Writing a blog post. Writing a book. Who knew that the creative process for both would be so similar? I didn’t, at least until I began to write the story that’s been in my head for ever.
Of course, there’s a massive difference between writing books and blogs in terms of length, time and sheer effort, but I’ve discovered that many of the practical requirements are exactly the same:
Who are you writing for?
This is a key question because, just as there is no point in writing for children in the same way you would write for adults, there is absolutely no point in using specialist jargon in a blog intended for a general readership. Your audience will simply switch off.
So figure out who you are trying to target, and write accordingly.
What are you going to write about?
You have to write about something, and it needs to be engaging. So read a lot. Listen to the news. Listen to conversations. And keep a note of any little lightbulb thoughts that you may have: if you find them interesting, chances are that someone else will as well.
Do you know what you are talking about?
Okay, so you might not be an expert in the subject you are writing about, but there is absolutely no excuse for getting your facts wrong. It’s called research.
So take your idea and build up some background. Look online. Interview people. Generate a pile of facts, statistics and opinions and you’ll find that you are well on your way to fleshing out your blog.
What’s the story?
Just as a book needs to tell a story so, surprisingly, does a good blog. In technical terms, it’s called a story arc. It requires a gripping introduction, an explanatory middle, and a tight, memorable conclusion – all wrapped up in an overarching theme or question. Easy, huh? Not exactly. But used properly a story arc can make even a mundane subject seem cool. A good example is this recent blog from travel search site Skyscanner about, of all things, its meeting rooms!
There comes a point when it’s time to stop thinking and start doing instead. So get on with it. Start writing. And don’t expect perfection, at least not in a first draft. Remind yourself that it is much easier to edit something that has already been written, so just keep going. You can sort out the problems later.
Slash and burn
Once you’ve finished your first draft, take your red pen to it. Ask yourself whether your blog makes sense. Does it repeat itself? Or drag in places? Make sure that the spelling and grammar are correct and that the tone and style are the same throughout and don’t be afraid of being too harsh. Your readers will thank you for it.
Polish until it shines
If you can, put your work to one side so that you can read it through with fresh eyes later on. You’ll see things you didn’t spot before and even tiny tweaks can improve your blog immensely.
And then publish
When you know, beyond all doubt, that your piece is as good as it is ever going to be, then you are ready to publish. And it’s at this point that the comparison between writing books and blogs falls down.
With blogs, publishing is a straightforward matter of posting on the appropriate website. With books, there are a few more hoops to go through. An agent is required, and that’s before the even more challenging feat of finding a publisher.
But I have the answer: it’s written above. Slash and burn, then polish. And polish some more.
So I’m off to find another red pen.