or subtle and was that your intent?
I find that I’m always writing in my head or thinking about what I’ve written. Then, when I see the writing again, I can make changes as necessary or love it as is.
You’ve done it. You’ve written, you’ve revised, you’ve edited, you’ve evaluated. You are ready to share your writing with others. Hit that Publish button and start over.
It’s important to point out that, when reading these “rules” for the first time, it can be daunting. The time commitment implied is off-putting. Remember, though, that writing takes practice and these “rules” are the best kind: bendable. The more you write, the more you’ll realize that many of these steps can be completed at the same time–you’ll often be evaluating (or thinking about) something you’ve written and revising it in your head. When you log-in to make your changes, you may find an editing issue. The more you write, the easier it is to find your groove.
And really, who doesn’t like a good groove?
You can find even more articles about writing at BloggingBasics101.com.