I never thought I’d ever write another article covering WordPress. For the most part WordPress is just about idiot-proof. The only way that you could possibly screw it up is by tinkering with its insides. The hardest part about WordPress is coming up with content.
Why am I writing about how to write a blog post? The idea just came to me a couple of nights ago. Plus I thought it would be easy to execute. Maybe no one will gain anything out of this. Maybe someone will. It’s still a big world wide web out there with millions more joining in on the action. Anywho, I’ll start with the idea…
Every post starts with an idea. It may be born of a need, desire, or whatever your excuse is. My excuse is that I’m feeling particularly lazy at the moment.
You need to get your ideas out in a physical form before you know it’s viable. How you get your ideas out will be up to you. Some people need to write an outline. Others can just go straight to the keyboard and type out a pretty coherent rough-draft. No matter how you do it, get it out there where you can see it.
Flesh, Research, and Test
This part of the process depends upon your topic, as well as your level of knowledge. In the case of this website, the majority of what I write about comes straight out of my head. I rarely need another source unless I’m unsure about some specific aspect or terminology. For example: What’s the difference between tone and shade? Can you immediately tell me off the top of your head? I should know because I learned about those things a long time ago. I use them whenever I’m painting. Yet I can’t regurgitate those definitions on command. I guess this makes me a bad artist or illustrator, but I rarely give these terms much thought unless I need to explain something involving color to another human being. But that’s what Google is for, right?
Write To Your Audience
If you do plan to write on a topic that you’re knowledgable on, keep in mind who’s going to read it. I’ve heard it once said (on a pro-wrestling podcast) that you should always play to dumbest member of your audience. Sounds pretty hash. But the point is to write as if this is the first time that your reader will have ever been exposed to your topic. Be thorough in your arguments and/or explanations. Yeah, you can get away with lines such as, “for advanced users” in tutorials. But even then, don’t just assume that your readers will know as much as you. Also don’t assume that your readers will be able to figure out your intentions.
You don’t want to leave your readers with any questions or confusion. (The only exception is when the reader really is that dumb, or if they just skimmed through your post.) If you have to legitimately explain something to the reader after the fact, then you’ve failed. The article should had already addressed that concern. In Dan Kennedy’s book, “The Ultimate Sales Letter”, he stresses that you should resolve any questions or concerns that the reader might have. Failing to do so will cause your sales letter to end up in the trash. In your case, failing to do so will cause the reader to feel as if they’ve wasted their time. Thus they’re likely to feel reluctant to visit your website again.
It helps to know your audience and to try to see from their perspective. In my case, I’ve read many tutorials both online and in print. I instinctively know why many tutorials fail miserably when attempting to follow them. Whenever I’m writing my own tutorials, I have to ensure that if I were trying to learn from it, I too could successfully replicate the steps that the I’ve written. This may mean I’ll might need to use lots of pictures to get across what I want to accomplish. Within those images, I may need to use arrows and write notes on top of the images to alert readers as to where a specific button, box, or slider is located. Whatever it takes, do it.
I’ve mis-defined fleshing-out several times during the writing, proofing/editing, and rewriting of this article. I instinctively think fleshing-out is similar to how the authors of “How to Draw the Marvel Way” defined it, you’re building something up. Putting flesh on to the bones would be a great analogy.
So you have your main topic. You could likely sum it up in a few line, but you know that might not be enough. This isn’t FaceBook. So you decide to discuss certain aspects of the topic. Those will be your sub-topics. Your sub-topics, unless you choose to go any deeper, will make up the guts of your article. As you’re working your way through each sub-topic, you’re gathering information, images, and maybe some links for good measure. Before you know it, you have 5000 words worth of text that’ll take the reader an hour and a half to read. Is this good? Maybe not.
I say maybe not because, and I include myself in this, writers have the tendency of over-writing. Try to be prudent as you write. Also when you proof your copy, make what you write count. If it takes 5000 words, so be it. But those 5000 words need to make the reader feel like what they’ve read was worth their time. Most people have a pretty short attention-span and feel the need to rush whenever they engage in online content that’s not a video. Try your best to make your points without droning on for too long.
Let’s face it, we don’t know everything. There will be times when we will have to fall back on other authors and their writings because they know more than we do on a given topic that we need to write competently about. The easiest solution is searching with Google. But shockingly, not all of the world’s knowledge is online. That means you may have to obtain the knowledge from a book, a pay site, etc. You may have to risk rejection and interview an expert on your topic.
Don’t just use one source on a topic, go after multiple sources. Often times, you’ll run into topics that will be explained by someone’s opinion rather than actual facts. Science and history are often victims of this phenomenon. Unfortunately ideologies, bigotry, and money have the tendency of effecting the slant or spin of whatever your subject happens to be. Facts should be your priority as you research, not what sounds good.
This is more geared towards tutorials and reviews. When I say, “test”, I mean do the tutorial as you write. Create samples of what the product that you are reviewing can produce. This is great for producing visuals for your posts. People love lots of images due to the fact that images are simply easier to understand. You’ll love it because it’ll improve your standing with both Google and Bing (this is an SEO thing). Your understanding of the given subject will also be strengthened.
Write And Write Some More
Writing anything seems much like writing an essay. You start with an introduction of your topic. Then you write the guts of your post, breaking aspects down into more digestible chunks of information. And you end it with a closing paragraph.
During the writing process, when I’m working through the guts of my article, I’ll sometimes jump backwards and either add or subtract sentences. I’ll often times have to pause in the middle of the process to deal with life. When I start again, I’ll reread what I’ve recently written and rewrite a couple of lines. I’ll keep writing until I wear myself out or until life interrupts me again. (I.E. sleep, food, restroom, etc.) Sometimes I’ll just get bored with writing and completely blow off a post for however long.
The articles, no matter how long they get put off, eventually get done. Nothing zaps more energy out of a creator than unfinished work. This statement may seem kind of weird, but whenever you leave something incomplete, it still gnaws at you in the back of your mind. With enough time, it devolves into a regret for you to mercilessly attack yourself with. This absolutely kills your creativity and motivation.
Reread, Proof, Edit, and Repeat
This is the step that I dread the most, looking for errors. And they do exist, even after rereading and proofing your article for the fourth time. I hate doing this, but it separates the lazy amateur from the polished professional.
I usually run into spelling errors, grammar problems, and unnecessary copy. (Usually it’s something redundant.) Sometimes I may need to rewrite a line or an entire paragraph. I might see a place for another illustration, link, or ad. I find it helpful to preview your post.
Your eyes have a tendency to over look errors while reading and rereading your post while in WordPress’s Edit Mode. Clicking the Preview button and viewing a preview of your post allows you to see your text in a different light. Reading a preview allows your eyes to catch errors that might had otherwise been over looked.
When I’m almost finished proofing an article, I’ll put it off for some time, and do it all over again later. I’ll rinse and repeat until I feel comfortable enough to finally post the article. Sometimes it takes days to get to that point. I usually feel comfortable when I don’t make any additional changes or edits to my article.
Hurray, You’re Done!
That’s it. That’s the writing process. If I went any deeper, you’d be reading useless fluff. But before we end this, I’ll leave you with this useful pointer. Always save your work! WordPress has an auto-save feature, but it’s failed me on more than a few occasions.
Never assume that your computer, device, web browser, or installation of WordPress will correctly function throughout the process. Sh*t happens. Browsers bog themselves down. Computers act buggy. Internet connections don’t always stay connected. Everyone becomes a victim of these occurrences at some point in time. Do yourself a favor and don’t risk losing your time and hard work. Get into the habit of constantly saving your work.