So you're short on time. You've got a deadline, and you really need to get your post published. There's no flexibility for perfectionism, this time, there is simply point A, point B, and the chasm between the two.
Allow me to introduce you to the fastest way to put proverbial pen-to-paper and send that blockbuster post down the production line in the shortest time possible.
When I first started blogging, it was like torture. Even when I had a good idea for a blog post, I'd still sit there for hours wondering how best to put it together. Would it get read? Was it good enough?
There would be the inevitable research period of just gathering all the information needed for the post, followed by the cross-checking of every other possible angle of that research. Then the writing began. Sporadically. Stop, start, stop, start. Start again.
I was always trying to find a narrative, but failing to grasp where (if anywhere) the story was actually going.
It wasn't the best system. It wasn't really a system at all. I could burn through hours - if not days - just trying to write that one great post. Often, I never even made it to the end.
Here's what I changed
Once I realised (Thanks RescueTime) how many hours I was burning through in return for very little, I decided to make some changes to my workflow. The result was taking my content production time from 6 hours down to about 60 minutes.
Come up with ideas in advance
The worst thing about blogging is sitting around staring at a blank screen and trying to think of what to write about. You need to know exactly what you're going to write, before you sit down to start writing it. Come up with ideas for blog posts in advance, make a list, and then sit down and write.
Don't waste time wondering. This part should already be done.
Create an outline, every time
Got your idea? Good. Now instead of starting to write a big long meandering post that may or may not arrive at a conclusion, break it down into steps.
Outlines vary based on what kind of post you're writing, but ultimately - this is the one that I come back to again and again:
- Introduction of the thing
- Value of the thing
- The THING
- Case study of the thing
Whatever your outline is: break it into bullet points that go sensibly from a beginning to a middle to an end. Getting these points written down is the catalyst for the rest of your post.
As Belle over at Buffer once said:
Something I’ve learned from experience and from reading advice from other writers is that there comes a point when you need to shake yourself out of research mode and force yourself to start writing. Getting words on the page is that huge push that it takes for a boulder to start moving. As soon as you get that done, you’ve got the momentum to keep going.
I've found that creating an outline is one of the best ways of doing this.
Check off the easy bits
Look at the steps in your outline. Now write 100-200 words for number 1 (introduction), number 5 (conclusion), number 2 (value), then number 4 (case study). Those are the easy parts.
Your introduction should grab people's attention and lure them in.
Your conclusion should summarise the most important things that you want people to take away from your post (if they skip the entire article and only read this paragraph, they should be able to get the gist of it).
Your value explanation should tell people why they should care about what you're about to say. What benefit will it have to their lives if they keep reading?
Your case study should give a concrete example of what you're saying in action. It can be a quote, a story, an experience or anything else that backs up your point and leads nicely into the conclusion.
Done all that? Awesome. You've covered roughly 700 words at this point, which means you're about half done. Try to aim for 1200-1500 words in a post whenever possible. This is the length that generally performs best both for humans as well as search engines.
Fill in the gaps
Now fill in the gaps by writing the actual body of your post. Keep it simple. Say what you want to say clearly and concisely.
Don't try to come up with complex theories or write about things you're not clear on. Stand on the shoulders of giants. The internet is full of incredible content which you can link to, quote, and reference.
Try to give the maximum value to your reader - not be a know-it-all. Sometimes that means sending your audience to other places.
Don't forget to use simple writing tools to keep the quality of your content high as you go along. Guide your reader through the story. Hold their hand. Make them feel warm and fuzzy and happy as they frolic from heading to heading.
Write drunk, edit sober.
– Ernest Hemingway
One of the most liberating ways to speed up your writing is to absolve yourself from the responsibility of editing it.
Get the words down onto "paper" as fast as you can. Allow the content to flow freely. There are going to be some good paragraphs and some bad paragraphs - but ideally - you're going to let someone else decide which those are.
Having an editor (or really, just a friend) to proof-read your content serves two purposes. First: It means you'll be less shy about getting words out, cause you don't have to "fix them all" later. Second, it gives you the point of view of someone else. Is everything clear? Is there an area that needs more detail? What does that mean, exactly? You can learn a tremendous amount from someone who isn't as close to the subject material as you are.
Getting your work checked by someone else is far less about grammar and spelling (really, some app on your computer should be able to handle that) and far more about input on the content itself.
Pull the trigger
Once it's all done - get it out there. That may be in the form of adding it to a publishing schedule, or it may simply be pulling the trigger on the publish button. The most important thing is not to wait. Sitting on content makes it go stale. The longer you wait, the less relevant it becomes.
(and, if you're anything like me, the more likely you are to hate it)
What to do next
Get off the procrastination bandwagon! Writing blog posts can be hard, but it doesn't have to be. It's a case of finding a system that works for you and then sticking to it. For me, writing an outline and then building it out, piece-by-piece, increased my writing speed by about 600%.
Give these steps a try and see how they work for you...
- Consult your list of blog post ideas and choose one indiscriminately.
- Bash out an outline as quickly as possible. Spend no more than 10 minutes on this.
- Fill out each section starting with the easiest bits. This creates writing momentum which will help you finish.
- Phone a friend for review and suggestions for improvement.
- Pull the publish trigger and set your content free.
Stop the clock.
How quickly did you manage to complete all the steps? There's nothing more motivating than working to a timed deadline!
Update: One more really obvious tip for writing faster is to use Markdown. Check out our full Markdown guide for the nitty gritty.
Photo by Alden Jewell