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My 8 Step Method for Writing a Blog Post

How do you put together a blog post? I had no clue how to answer that question when I first started blogging. I just started writing without much thought to methodology. After several frustrating months, I realized the need to come up with a procedure for writing a blog post.

I needed to be able to see an idea through from inception to publish date. So today I’m going to outline the process I developed for writing a blog post that has helped me avoid some frustration along the way.

8 Steps to Writing a Blog Post

From start to finish this is what I do:

Step 1: The Listing of Ideas

All blog posts start with an idea. Funny thing is that they often come at the strangest of times. I’ve had great ideas hit me in the shower, while jogging, in the middle of teaching my students and even while listening to the preacher at church.

Whenever the idea comes, I find a way to write it down (or at least remember it until I can). Most of the time I simply use a notepad app in my smartphone. Then I transfer that idea to a Word document on my computer. It’s in that file that I keep my running list of ideas.

Step 2: Schedule the Idea on a Calendar

writing a blog postAs I work through my list of ideas, I schedule them on a monthly calendar, usually two weeks in advance. Obviously this helps keep me organized. But I’ve found this to be extremely valuable for another reason – it lets the idea begin to percolate and take shape in my head.

As I anticipate writing a blog post, new thoughts about the topic begin to emerge. When that happens, I go back to my Word document and make further notations about the main idea.

Step 3: Construct an Outline

Before I begin writing a blog post, I construct an outline of my thoughts. I didn’t do this when I first started and suffered for it. I would often find myself getting stuck in the middle of writing an article not really knowing where to go next. Forming an outline helps keep my focus and allows my thoughts to progress coherently through the entire article.

In essence, an outline stops me from rambling on and straying from my original point.

Step 4: Focus on the Title

The title is critical in getting people to read your post. Most readers decide within seconds of reading your title whether or not they are going to give your first paragraphs a look. Since that’s so, it’s imperative to spend some time on this step and get some help doing it in order to make the title a good one.

There are varying perspectives on this but I think of my post title before I begin to write. Again, I’ve found this helps keep my writing focused. However, don’t feel as though you have to be stuck on your original title. It can easily be changed as your post begins to take shape.

A word of caution on post titles is needed here…don’t trick your readers with a provocative title just to get them to your site.  There is nothing wrong with a catchy or seductive title but you had better be able to back up the reasoning for that title with your content. Don’t have a title that says “Why I Think Budgets Suck” then have an opening line that reads “Well, I really don’t believe that” and then talk about why budgets are awesome.

(This sounds silly that someone would do this but I see it often. It’s a big turnoff because what you’ve really done is waste my time. I end up feeling duped for clicking through to your article because I thought you had something intriguing to say or were offering a contrarian viewpoint.)

Step 5: Write an Attention Grabbing Opening Paragraph

Finally it’s time to write. The title has attracted the reader’s attention – now don’t bore them to death with sloppy, boring opening paragraphs.

The opening paragraphs consist of everything you write before the post break (the link readers click on the home page that opens the entire post in a different page).  These paragraphs should include and begin to develop the main idea readers will get from the post. You’ll frustrate readers if you wait until the middle of the post to unveil the main point.

In the opening paragraphs I attempt to build a sense of anticipation. You want the reader to be excited or have their curiosity sparked enough that they click through to read the rest of the post. They won’t do that if the opening paragraphs don’t catch their attention.

Step 6: Paragraph Writing

The most important thing I try to do here when writing a blog post is keep my paragraphs relevant and engaging. Many readers just scan paragraphs, looking only for the main headlines or bullet points that interest them. Knowing that, it’s easy as a writer to neglect the quality of the main body writing. “After all,” you may say, “if the readers are not going to really read it, why work so hard at it, right?”

Wrong. It’s in the paragraphs that you develop your skills as a writer and continue to create great content. And every blogger knows great writing and great content will keep readers coming back to your blog.

As I write my paragraphs here are some things I keep in mind:

1. Every paragraph should contain one main thought. Lumping multiple points into a paragraph creates too much work for the reader as they try to process where you are headed.

2. Each sentence should build on the one previous to it. Think of a paragraph as a chain of thought with one sentence seamlessly leading to the next.

3. Don’t have any throw away sentences. They all matter and should serve a purpose. If a sentence doesn’t move the post forward, remove it.

4. My paragraphs consist of 3-5 sentences. Any more and the reader gets lost in the length of the paragraph.

Step 7: Proofread and Edit

Ever read a post that was so grammatically incorrect you couldn’t get through it? I’ve quit following some blogs because of the continued use of improper grammar, syntax or punctuation. That’s why this step is so important.

However, this step is more than just about correcting spelling errors or rewording sentences. I often have new ideas that come to mind either for the current post I’m working on or that I could develop into a new post at some point in the future.

For example, as I began to proofread and edit this post I thought to include the point in Step 4 about trick titles. I also had neglected to include this very Step 7. When I did my outline for the post, I forgot to write it in there. It didn’t come back to me until I started proofreading.

Step 8: Ask an Ending Question

Interacting with readers and hearing their thoughts is one of the things I enjoy most about blogging. One of the best ways to engage readers and get them moving to the comment section is to ask a question at the end of the post.

But it can’t be any old question like “How did you like my post?” Ask thought provoking questions. Ask readers if they agree with your position. Ask for their experiences (readers love sharing those). Ask if they have any further thoughts that might expand on your main point.

A post that abruptly ends with no questions leaves me staggering at times trying to figure out what to say in the comments. Many times I just leave the page without commenting if I can’t think of anything quickly.

What’s Your Process for Writing a Blog Post?

Those are the eight steps I routinely progress through as I bring an idea through to completion. I would encourage you to develop your own method to streamline your writing process.

In the end, it will reduce the amount of time you spend writing a blog post and enhance the quality of your content – which readers will love you for.

Questions: What steps do you take when writing a blog post? Do you schedule your posts in advance by using some form of a blog calendar? Do you write an outline? What’s the most frustrating part of bringing an idea to a completed product?

Image at Freedigitalphotos.net

Next Post: Is the Debt Snowball the Best Method to Pay Off Debt?

Prior Post: An Open Hand: The Most Powerful Money Visual Ever

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Here are some recent blog carnivals and weekly roundups that Luke1428 posts were mentioned in:

Be Intentional: How to Develop a Giving Plan at The Wealth Gospel , The Heavy Purse, The Yakezie Carnival at Fat Guy Skinny Wallet, The Financial Carnival For Young Adults at Fitnancials, the Carnival for Financial Planning at Kids Ain’t Cheap and the Carnival of MoneyPros at Bite the Bullet Investing

Revisiting Why I’m Here at the 200th Post: The Luke1428 Value Proposition and My A – Z List of Blog Related Things I’m Thankful For in the How to Blog Carnival at Bloggers Classified

Thank you to these blogs for including my posts!

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Comments

  1. MoneySmartGuides says:

    Great post Brian! I have the most trouble with the title. I want to come up with something that catches people’s eyes, but have a hard time doing that. I tend to give my posts a title that just explains the post – without any hype.

    • Honestly…I have a love/hate relationship with titles. I like how catchy titles sound…even to the point that they don’t obviously describe what the post is about. I like to peak readers curiosity with the title but I’m finding that method often doesn’t draw the readers. The majority of my posts that have the most mundane titles (ironically, like this one) draw the most views. That may have something to do with Google search patterns as well, IDK.

  2. Thank you for sharing your style. i probably use half of those and so reading this article was a learning experience for me.I have a big room for improvement.

    • You’re welcome…glad you found it useful. It takes some time to find your writing style – or what some people call “your voice.” The more you write, the easier it will be to figure it out.

  3. Niekka McDonald says:

    These are great tips! I need to do an outline like you mentioned. I think that would help my process a lot. If I get an idea or some thoughts pop into my head I will put them down in my notepad app as well. I will also write a draft in Word but for some reason when I copy and paste it into wordpress it stops my RSS feed from picking it up. I also make sure I edit and proof read a lot of times lol. I am the only one I have to look at my work so I will proof it and step away for a little bit then come back and proof it again.

    • I proofread a lot also Niekka…am a bit obsessive with it. I just don’t want to publish something with mistakes (although I have on occasion). That RSS feed issue is interesting. I’ve never had that problem.

  4. Thanks for sharing your eight steps, Brian. I already use most of them. Of course I can always use improvement. The one thing I haven’t done is create an outline prior to writing a post. I do use outlines quite extensively for work reports, though. I don’t know why I haven’t used them for blog posts. I may hopefully improve my posts by just making use of this one tip.

    As an aside, I often write my posts directly in the WordPress editor, but I have to be careful not to click the “publish” button while working on a draft. Some of my posts go through 10 or 20 revisions before I publish them. I found it wise to set the publish date to some time far in the future, which changes the “publish” button to a “schedule” button. Then there is no way to end up with a post accidentally published ahead of time. I know this is not relevant to your tips, but I thought I’d share one of my WordPress tips.

    • You bet Bryce! I like doing my initial drafts in Word so I can always have a file of my posts saved on my computer. But I’m like you…I’ve also almost hit that “Publish” button by accident. It’s easy to do late at night or early in the morning when I’m not all there.

  5. I use windows live writer which is pretty neat to write blog posts offline then upload them straight to WP. I have a few drafts there with just the title and then in WP I have a calendar plugin to move posts around.

  6. Green Money Stream says:

    These are all great tips. I find myself always having pen and paper handy (I’m kind of old school that way, I guess) so I can jot down ideas. I like the idea of having an outline, that would help with remaining focused and touching on all the important points. I’m still very much a work in progress!

    • It took me quite awhile before I was comfortable with my writing style. You just have to stay with it and continue to try to improve on every post. I don’t ever want to do a throw-away post that I don’t give 100% effort towards. Might as well skip a day and not publish one instead of publishing junk.

  7. I find that it is helpful to write drafts and then let them sit for a day and come back with fresh eyes to reread before posting. I also keep a list of story ideas on my phone. Never know when you are going to come up with a great idea!

  8. I find it easiest to come up with a title first. Sometimes I have to tweak it but I like having the main ”starting point”. People don’t realize how much work goes into blog writing! Great post Brian.

  9. Great tips! I follow many of these already.

    I’ll add a few tips I use:

    I jot down notes wherever and try to keep them sort of organized in a spreadsheet. Or I’ll start a stub of a post in wordpress, even if it’s just an outline. I can always flesh out the outline more in the future. Maybe even weeks later.

    While I’m out walking I have time to think. I’ll dictate my thoughts into an email on my phone and send it to myself to keep track of my thoughts.

    I also let posts simmer for a couple days after I write them. Even letting the post sit overnight helps get a little distance from what you write. I tend to fall in love with what I write (what a narcissist!). Taking a break for a while gives you some more objectivity when you re-read and edit your work.

    • “…let posts simmer…” I like how you put that Justin. That can be a very useful part of the proofreading and editing process. I often let my posts sit overnight and review them before publishing. It’s amazing how a fresh mind on a good nights sleep can enhance a post with new ideas and wording.

  10. Six Figures Under says:

    I need to start some sort of calendar (besides my brain). I always have a handful of drafts on hand to polish up. I don’t have a smartphone, but I tablet (you know those old things that require a pencil or pen) with me where I always write ideas down when I’m not at the computer.

    • I found the calendar useful. Another purpose of the calendar is to get a quick glance at what you’ve done in the past. Helps you see if there are any patterns to what you write about and when (like specialty posts at certain times of the year).

  11. Fit is the New Poor says:

    I write notes via my iphone to myself whenever I think of a good blog post. And then I set up calendar reminders to write them with pretty detailed instructions on what I thought of. I do need to get better at scheduling in advance though.

  12. I have a calendar, but I always seem to be changing my mind or not liking a post after it’s done. I think I do many of these steps now, but I rarely write down ideas because they usually pop into my head while driving. Now, when I do paid health writing, there is a very strict format they require. I guess I should carry that along to my personal stuff.

    • Yes…please don’t write down your ideas while driving. 🙂 Do you find the health writing format restricting or helpful? What type of things do they require?

      • It kind of depends on the topic. You start with a title. You have to have an introduction of 50-75 words and 3 sections of 75 words each. If you go over or under a bit, it’s okay, but you can’t combine sections. Everything has to be very related to the title, even if the title doesn’t make the most sense. I guess from an SEO perspective, it’s great, but there is lots that doesn’t get said in a 400 word post about diabetic eye disease.

        • Those are some strict conditions. I can see how this would be tough to work with. I guess you would have to be extremely focused and not meander at all with your writing.

  13. This is a great description of a blog writing process. Honestly I essentially follow the same method, almost exactly the same process as you.

  14. Great post! I have a long list of article ideas on my phone. I have well over 100 ideas, and I even have them separated according to which blog I want them posted on. It makes everything so much easier because I don’t have to spend time sitting there wondering what I should write about.

    • I separate my ideas by category – items that fit into debt, spending, budgeting, investing, blogging, faith, etc. I should have mentioned that in my listing of ideas step.

  15. I’m glad I’m not the only one who looks back at their earlier posts and groans. 🙂 I haven’t utilized an editorial calendar, although I can definitely see the benefits of doing so. Like you, I get my best ideas when I’m doing something else, like running or working out. They never seem to pop when I’m sitting at my desk and staring at the computer screen! I need to still work on creating more eye-catching titles (although it’s a pet peeve of mine too when the title doesn’t accurately reflect the real post) and asking questions at the end of the post. Sometimes I do it but not always. And I do agree that they can make commenting easier.

    • I groan at my earlier posts but it also makes me feel good to see how far I’ve come. Like anything else, the more you practice at it the better you get.

  16. Great breakdown Brian! I look back at some of my early posts and just shudder. I’ve actually started going back and cleaning some of them up to make them more reader friendly. I do a lot of these same things personally as they help me mold what I want to be writing about and making sure I’m not covering the same topic three times in one week or something like that. I’m a big believer in an editorial calendar and am a bit neurotic at planning it out as I’m usually several months out on it. The thing I like about it is that it gives me flexibility. If I have a random idea come to my mind then I can just push back the scheduled post I had to another day.

    • I’ve been cleaning some of my earlier stuff up as well. Even changed a few titles to better reflect what the post was about. I push back my calendar also if spur of the moment stuff comes up to write about. It’s great to have a calendar but you have to be flexible also.

  17. Alexa Mason says:

    I usually come up with me best ideas when I’m laying in bed at night. Makes it hard to sleep when I can’t stop thinking!! It took some time for me to build up a process but I pretty much stick to the same format each time.

    Another thing I do is if I can’t think of a good intro I just start writing the middle part of the post. It’s amazing when you get the meat of the article out there how simple it is to go back and write a decent opening and closing.

    • Writing in the middle first – that’s a good suggestion Alexa. That’s like working backwards but I can see how that might work if you get stuck. I’ll have to give that a try sometime. Writing the beginning is usually the toughest part for me because I try to make that really good.

  18. I always get ideas at the most random times too, especially when running, where it’s the hardest to write down ideas. lol! I usually don’t do an editorial calendar, but I did this month because its so busy. When it comes to writing I just start writing and see where it goes. Usually I write quick, but proofreading is where it takes me FOREVER! And I STILL miss stuff from time to time. My brain just goes a million miles per hour I think and I miss stuff. I do try to ask a question at the end though. That’s pretty much my process. It’s cool to see how other people do it.

  19. Good methodology Brian! For all of the years that I have been blogging, I have never had a specific methodology. I have always written down my ideas as they come to me, but I don’t put anything on a calendar. The reason for this is because I have to be in the mood to write certain posts. When I am in the mood to write a specific post, I go into my ideas and just pick one. I can crank out the post and move on to something else. It just works for me this way!

    • “…I have to be in the mood to write certain posts.” I get that way sometimes as well Grayson. When that happens, I just bump something on my calendar to another date so I can write about what I’m dwelling on.

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