The first: write
Do it each and every day, not only when inspiration strikes. Write for yourself, your diary or that bin icon on your desktop. Don’t necessarily write for your blog exclusively. The purpose of this is to create a certain set of habits and procedures to help you with preparing your texts. We’ll touch more on said procedures later in the article but as a foreword let me tell you this: writing is a skill that – if left untended – chips and fades away. Write for your personal stash because quite frankly – not all of your texts will be good enough. You are, of course, free to publish the ones you feel are solid, but remember that publishing everything you write isn’t the best idea.
The second: the persona
Be mindful of who you’re writing for and adapt your text, vocabulary, and arguments to what you know. You’ll find many great persona-building tools on the web, I highly recommend the following:
How to use your persona? In your texts, remember to refer to what people already know – you’ll gain extra credibility! If you’re writing for bodybuilders in the LA area throw in some flavor text like “I’m sure you’ve hit Santa Monica to flex those muscles and work your daily set” It will make the text more relatable and your readers will feel it’s written especially for them. A persona influences what and how you write – your style, vocabulary, jokes and of course, topics! (If you’re writing a blog for fitness aficionados in the Chicago area, it’s generally a bad idea to glorify that deep dish pizza you ate at Bartoli’s last night).
The third: the purpose
Once we’re absolutely sure who we’re writing for, one of mankind’s greatest questions comes into play: why?
A good text is useful to the readers. To what degree it satisfies their needs is another issue altogether (some people may want to learn something from you, others might also want to experience something). If you don’t write with your purpose in mind, you’re bound to stray and muck about.
What does the reader want to learn? You have a few tools at your disposal which will help you find topics for your articles. The first of them are micro-moments. Google – based on the analysis of the browser queries – selected four categories of information that people are looking for, they are:
- I-want-to-do (How to enable screen filters to help with color blindness on my iPhone X?)
- I-want-to-know (How can I tell an avocado is ripe?)
- I-want-to-buy (Best cigar stores in downtown Chicago)
- I-want-to-go (What to see in Austin, TX?)
There’s more about micro-moments in a separate article. Suffice it to say, adapting this approach will significantly diversify your posts!
The second method which I use to find new topics (Still bearing in mind that I want to write things of use) is browsing industry forums. Take for instance LinkedIn or Quora which offer thematic groups. Whether you’re writing about planning a wedding or cooking, you’re bound to find a treasure-trove of inspirations among the questions asked by your potential readers.
The fourth: the work
One of Pixar’s storytelling rules states that if something is fun to talk about, it’s probably hard to listen to. In terms of blogging, I’d rephrase it into: if it’s easy to write, reading it isn’t worth much. Research is invaluable, seeking bits and bobs of trivia for the text or digging up unknown facts – these toils yield the best results and give the readers a feeling that your article was well worth the read and that they have learned something new. Think about it, you came up with an idea to write a text about disposing of Halloween decorations. If you write it just off the top of your head, what you write will be nothing more than your personal thoughts on the subject – something that just about anybody can muster. I tend to consider such blogs nothing more than trivial chitchat or slightly harsher – to YouTube reaction videos, entertaining, sure – but of little intellectual value and I steer clear of them because I fear that in a moment of weakness I could commit such a text myself. But! If you do your work right, find the information about Halloween decorations, ask the readers what they tend to do with theirs, do an interview with a woman who divorced her husband because of flushing thousands of dollars in decorations down the drain each year (provided you can find one!) – THAT will be a text worthy of my attention.
In my case, the creative process is as follows:
- I jot down all of the aforementioned points (Whom am I writing for, what do I want to write about, what is the purpose of writing it);
- I jot down what I already know (This is the “off the top of my head” bit) and I don’t move an inch further until I manage to write down things I have to put actual effort in finding (data which interest me, surnames of the researchers and so on);
Third and most important part is…
The fifth: how do you want to tell the story?
Starting off with a story? That’s a fantastic method. Best make sure that you have a story at the ready with two elements: humor (or any other emotion for that matter) and a good punchline (in the form of a good moral or a surprising ending). A story is by no means mandatory – but it helps. Instead of one, you can present a particular example to which you’ll return in your text (just like the story about what to do with Halloween decorations). Concrete things are an essential element of what you write.
The fifth “chore” is the point at which you can inject your own style into what you’re writing about. Jokes which amuse you (What do we call a group of eight hobbits? A hobbyte!), sayings which you commonly use (aw mah gerd! , Wot N’ Tarnation?! ) or comparisons (New taxes are about as welcome as an outhouse breeze). Thanks to these, you can talk about widespread ideas in a way unique to you.
The sixth: the title
The strategic place of your article. When it comes to attracting the attention of your readers, the title does 80% of the work. Suffice it to say, it’s worth ironing out all the kinks before you let the final title fly. You can use one of the so-called fascination triggers (in her book “Fascinate” Sally Hogshead described seven of them — I’ve taken the liberty of selecting four which work wonders with article titles):
- Lust – the promise of pleasure: “7 Best scenes of ripping off Halloween decorations from the sidings”
- Mystique – you tell the readers that they don’t know something: “Want not, waste not! Top 5 uses for old Halloween decorations that will blow your mind!”
- Alarm – you’ll lose something if you don’t act NOW: “Tons of discarded Halloween decorations secreting poisonous substances into the ground waters!”
- Vice – Show how others fall: “Fail compilation: Funniest Halloween decoration removal blunders!”
The seventh: redact
Be sure to read through the text before you press “submit” and think about how you can improve it. First and foremost: make sure it isn’t too wordy, check if the commas are all in the right places. Next, give it to someone who could be your potential reader. Is everything clear? Is the language comprehensible?
If everything is as it should be… Publish!