Do you want to write your best post ever?
After years of reading, writing and editing (one of the hats I wear most proudly is that of Guest Post Editor at WTD), I think writing the best post ever is about getting three things right:
The first is planning.
The second is writing.
The third is checking.
Let’s dive in.
Part 1: Planning
Planning is about deciding what you want to say in your post.
Whether you blog to amuse, inform, entertain or share your thoughts, you want your readers to understand what you’re saying.
The thing is: if you were actually saying it, it would be much easier. Because your readers would have so many other cues to understand what you say:
- the tone, pitch and volume of your speech, and changes in these
- the changes in how fast or how slowly you say certain words or phrases
- the emotions that come through
But when you’re writing something, your readers don’t get the benefit of these cues. There’s not much point dashing off a well-written post when it doesn’t say anything meaningful.
Worse still, your well-written post might confuse your readers.
That is why it’s essential to plan before writing.
Why Planning is like an Onion
A good plan is like an onion.
First, there is the essence, the core message, which is like the innermost kernel of the onion.
Next you plan the details of the core message – how to do it, how many, how often, which way, what to do / not do. These are the layers that grow next to the innermost kernel.
Thirdly, you plan the introduction. You must plan a good opening as part of your introduction.
Then it’s time to plan the conclusion.
Last of all, you plan the title. Think of the title as the lovely onion skin you put on your post – the skin that says to the reader (buyer): “Pick me!”
Follow These Six Steps
A good plan has things written down in steps so we can follow the steps to reach our goal: to write the best post ever. The plan also helps keep us on track so we don’t lose the thread of what we want to say.
Grab a pen and paper, or have your computer primed for when you begin planning your best post ever.
Step 1: Start at the heart of the matter.
The first thing to plan is: what your post will be about? What is the one, all-important message you want to convey to your reader?
Try and write it out in one sentence.
For instance, you might want to write a post about what people should do to have a healthy life. But there is a long list of things that people need to do (and not do!) to be healthy.
You might want to make it easy for them by shortening this list to just 5 things they need to do. 5 things is simple, 5 things sounds doable, and with just 5 things, it’s likely people will read your post and give your ideas a try.
You decide the core message of your post: by doing just these 5 things, people can lead a healthy life.
Step 2: Plan the middle.
The middle of your post is what you want to say in your message.
This is the time to explain your message. Talk about it a bit. Build your heart-of-the-matter one sentence into a paragraph. Or two. Or three.
In our example, the middle is the 5 things that people could do to be healthy.
Which 5 things will you choose? You have many options: exercise, nutrition, sleep, work, meditation, relationships, medication, relaxation and so on.
Let’s say you decide on these 5: Nutrition, exercise, sleep, work, relaxation.
Write one sentence each for them. You might come up with something like this:
- Nutrition: food and water.
- Exercise: workouts, sports, adding physical activity to the day.
- Sleep: quantity and quality.
- Work: something that makes a person put in effort and gives them a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.
- Relaxation: something that gives a person joy; something they find fulfilling.
You have now planned the middle of your post.
Step 3: Plan the introduction.
You’re reading this right!
First you plan the middle. Then you plan the introduction.
It sounds back-to-front, but if you plan this way, when you get down to writing the post, you will have no trouble (and neither will your readers) with the flow of the post. Each thought will lead seamlessly to the next one, making it a smooth read that requires minimal effort from your readers.
You know the essence, the core of your post.
When you plan the introduction to your post, ask the question: Why is my core message important for my readers?
Your introduction has to give your readers a reason to care enough to read on to the middle of your post.
To continue with our example, you need to think about why readers would want to know about 5 things they could do to be healthy.
A few minutes’ thought will give you several reasons why they would care to know this information.
- Health is important – without it, it is impossible to be happy, enjoy relationships, do meaningful work and so on.
- Today, serious diseases are striking silently. They are doing so earlier than ever before. 30-year-olds are getting fatal heart attacks. Teenagers are suffering from obesity, adult diabetes etc.
- There is too much information about how to be healthy. A lot of it is complicated and confusing. Some of it is contradictory. It is difficult to keep track of so many things while managing the rest of one’s life.
You might come up with more reasons. List them all in your plan for the introduction.
Step 4: Plan the opening.
The opening sentence of your post is like clearing your throat in a crowded gathering to get people’s attention.
- It has to be powerful enough to make people stop their conversations and pay attention to you, and
- What you say has to be compelling enough to make people want to hear more.
The opening sentence of your best post ever also needs to do these 2 things: you need to grab people’s attention and make them want to read on.
There are many ways to do this. Some of them are listed below:
- Ask a question your readers want an answer to, like in How to Write Better – 7 Instant Fixes.
- Intrigue the reader, like in 201 Ways to Arouse Your Creativity.
- Make a provocative statement, like in How Fear Helps You to Write Better.
- Use an interesting quote, like in Develop Your Narrative Voice by Stealing from Bestselling Authors.
- Make a statement that your readers feel exactly describes their situation, like in Be a Successful Author – 3 Book Marketing Strategies that Actually Work.
- Have a surprise twist, like in How to Win More Readers with a Powerful Close.
For our post, let’s say you want the opening sentence to be provocative. Something like: leading a healthy life takes so much time and energy, that I simply can’t afford it.
Note that this is not the opening sentence itself, but the plan for an opening sentence.
Step 5: Plan the Conclusion.
The place that your post stops is its end, so every post will have an end.
But if you want to write the best post ever, what you need is a conclusion. A good conclusion leaves the reader with a feeling of satisfaction. Just like when you’ve been told a good joke and you have a hearty laugh. You’ve laughed as much as you wanted to, and no more.
A wonderful way to plan the conclusion is to look at the core message of your post and ask the question: So what?
Write your answer to this question in one sentence or in a few points. You have now planned your conclusion.
To continue our example: Doing only 5 things can help people be healthy. So what?
Answer: So being healthy, which was difficult earlier, is now a practical option for many people.
Step 6: Plan the title.
You have planned your entire post. All you need to plan now is the title.
Unless you are struck by a particular phrase or title, simply jot down words that seem to encompass the core message of your post.
The example gives us: 5 ways, healthy, easy, practical.
By following these six steps in order, you will have a plan for your best post ever. In fact, if you’ve put in all the work, you’re already one-third of the way there.
Of course you still need to write the post and to check it, but that comes later. Right now, it’s time to celebrate your accomplishment!
How do you plan your posts? Which of the steps do you find the easiest? Which is the most challenging, and how do you tackle that challenge? Does it seem like too much work to plan your posts? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!
Image: Plan your post courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com