Getting started often seems to be one of the biggest blockers to writing (the other is actually finishing). I usually write 2-3 blog posts a week for myself and my clients, but it’s not like the idea springs forth fully formed and perfect! Here’s what my writing process looks like using last week’s blog post on personal accountability as an example.
Choosing a Topic
The Writer’s Comfort Zone exists because people want a safe space to find fellow writers that help each other stick to their writing goals. With that as the starting point, a variety of topics suggest themselves. I can write about accountability, creativity on demand, the writing process, community building, and so much more. Step one, then, is to pick one and start writing.
I don’t actually start writing prose as my first step. Usually, I start by figuring out the post’s primary keyword and title. From there, I do a web search to see what material exists to support the topic. Next is an outline, which may be very brief, depending on what I intend for the document. The outline will be a few bullet points if it’s an opinion piece versus layers deep if it’s a research paper. I personally call this the “word vomit” phase of the writing process.
Here’s what this looked like for the personal accountability post:
Now that I have a better idea of how I want to handle the topic, it’s time to start writing. I need to introduce people to the topic in a way that catches their attention and is immediately relatable. Then I need to dive into the body of the discussion, including pointers back to the references I used for research. And last but not least, I need to write the conclusion (the part I find most challenging).
There is no editing at this stage of the writing process. It’s just writing. The editing comes next.
Editing for Grammar
I would love to say that my writing is perfect on the first pass. I would, however, be lying. I lose control of homonyms when I’m tired, and my hindbrain has never accepted that “it’s” is not a possessive. This is where editing tools (Grammarly, I love you!) save my reputation by pointing out places I’ve messed up.
As much as Grammarly is amazing (and it is so amazing), it’s not always correct. I still need to consider the changes it suggests and make some decisions. Did the proposed changes modify the meaning of the text? Did they change my personal writing style too much? Grammar tools can only do so much, so do not take their corrections as holy writ!
Editing for SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) concerns any blog writer who wants their material to be found via a search engine. This is an entirely different type of editing and not really in my area of expertise. Fortunately, there are tools for that, too!
After I’ve tidied up the grammar in a post, I copy it over to my blog. I’ve installed the Yoast Pro plugin to help with the SEO magic. Suffice to say, my SEO rating when I first add the post to the blog is terrible.
I will not compromise a post purely for the SEO, but I will take the tool’s suggestions under advisement. If I can tweak my writing to be a little more findable, then great.
All the words are done – yay! The next step is to publish, but I rarely post immediately. I have a schedule, Saturdays for The Writer’s Comfort Zone and Sundays for Spherical Cow Consulting, that gives me time to step away from the post and come back later to tweak it if needed.
The other thing that happens in this stage is finding an image for the post. This part is like candy for my brain. When I first started blogging, Unsplash was my friend. Eventually, I moved to iStockPhoto for a wider variety of images that still have reasonable licenses.
Writing Process Wrap Up
If you’re new to writing in general and blogging in specific, this writing process may sound like a lot of work! I suppose it is, but baking cookies is a lot of work, too, when you break down the steps. But the end result makes it worth it.
If I’m feeling particularly inspired, I can work through a post in about an hour. More often, though, it’ll take me 2-4 hours, spread over a few days. I have a scratchpad file that I can access from any of my devices, and I’ll jot ideas down as they come to me. Writing happens Friday or Saturday for the following week’s post. More often than not, I’m in bed with coffee and a cat trying to walk across my keyboard on Saturday mornings to do the last bits of SEO edits, image searches, and post scheduling.
Your mileage may vary, and you may have a different process that works for you. If you’re still figuring out what works for you, try the process I’ve described here and see if it helps!
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