What anguish! Have you ever been confronted with that unpleasant feeling of having your head as hopelessly empty as that blank page on which you are trying to write your first, brilliant article? Don’t worry. It has happened to most of those who, like me and maybe like you, have decided to write one day. And since I have some practice now, I’m going to share with you my method as well as some precious tips to help you in this task
- VHere’s the program
- My method
- How to structure your blog posts
- What to do when you are not a “feather virtuoso”?
If you’ve never written a paper before, you’ll soon understand what the “white page syndrome” is.
The first time I opened a blank Word document to write my first paper, I must admit that I wasn’t leading with it. The page was blank for several minutes before I decided to write a first line… which I immediately erased. Then, a new line, which only lasted a few seconds longer than the previous one before I deleted it too.
These ephemeral lines followed one another like this for several minutes until I realized that this method was in fact not a method at all. And then, upon reflection, I found another approach that proved to be much more effective.
The good My method
So here is my method for writing blog posts, step by step. I honestly don’t know if it’s the best, or even if some others do the same, but here’s how it works for me:
1Thinking and Taking Notes
Don’t wait until you find yourself in front of your blank page to start thinking about what you’re going to put on it. An idea is the kind of thing that you prepare in advance, so think about taking notes as soon as that idea starts to germinate in your mind.
Go out for a walk in the fresh air or any other place that is conducive to reflection. It will help you focus better, you’ll see.
Take notes! I can’t emphasize this enough because there is nothing more volatile than an idea. I’m sure you’ve had something on your mind that, because of a simple distraction of a few seconds, has evaporated forever. We’re lucky enough to have in our pockets a concentrate of technology capable of taking written or vocal notes (e.g. Evernote or Gnotes), so have that reflex right from the start. And for the technophobes, a notebook and a pen will do the trick.
Don’t try to build sentences. Don’t pay attention to structure, grammar, or even spelling in the first place. What matters here is to empty that corner of your brain that contains everything you know or even think you know about the subject. You’ll check it later. And it’s only when this corner is empty that you can move to the next step.
2Verify the Information
Do Google searches to verify the information you noted in the previous step. Don’t check only what you’ve classified as potentially false, but any information or data you have any doubts about.
The Web abounds with articles on a wide variety of subjects, and that is what makes it so rich. The problem is that some of them contain information that is sometimes approximate, contradictory, or even downright false. The fault lies with those authors who, for lack of time or rigor, for ignorance or simply for laziness, do not bother with these kinds of “details”. If you want to keep your readers, don’t fall into this trap, and always check what you write.
3Complete the Info
There, you normally have a good base to start with, but before that, you will first go back to Google, and this time, search for any additional information that you may have missed and that could complete your article. Don’t bother spending hours on it, just find what you think is relevant, and add it to your document.
Needless to say, it is imperative that you do not copy/paste even a part of what you have read elsewhere. It is not very ethical, and your SEO will be penalized (Google bots hate cheaters). You can be inspired by it, but use your own words, and don’t forget to cite your sources!
4Structure Your Items
Now that you have the raw material, you can start to give it a shape. Start by grouping it all together by section: What will be part of the introduction? This or that paragraph, the conclusion, etc.? Once you’ve done that, you’ll finally be able to move on to the writing phase.
How to structure your posts
Here’s how to structure your blog posts and my little tips that go with it.
Choose it carefully because, to be effective, it must of course incite the click, so find one that is both evocative and arouses the reader’s curiosity.
Some proven techniques to help you find the perfect title
Avoid titles that are too long: At least, when possible. Studies show that short titles are the most successful. This is not an absolute rule, but take it into account. You should also know that Google only displays the first 60 characters of the title in its search results page.
Don’t be overly rambunctious: Avoid phrases like “An extraordinary and incredibly simple way to get to the moon in 10 minutes for free!”. Even if it does spark curiosity, people don’t like to be taken for “idiots”. Your headline should promise something realistic. Again, it’s your credibility that’s at stake.
Use “trigger words”: Some words have a real power of attraction for people. These are called “trigger words”. Use them but without abusing them. A few examples: new, free, easy, you, solution, success, proof, secret, more, never, imagine, etc. The list is long.
Ask a question: Formulate the title as a question when possible. Firstly, because this is often the form in which Internet users launch a search on the Web, and therefore, chances are that it is precisely the one you have chosen for the title, and secondly, because a question often makes you want to know the answer.
Create lists: Numbers are easier to find on Google’s results pages. Using titles such as “XX ways to…”, “XX tips for…” or “Do this in XX steps” are true click magnets. This classification will also make the user feel more likely to find what he is looking for.
The cover image
After the title, this is the second element that will encourage your readers to read your article. Choose an eye-catching and relevant cover image. The image is there to support the title and give an additional indication of the content of the article. Optimize its size and compression, so that it loads quickly in the browser. There are free tools on the Web for this.
80% of Internet users will not read all of your articles. Sorry to tell you in such a brutal way. On the other hand, many of them will read the first lines, so it’s up to you to make them want to continue. Start right away with something relevant that will catch the reader’s eye: a quote, humor, surprising information, a way to get them involved, etc… A few lines are enough.
A table of contents
As I said earlier, readers rarely have the patience or time to read the articles in their entirety, especially if they are long enough. Make it easy for them by adding a small summary at the beginning of the article (just after the introduction, so they read it first), which will allow them to jump directly to the paragraph they are interested in.
The heart of the topic
Above all, air out your articles! As soon as I find myself in front of a monolithic block of text, I suffocate and flee on the spot. So, spare your readers from claustrophobia, divide your articles into paragraphs, add a title to each new section (those that will serve as a link to the summary I mentioned above), insert images, bulleted lists, colored boxes, etc. in short, anything that can break the monotony while reading.
Structure your sentences coherently, pay attention to spelling, grammar and conjugation, avoid repeating certain words by using synonyms, try to keep the same writing style for all your articles, and decide from the outset what tone you will adopt. This last point is important and depends largely on the type of readers you are targeting. Whether it’s formal, casual, academic, humorous, impertinent, or even rude… think carefully about the tone that will best suit your readership.
Keep in mind that your blog will be read by novices as well as experts on the subject you are talking about. Talk to the first ones first, avoiding overly technical terms, convoluted explanations, and endless definitions. Be fluid, simple, and understandable to all.
Be concise. Nothing is more unpleasant than reading a text where you feel the author is beating around the bush, embellishing, or trying to wait a certain number of words to finish the article.
Of course, these last tips do not apply to certain content (poetry, storytelling, etc.). It’s up to you to see what is relevant or not, depending on the theme of your blog.
I was telling you about them earlier, images are used to air out your article, but they are also a way to illustrate what you are saying, to demonstrate a truth, to support an explanation, etc. Add a short comment below and don’t forget to cite the source if necessary.
Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam, on Unsplash
Many readers will jump straight to the conclusion to save time, so feel free to start with a quick recap of what has been said. You can also take the opportunity to clarify certain points, provide links to other articles in your blog, give your latest advice, or suggest reading a book or other blog. In any case, try to keep it short and avoid adding images here.
Sources and acknowledgements
This is where you will put your possible sources and the thanks to the people who contributed to the writing of your article. It’s important to remember both.
Finally, read again and again. Then, let it rest for a few hours in the fridge. Finally, reread one last time, make any corrections, and publish.
What to do when you are not a “feather virtuoso”?
It happens to me sometimes. I read articles so captivating or written with so much genius, that I just felt like hanging myself with a rubber band, so far from having this talent. Then, just before I slipped out of the chair on which my half-suspended body was resting in the void, I remembered how silly it is to compare myself to others.
Fortunately, it is not because the works of Stromae, Hayao Miyazaki, or Jean-Claude Van Damme exist that we cannot appreciate those of more anonymous artists. In other words, we cannot all be virtuosos in the art we practice, but that does not mean we are not talented.
So, don’t bother too much with this question. If you manage to make your subject a little interesting, write with fluidity and coherence, add a little personal touch to your articles (e.g., humor), you can be sure that you’ll find your audience. And above all, work hard to sharpen that part of the sublime that is in you!
Well, I must admit, it’s a lot of things to remember, but you’ll see that with practice, it will all become automatic.
And if you want to progress faster, read on! Reading the articles of some popular bloggers (even on other themes), as well as literature written by great authors (classic or contemporary) will help you discover different writing styles, find your own, improve your spelling, learn new things, etc.
OK, that’s it for me. Let’s get to work now!