Blogging 101: Getting Past The Blank Page
In this series of posts, we’ll explore the blogging process, from blank page to promotion, and everything in between. This is not a series about the mechanics of setting up a blog. If you’re in need of that level of information, there’s lots of resources available for that. This is about the process of being a blogger.
So, what should you write about? Figuring that out can often be the most difficult task. There are several strategies to help you get started.
- Editorial calendar. Whether an editorial calendar is the right tool for you largely depends on what type of blog you have. For example, one of my websites is a political blog. I quickly realized, especially in the current climate, that an editorial calendar simply doesn’t work. Events move too quickly to do any meaningful planning in advance. But an editorial calendar can be useful if you want to publish posts that coincide with certain events, such as holidays, fun “recognition” days like National Puppy Day or in conjunction with popular events such as March Madness. It can also be extremely useful for managing product launches or promoting your own events.
- Steal ideas from anywhere and everywhere. The easiest way I have found to keep all my post ideas in one place is to utilize the WordPress draft post feature. Sometimes all I do is save a topic or a title that comes to mind. Then, when I’m ready to write, I at least have an idea of what to write about, instead of having to spend time trying to come up with something.
- Brainstorm. This is particularly effective if you work with a team. Use a white board to mind map ideas. Or look for a mind mapping app to help you streamline the process. Of course, the old-fashioned technique of list-making is also an effective way of brainstorming.
The processIn terms of the writing process, this is largely a matter of preference and/or post topic. Some posts lend themselves well to a formal outline. You may want to use an inverted pyramid style of writing, particularly if you are writing a “newsy” type of post. Some writers find pre-writing to be useful. This technique is similar to brainstorming topic ideas except you brainstorm ideas related to a specific topic.
If you tend to be a stream-of-consciousness type writer, this can be an effective technique as part of the pre-writing process, but for readability, I urge you to develop some headings/subheadings and make an attempt to organize your post before you publish. Make sure it’s clear in your first paragraph what your post is about. Your reader should not have to plow through several paragraphs to understand your topic.
Keep in mind that many readers like to skim articles, looking for the points most relevant to their interests. For this reason, listicles are very popular, but every post doesn’t need to be a listicle. You can help draw the reader’s eye to particular points with subheadings and bolding of certain words.
Before you hit “Publish”
Pay attention to those red lines that show up as you write and check your spelling. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Double check your word usage. Nothing destroys your credibility faster than using a word that doesn’t mean what you think it means.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. (Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride)
More than words
The blank page can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. Similar to public speaking, if you know your stuff and you come prepared, your blank page will soon turn into several hundred words. When all else fails, just start writing. You may discover you are more inspired than you realize.