What makes a post the best post ever?
I believe writing the best post ever is about getting three things right: Planning, Writing, and Checking.
In the first post of this series, we looked at how to plan your posts.
Today, let’s write the post you planned. Remember, planning is about deciding what you want to say in your post.
Part 2: Writing
To write your best post ever, you need to think of who you are writing for.
There is good writing and bad writing. But sometimes, writing is neither good nor bad. It is just ‘wrong writing’ – it is wrong for the audience reading it.
The core message of the post you planned in Part 1 was: by taking care of just 5 things (nutrition, exercise, sleep, work and relaxation), people can lead a healthy life.
If you think about it for a minute, you can write so many different posts with the plan you created:
- 1 for teenagers
- 1 for busy professionals over 40
- 1 for retirees
- 1 for mothers of newborn babies
- 1 for diabetics
- 1 for fitness enthusiasts
And so on.
Focus on: What Will Make Your Audience Care?
You could cry yourself hoarse saying that just taking care of nutrition, exercise, sleep, work and relaxation will help your readers to lead a healthy life, but would that make them believe you?
You need to show your readers how doing these 5 things will help them be healthy. You need to emphasize how they will benefit by following your suggestions.
- Will it keep their weight down, reduce acne, and help them grow taller / stronger? Teenagers would respond well to this.
- Will it give them more energy, make them more productive, and help reduce the niggling aches and pains they get from stress? Busy professionals will grasp this gratefully.
- Will it help them delay the onset of dementia, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and so on? Retirees want to read this.
- Will it regulate their wildly fluctuating hormones and help them feel more in control of every area of their lives? Moms of newborns are desperate for this information.
- Will it help them to live a full, productive life as they manage their disease? That’s what diabetics are looking for.
- Will this reduce injuries from over-exercising and prevent nutritional deficiencies which will impact overall health and fitness? Fitness enthusiasts can suffer from a blind spot. Because they work out and eat healthy, they may not realize the importance of adequate sleep, doing enjoyable work or relaxing enough.
As you can see, the word ‘healthy’ means different things to different people. Your audience’s definition of ‘healthy’ depends upon its interests and the peculiar challenges it faces. That is why the first thing you need to know before you begin writing is: who is your audience.
You need to know your readers’ specific interests and the particular problems they face. People care about their problems. They care enough to look for solutions to their problems.
If your post can offer your readers the solutions and benefits that they are looking for, you will be able to make your audience care about what you are saying in your post.
Only when you give your audience a reason to care will they reward you by reading your post.
How Your Audience Affects Your Writing
As you begin to write the post you planned, consider who you are writing for. This will decide:
1. Your language – will you use jargon, technical language? Will you use slang? Will you use some words and avoid others?
If you’re writing for fitness enthusiasts, you would use the term BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) with at most a passing reference to what it means; your audience are fitness enthusiasts, and BMR is one of the most basic ways to measure fitness, so this is a term you would expect them to know. This post will be peppered with the jargon of fitness.
If you’re writing for teenagers, on the other hand, you might need to explain the term thoroughly, since they would probably not be familiar with it. Here, you’d definitely want to use words like ‘hip’, ‘cool’ and so on.
2. Your sentences – will they be long and complicated, or short and simple? Or will they fall somewhere in between?
Professionals are most likely to keep reading when your sentences are relatively long. They are used to ‘long and complicated’. But they might not want to read long and complicated writing outside of their area of expertise!
The mother of a newborn has little time. She is more likely to read your post if you keep it short and snappy.
3. Your tone – will you be snarky, cool, professional, caring, calm, zany? Will you have an attitude? Will you be correct and formal?
Snarky and zany are not likely to work with retirees. Instead, they will respond to caring, calm and professional. Retirees have as great a sense of fun as any other group, but fun alone will not cut it with them if you’re trying to get across the message that just by doing these 5 things, they can enjoy good health.
Professional is good for diabetics too. They need to feel that you know what you are talking about for them to read your post (and, hopefully, follow your suggestions).
4. The examples and metaphors you use – different audiences will respond differently to the same example.
Suppose you were to write:
“If you’re getting enough exercise, eating right, sleeping enough, and enjoying your work, that’s great, but there’s one more thing that you need to do to be truly healthy.
You need to relax. It is relaxation – doing things you enjoy and doing them without any stress – that refreshes you. It gives you the downtime you need to live the rest of your life enthusiastically.
Relaxation may be a head massage, a funny movie, a roller-coaster ride, checking out Facebook, hanging out at the mall, or anything you want it to be.”
Uh-oh! This example just ruined it all.
The first two paragraphs show clearly that this post is not meant for teenagers. And of all the audiences listed above, only teenagers and retirees are likely to consider hanging out at the mall a form of relaxation.
But even if this post is meant for retirees, the example fails. Not too many retirees would consider a roller-coaster ride to be a form of relaxation.
So give examples, share anecdotes and tell stories. But only if they are relevant to your audience.
As you vary your language, your sentences, your tone and the examples you use, you will come up with a new post for each of the above groups of people, and for many others as well.
Writing your best post ever is about writing for your audience.
Follow These Seven Steps
Step 1: Re-organize your plan and read it.
You did a great job planning your post!
Now put everything in the correct order:
(Leave the Title aside for the moment.)
Read through your organized plan a couple of times. This will get you in tune with the flow of your post, and will help you focus on what you want to say.
Now you’re ready to write.
Step 2: Write the opening, introduction, middle, conclusion – in that order.
Keeping in mind your audience and what will make them care, write your opening and introduction.
Normally, there is a pause in your writing because you don’t know what to write next. But you have planned your post, so you know exactly what comes next.
So write in full flow.
- Don’t worry about grammatical errors, incorrect sentence construction or anything to do with the quality of your writing.
- If you’re writing but begin to wonder if your information is correct, put that thought in brackets. For example: “Research (quote source) reveals that after age 30, for every week in which you’ve exercised less than 3 hours, you shorten your lifespan by 25 minutes (check – is this for every week / is it 25 mins?).”
- If a metaphor or story comes to mind as you write, write it in.
- If you haven’t come up with a specific example but feel the need for one, just use a placeholder.
- If you want to prove a point by quoting an authority or using data, use a placeholder.
- If you’d like to offer your readers additional information by linking to another site or post, and you know the site you want to link to, write it into the text in brackets.
- If you don’t know the site you want to link to, use a placeholder to help you remember to do so later.
- If you’re unsure about paragraphs, write in one large block of text. You can always create the paragraphs later.
- What if you are unable to write the entire post in one go? It’s a good idea to read through your plan a couple of times, then read what you’ve written earlier and only then carry on writing from where you left off. If you manage to finish the post this time around, great! If not, rinse and repeat this step till you’re done writing.
Write in full flow.
Step 3: Fill in the placeholders.
Locate and fill in the correct quotes and data.
Write in the appropriate examples.
Identify the correct URLs to use when providing links.
Step 4: Read what you’ve written, then rewrite.
As you read your post, you’ll find a few things you might want to change, correct, say differently, or not say at all. You may even get new ideas.
This is also the time to organize your paragraphs. A good rule of thumb is that each idea deserves its own paragraph.
Rewrite the post till you are satisfied with it.
Step 5: Step away.
Give yourself (and your post) a cooling-off period. At least 24 hours would be ideal.
Step 6: Reread the post and make changes.
Now that you’ve got some distance between yourself and the post, you will be able to read it with relatively fresh eyes and a relatively fresh mind.
Inconsistencies in ideas, metaphors and sentences will be easier to identify. Fix everything.
And you’re done writing!
All that remains is for you to…
Step 7: Create a title.
You’ve got your post into shape, and you have a plan for the title.
At Write to Done, we’ve featured some awesome posts on creating titles (and this post is already very long), so I’ll just add a few links that will help you create a title that will drive readers to your post. Here they are:
- The Art (and Science) Behind Neck-Snapping Headlines
- Do Long or Short Headlines Work Better?
- The Headline Breath Test
- The Magic of Double Whammy Headlines – and How to Use Their Enormous Power
- How to Avoid Barriers That Weaken Your Headlines
- How a Few Measly Words Can Dramatically Improve Your Article Headlines
Remember, the title you create needs to appeal to your audience.
Create a few titles and finalize the best one.
Whew! You’re done writing the post. This is a tremendous achievement, given the time and effort you have lavished on it. But then you did want to write your best post ever, right?
Is it time to hit publish?
No. Not yet.
Let’s leave this wonderfully written post with the beautifully crafted title aside for a few days, before we come back to check it.
Does having a plan help you write better? Do share in the comments below!