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    How To Write Your Best Post Ever – Part 1: Planning

    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:

    1. Ask a question your readers want an answer to, like in How to Write Better – 7 Instant Fixes.
    2. Intrigue the reader, like in 201 Ways to Arouse Your Creativity.
    3. Make a provocative statement, like in How Fear Helps You to Write Better.
    4. Use an interesting quote, like in Develop Your Narrative Voice by Stealing from Bestselling Authors.
    5. Make a statement that your readers feel exactly describes their situation, like in Be a Successful Author – 3 Book Marketing Strategies that Actually Work.
    6. 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!

     

    See also:

    How to Write Your Best Post Ever – Part 2: Writing

    How to Write Your Best Post Ever – Part 3: Editing

    Image: Plan your post courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

    About the author

      Vinita Zutshi

      Vinita Zutshi is a writer, editor, storyteller and parenting coach.

    • your post has been most helpful! I’ve incorporated your six step plan for the last three post and i see results. Great information!

      • Vinita Zutshi says:

        Tigner, I’m delighted to hear you’re getting results. Well done, and more strength to you!

    • Titles or headlines are key, and I agree that it’s better to write them later, after your post is completed. So many times I try to write my title first, and it ends up getting changed by the end anyway. Excellent tips. I’m looking forward to the series!

      • Vinita says:

        I think we end up changing headlines after completing the post because often, we find that the direction our writing has taken is so different from what we had thought when we put together the title. As a result, either the title ends up being misleading, or irrelevant, or another, more suitable headline is so obvious that we’re compelled to go with the new one.

        I’m glad you found the tips useful!

        I like the topic you’ve chosen for you post: Awhile vs. A while in your post. It’s great to ‘meet’ someone with the discernment to make this distinction. Great post, Amanda!

    • Angela says:

      I have been trying to decide if I want to commit to starting a blog of my own and one of the things holding me back is a fear of not being able to write a proper post. This post is fantastic and will be one I keep around. Thanks so much for easing one of my fears, Vinita!

      • Vinita says:

        Angela, I’m delighted you find the post so helpful. As you’re thinking of beginning a blog of your own, I’d like to share that Mary runs the awesome blogger training program A-List Blogging. You might want to check it out on http://www.a-listblogging.com.

        All the very best!

    • Vinita,

      I’ve been blogging for about 2 years and want to do more “writing.” Your post is the first one I’ve read that I understand, its not too general and not too overwhelmingly specific. Thank you.

      Best,
      Raki

      • Raki, I’m delighted that you enjoyed my post and found it useful. 🙂

    • I teach public speaking, and although I often write and create speeches more linearly, this is the way I teach my students to prepare speeches. Good advice.

      • Dan, I’ve found that as people keep following the process, they hone their planning skills. Over time, it becomes easier for them to plan more linearly.

        Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi there everybody, here every person is
      sharing such knowledge, therefore it’s pleasant to read this website, and I used to go to see this website all the time.

    • I find that most of the time I will have the bulk of posts written in my head before I even start writing (how is that my best ideas *always* come to me on the walk to the train station?!), so I will usually the crux of what I want to say sorted before I sit down. I like this approach though – especially not getting hung up on the introduction and just tackling the middle straight away – and will definitely give it a go next time I’m stuck!

      • Elizabeth says:

        Hey Sophie,

        I had to laugh when you said, “How is that my best ideas *always* come to me on the walk to the train station?!)

        My best ideas also come when I’m doing other things. It’s a great commentary on getting out of your seat and doing something else. When we let our minds free, lots of cool things flow in.

      • Sophie, it’s confession time for me – most of my posts are also ‘written’ in my head – as I drive. 🙂

        But the starting point is always the core, and I build outwards from it. Things fall into place in a surprisingly short time.

        Thanks for sharing!

    • Planning is definitely necessary, but I find that overanalysis before writing often clouds the creative process.

      • I couldn’t agree more, Mike. Paralysis by analysis is something we all need to guard against.

        As the saying goes: “Moderation in all things, including moderation.” 🙂

    • Kelly says:

      Wow! The timing of this is incredible for me too! I’m launching my blog site, Project Me for Busy Mothers, in September and writing the foundation blogs now. I’ve never really had a writing strategy before, just writing and then going back afterwards and making sure it’s super helpful, reads well and has a clear Call to Action at the end. I’m looking forward to trying your strategy! Thank you.

      • All the best with your blog, Kelly. What an intriguing name you’ve picked! I’m already waiting to know more.

        I’m glad the post helped you, and look forward to learning how the strategy worked for you.

        • Kelly says:

          Thanks Vinita! Project Me will help busy mothers put a focus on themselves by helping them problem solve in all areas of their life. It’s all about taking the great ideas you read or hear about and creating an action plan. I will keep you posted for sure 🙂

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Vinita,

      Awesome outline for writing your best post. This is one to stick up on the wall 🙂

      Reading through the steps I couldn’t help but realize there’s a lot of ground to cover when writing just one post, I think that may be intimidating to new bloggers and perhaps why many bloggers don’t succeed, there is a lot of work if you want to develop content that readers find worthwhile. But the good news is that if you follow the steps and stick with it, it does become easier. And before you know it, you’re writing like a pro. Hopefully others will realize that.

      Blessings,
      Elizabeth

      • Thanks for the thumbs up, Elizabeth! 🙂

        It *does* seem like an awful lot of work for just one post – at least, that’s how I used to think when I first started writing.

        But when I began editing, I saw that the starting point of any writing is structure. And without structure, one ends up with a frightening number of rewrites.

        The secret is following the steps – and sticking with it. Which is pretty much the secret to the best *anything*, wouldn’t you say? 🙂

    • Varadh says:

      While reading the article, I just followed the idea, and here I am, with all the six parts to my next post. My idea in the head got translated to the parts of the post. Now thinking : do I wait? Your post says Part 1: Planning. What next?

      • Vinita says:

        It’s great to know that you were able to apply the tips on planning your post, Varadh. Part 2 is Writing.

    • Ansie says:

      As I was sitting here, procrastinating about how to start my next post, I clicked through to my reader and your’s where the first post I read. Heaven sent. Thank you.

      • Vinita says:

        Good luck with your post, Ansie, and thank you for sharing.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Mary, It was so timely article to me as it looks I am so busy at this world. I hope having implemented that so logical structure with the examples as you presented so diligently will help me to do a right job. I also subscribed your free guide and if you do not mind I”ll be in touch letting you know how I am doing with my writing.

      • Vinita says:

        Michael, I’m glad you found the article helpful. And I’m sure you’ll enjoy “The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing”.

        As for your being in touch with us, both Mary and I love to hear from our readers, so you’re welcome to write as often as you’d like!

    • This is a really useful post. Writers so often get hung up on the introduction and have a hard time getting past it to write the rest of the article. Putting it later in the process so you can concentrate on the core information seems counterintuitive at first but it does work. Jessica in the previous comment makes a good point about metaphor too, because most posts are more effective with an image, and a well-chosen image can act as a metaphor for the theme of the post and help to express that core idea too.

      • Vinita says:

        I agree with you, CJ. So often in the past, I’d dash off what I thought was a great introduction, except that there was nothing after the introduction! 🙂

        Thanks for taking the time to share.

        By the way, I’m green with envy at your wonderful graphics. Not to be at the mercy of an illustrator or graphic designer – what bliss!

    • I’m so glad you put Plan the Middle before Plan the Introduction. I too have found that’s the best order to plan posts. If you know what your core theme and main points are then you’ll be able to tailor your introduction to suit.

      I would add in a step for Consider Using a Metaphor. Sometimes you can use an example to symbolise the subject you’re talking about or to lead into your subject. For example the recent Write to Done post on Creating a Style of Your Own started by talking about Picasso and Sting.

      Having some kind of example to illustrate your topic helps later on when it comes to choosing the image you’ll use. In the post mentioned above, the picture used was of a boy painting which makes sense because the introduction mentions Picasso.

      I think you’ve put together an excellent list! 🙂

      • Vinita says:

        Jessica, using a metaphor is a wonderful suggestion! I really like how you’ve tied it in with both the post and choosing an image for the post. I’m a huge fan of examples and anecdotes because I feel they are effective ways of getting a point across.

        I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for sharing!

    • This is great advice and I’m going to follow it for my next article. I usually just start writing and then do a few re-writes until I’m happy. I think re-writes are still important but hopefully this will get me there quicker.

      • Vinita says:

        Most of us start the same way, Matt – we just start writing and do the re-writes until I’m happy. It wasn’t until I began editing that I looked at writing differently, and began to feel that planning before writing makes all the difference.

        I’d really like to hear about your experience with using the tips in the post!

    • RD Meyer says:

      The “part one” of this made me think of the “best” post I ever did – a three parter about the indie movement.

      • Vinita says:

        🙂

    • Angela says:

      This is excellent advice, and a clear and well-written post, to boot! Your timing couldn’t be better, either, as I’ve been wrassling with a bear of a post concept, and couldn’t get a decent handholding on it–until now.
      The *only*bit I would add relates to some mechanical pieces. For example, leaving place holders for quotes and URLs while drafting and framing the post.
      Many thanks for your work.
      Angela

      • Vinita says:

        Angela, I’m so glad you found the post helpful.

        And thanks for your wonderful suggestion that this is the time to add place holders for things we plan to add to the post!

    • In the midst of chaos and turmoil I had been wondering what my BEST post was and if in fact I had one so was amazed this came so timeously. I have so little time with medical appointments etc. these days BUT will set aside time as this looks very important. The long box with the Tweets, Google + etc. won’t budge and is situated right in middle of this comment box. This happens every time I come in so I just thought I’d mention it.

      • Vinita says:

        Anna, I’m glad you felt the post came at a good time for you. Good luck with your health issues, and I’ll get back to you about the sharing bar being right in the middle of your comment box.


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