Blogging was supposed to be easy, right?
But there you sit, staring at an empty page feeling frustrated.
You know what you want to say. You’re an expert in your field, after all. And so many bloggers say it should only take an hour or two.
So what’s the problem?
You don’t have a plan. That’s the problem.
Nobody can whip out a helpful, shareworthy blog post on a whim. And even experienced writers follow a strategy or a system that guides them as they write.
If you’re anywhere near the beginner stage, you need a blog post writing plan. And here it is.
Follow these 10 steps and you’ll go from a blank page to a published post in less time and with a lot less frustration.
1. Choose a topic.
I keep a running list called Blog Post Brainstorm. I jot down ideas when they pop into my head, and I add them to the master list later. So I might choose something from that list.
No list? No problem. Start with these questions.
- What keeps your readers (or potential readers) awake at night?
- What problems do they have that you’ve also experienced and resolved?
- How can your expertise solve their challenge?
You can also browse around on blogs in your niche to get ideas. Read through comments. If you disagree with the author’s opinion, write from your own perspective.
2. Create a working headline and 3 or more main points.
So you’ve got your topic. Great! Now create a headline.
It doesn’t have to be perfect right now. Just figure out the focus and call it a headline. Here are a few examples:
- How to sooth a baby with these 3 tips
- Your guide to a quick bicycle tune-up
- Questions to ask your vet when you take your dog for a checkup
Since your headline has to reflect the content, work out your main points at the same time. This forms a basic outline.
Maybe you have only one or two main points—or so you think.
“Eat less and exercise more is the only way to lose weight.”
That looks like only two points, but you need to back up those claims. What do you mean by eating less? What kinds of food? How much exercise are you talking about? What types of exercise?
You might have 10 or even 20 factors worth considering. Brainstorm and do some research.
3. Sketch out your rough draft.
Now you’re ready to write. At this stage, you might find that some of your points just won’t work or you need to add others.
If you’re writing a post about bicycle tuneups, for example, you might realize that checking tire pressure shouldn’t be included.
On the other hand, some points might overlap so much they can be treated as one.
Soothing a fussy baby by rocking in a chair, rocking with baby in your arms, or walking around the house with baby at your shoulder might come under “Sooth with movement” rather than be treated as 3 separate points.
You should also determine whether you’re writing an essay-type article, a how-to post with specific steps, or a numbered list post. Your format depends on your purpose.
4. Finish your rough draft.
If you know your topic well or you’ve done research, you should be able to write fast and furious at this point. Stay on topic, but just pour out whatever comes to mind in each section.
Think of a sculptor slapping a bunch of wet clay into the approximate shape of an intended statue.
Does your “statue” have arms, legs, shoulders, head, and feet? Add toes, fingers, eyes, ears, and mouth. Make it as detailed as you want, but be sure all the pieces are in place. You’ll put the final touches on later.
This is also the time to add examples, quotes, researched facts, and links. It may not be the most beautiful statue—yet—but it’s basically finished.
You can pare down, delete extraneous stuff, or add missing information later. And of course you’ll be copyediting and proofreading.
5. Fine tune your headline and introduction.
Your focus may have shifted, so be sure your headline and introduction are in sync with content.
Maybe you have 5 main points now instead of 3 or your list has grown to 20 tips. Or you realize readers have a major obstacle, and that’s how you want to angle your post instead of simply providing a list of tips.
If you’ve made major changes, be certain they’re reflected in the headline and introduction.
6. Add subheadings and a closing.
In the case of a list post, you probably won’t need subheadings beyond the numbered items.
But add them for posts that would otherwise be a long stretch of plain text, like this one.
Your main points will do the trick. Or highlight special facts or little known information that will keep your reader interested.
And remember, readers often scan.
Can they get the basic gist of things with only the subheadings? If they’re good, your rushed readers might stop to read the fine print or come back when they have more time.
7. Add your closing or call to action (CTA).
Think of your closing (aka conclusion) not as a summary—that’s for more formal essays—but as inspiration.
Briefly reiterate the benefit of following your advice and encourage your readers.
What do you want them to do next? Go get ‘er done.
You can also include a blurb about your free offer or the course you’re teaching. That’s another definition of a CTA—an action you want readers to take that allows you to help them even more.
Copyediting means improving the so-called 5 Cs: clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent. You could add a few more Cs like consistent, confident, courteous, and conversational.
Copyediting is done at the sentence level, so if you’re shifting paragraphs around or adding information, you’re still in the rough draft stage.
Here are some tips:
- Cut your word count by 10-15%. (Follow these tips.)
- Check grammar, punctuation, meaning, and logic.
- Vary sentence structure.
- Replace passive verbs with active verbs.
- Add transitions.
- Check the numbers in lists.
- Don’t forget to check headlines and subheads.
- Use a thesaurus to replace dull words with power words.
And be sure to read out loud, smoothly, as if you’re a news presenter. Do you stumble anywhere? Rework that sentence to improve rhythm.
Get more copyediting tips here.
You can’t proofread—accurately—if you’re still writing or copyediting. It’s a separate step.
If you’re changing words around, chances are good you’ll introduce a new error in the process or forget to delete a word or two. It’s especially common when you’ve replaced 5-6 words with one or two.
Proofreading means checking for typos, extra spaces, spelling, punctuation errors, or small grammar mistakes. Don’t rely on spellcheck; it can clean up the worst of the mistakes, but it can’t replace the human eye.
Check for apostrophes, contractions, and capitalization. Make sure hyphens are used correctly and numbers in a list are in order.
And if you don’t have a copy of The Simple Writing Writer’s Guide, I suggest you grab one. It’s free, and it discusses editing and proofreading your own work in more detail. It’s not easy when it’s your own writing!
Bravo! You’re ready to publish your blog post. But wait! There’s more.
Did you compose directly on your blog? If you did, I advise against it for three reasons.
- You can lose everything due to a sudden tech glitch. Been there, done that.
- You can hit publish instead of preview by mistake. (I did that just last week though I was only formatting).
- You’ll be able to see your post in a different format if you compose first in a separate app like Word or Pages, which helps to snag additional errors. I always find a few in preview mode.
Don’t forget a photo if you’re using one!
And even after you’ve hit publish, I recommend you proofread one final time. Yep. I catch them there too.
Writing blog posts gets easier over time. But if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to get some solid habits in place.
Start with these 10 steps. Create a PDF version or print it to keep it handy. (Use the buttons below.) You can even use these steps as separate tasks spread out over several days or a week.
And stay tuned for Blog Post in a Box! You can learn more and sign up for additional information and advance notice right here: Blog Post in a Box Coming Soon.
Do you use a plan when you write blog posts? Have a question? Share in the comments below!