1. You want to write
Obvious, but you must want to write stuff. There are literally millions of blogs out there that consist of an introductory ‘Welcome to my blog/I’m writing this because… /Hello!’ post and nothing else. So you need to think about your motives for writing, of which there are three (and no more):
- Philanthropy: you’re talented, knowledgeable and experienced, and you want to bestow your talent, knowledge and experience upon the world
- Ego: you might be talented, knowledgeable and experienced, but you really want to see your name in lights and have other people acknowledge your (possibly limited) talent, knowledge and experience
- Disatisfaction and annoyance: whether you’re talented, knowledgeable and experienced is largely unimportant; you’re unhappy with the state of something and you want to draw attention to it and change it
Without one of these motives you’re going to find it hard publishing articles. Why not share your exciting links with the world by starting a Tumblog?
2. Think about your subject
Assuming you want to write and topics come freely to you,a bit of thinking and fermentation time is a good thing. Turn your subject over in your mind and refine the arguments. Does what you’re saying make sense? Is it just posturing? Is it worth posting? Should you write about a related subject? What sort of images can you use?
3. Write an outline
A blank page and 500 words is intimidating, so it’s worth breaking your subject down into smaller chunks. I’ve used this technique since secondary school. Not only does it make starting easier, it also helps tighten the underlying logic of your argument and establish some sort of narrative structure.
4. Think of a title
I find it’s worth doing this quite early on in the process. Not right at the start as you’ll probably find your subject changes as you’re planning. Just as writing an outline helps strengthen your writing’s purpose, so does considering an appropriate title.
5. Collect your images
Images can help support the meaning of your post and provide a break from long swathes of text for readers. (Incidentally, you are, I assume, using bullets, headings, short, active sentences and short paragraphs — all set nicely — to make your text easy to read?)
I used to drop ‘abstract’, vaguely related images into my posts, but I think they’re more annoying than anything else. Now my images are purely illustrative.
6. Start drafting, editing and re–reading
Now you’ve planned your post’s structure it’s time to start writing. Normally this is a relatively simple part of the process as your underlying logic is impeccable and your ideas coldly thought through. Don’t be worried about deviating from your outline; your post will continue to take shape as you write it.
I’m pretty ruthless at this stage. Quite often what I thought was a good point will be dropped from the post as it doesn’t really fit in, or it proved to be more rhetorical than substantive. Re–read as you go along and edit as necessary; as a rule, make your sentences active rather than passive. Active sentences are easier to read and they force you to express an idea in the most straightforward way. Passive sentences allow writers to hide behind words and make readers work more. Here’s an example of converting a sentence from the passive to the active voice:
what I thought was a good point will be dropped from the post as it doesn’t really fit in
I often drop what I thought was a good point from the post because it doesn’t really fit in
Of course, getting someone else to read through your blog post will help ensure it makes sense. And a printed article is a lot easier to review than a screen version.
7. Write a summary
Abstracts, summaries and excerpts help readers and writers. If you place a summary above your post it helps readers gain a quick idea of what the article’s about and decide whether it’s of interest to them. After all, you can’t force people to read your stuff.
Blog posts benefit from a final review. Expressing your article in two sentences really makes its purpose and logic watertight, which may mean some re–writing.
8. Publish the damn thing
Don’t be too precious about your article. If you’ve planned and drafted properly it will make some sort of sense. Pressing the publish button will make you re–read your article a little more closely, with your reader’s eyes. You’ll pick up on any typos, misspells or clumsy phrasing.
Remember that this is not the printed word. Articles can (and perhaps should) be edited in the future; mistakes are easy to rectify.
9. Don’t believe a word I say
This advice comes with a hefty disclaimer. My own blog gets around 100 visits a day and has a core of around 10 (really nice) people who comment. It’s not Zeldman.
There are also as many different ways to write as there are writers. Ultimately, you’ll find your own process.