A good blog post is a boxing match. The epic knockout is the moment you hit Publish; the research, outline and revision process is the fifteen-round fight required to get there.
Every boxer has strengths. A mean right hook. Exceptional agility. Expansive reach. But each needs a firm grasp of the fundamentals to unleash their particular talents.
Writing is the same. Master the process, and it’s easier to release your unique brand of authorial firepower.
If you’re in the market for a blog writing training plan to get you fighting fit, this one will take you step-by-step from idea to execution. With it, you’ll have a ready-made template for producing quality blog content. The only thing left to add is your words.
Running up steps and listening to Eye of the Tiger are optional.
Going into a blog post cold is like entering the ring the moment you wake up. Without a good warm up, prepare to get clobbered. Follow this routine to lay the foundation for solid performance when it comes time to write.
1. Define the Value Proposition
Know why the post is being written. What value does it bring to the reader?
Value propositions are diverse. Here are several ways your post might be valuable.
- It’s new. It’s a fresh take. It offers a unique perspective on an existing issue.
- It exhibits Dan Zarrella’s idea of “personal relevance.”
- It entertains or informs.
The value proposition is your compass. Write it out before you begin, and it’ll guide your post true north. (It also helps prevent patchwriting.)
2. Identify Your Audience
Only a select few watch boxing bouts in person. That’s how it should be. The fighters aren’t going toe-to-toe for football fans; they perform for a select, captive audience.
Your post is the same way. It’s not for everyone, so don’t write it for everyone. Identify your audience before you write:
- Who are they?
- How do they talk / write?
- What information and terminology are they familiar with?
The better you know your audience, the more credible and engaging your writing. The more credible and engaging your writing, the more captive your audience.
It’s a beautiful thing.
3. Write an Outline
This one seems obvious, right? You’d be surprised how many people skip this step. Beware falling into the same trap: Outlines punch above their weight. If there’s one thing you can do to improve your writing, this is it.
Err on the side of extensive whenever possible. An in-depth outline—with an introduction, a thesis statement, outlined body paragraphs, mapped out transitions and a conclusion—cuts down writing time, clarifies your topic and makes your life easier.
Love the outline. Respect it. Worship it.
4. Trash Talk Like Muhammed Ali
OK, this one’s optional, but useful. The Greatest was infamous for his trash talking. Seriously, he once bragged: “I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.”
Talk your post up to colleagues and friends, but keep it a little more tactful. (“I’m really excited for you to read it” or “I think this might be one of my better posts” work well.) That increases the odds you’ll deliver when it comes time to write.
And, it gives you an incentive to buckle down and finish it.
The Main Event
The lights are up. The crowd is waiting. The blank page stares you down.
Now’s your time to shine.
Boxing matches don’t start one day, take a break and pick back up the next. If possible, write the same way: write in one sitting or extended blocks of uninterrupted time to enhance quality, clarity and flow.
There are exceptions to every rule, but quality posts often include the following components:
1. The Hook / Introduction
This is your ringside entrance. Make it count. The hook grabs the reader, sometimes gently and sometimes by the collar. Either way, they sit up and take notice.
Useful hooks include:
- Compelling, relevant quotes. Check out how the writer of this Slate piece on Kanye West perfectly sums up his subject with an appropriate quote.
- Anecdotes. My colleague Keith Moehring starts a recent post in the following way:“I love Oreos, and one of my crowning achievements as an adult was creating a hexadeci-stuff Oreo. On one magical day last year, I combined 8 double-stuffed Oreos into one—the equivalent of 16 cream fillings.” Keith then describes why his Franken-Oreo is the perfect metaphor for a company website, relating his personal experience to the topic at hand. The result is delicious.
- Attention grabbers. This post does a fine job of making me sit up and pay attention: “What’s lamer than a crappy photo of Nebraska? Having to pay $8,000 in copyright infringement penalties for it.”
- Applicable facts and/or statistics. Brief. Direct. Relevant. Try not to care about this story in The Independent after reading the opening statistic: “Skipping breakfast can increase your risk of a heart attack or fatal coronary disease by as much as 27 percent, a new study has found.”
A simple gut check is often all that’s required to identify a good hook: Would you keep reading if you stumbled upon this post in far corners of the internet?
2. The Thesis / Nutgraf
The “thesis” or, in journalism, the “nutgraf” is the fancy way of saying “What am I reading and why should I care?” This ties back to knowing your audience: The better you understand them, the better you are able to identify why they would care about your post.
Once you know, you can simply state it plainly. This post does it:
“If you’re in the market for a blog writing training plan to get you fighting fit, this one will take you step-by-step from idea to execution. With it, you’ll have a ready-made template for producing quality blog content.”
Transitions are like good footwork. They keep you moving, and you don’t notice them unless they’re absent.
Don’t overthink them. A transition can be as simple as a short statement, sentence or question addressed by the next paragraph’s topic. Or, it can be more complex.
Check out this clever post by my colleague Taylor Radey (@taylorlauren). The transition sentence after the introduction states:
“Legal, HR, sales and IT are, at their core, people—with motivations, uncertainties, confusion and fear.”
Then, her section sub-head title: “The Real Reason Inbound Marketing is Scary.”
Finally, the first two sentences of the next section:
“Traditional, outbound marketing (print advertising, direct mail, coupon books, etc.) is familiar, and therefore easier to endorse. Inbound marketing, like anything new, brings its own learning curve and specific set of challenges.”
That transition is as smooth as a new set of silk sheets.
4. Body Sections and Paragraphs
These sections of text are the fight’s rounds: Each is independent, but strung together they form the entire bout. Each is one of your outline’s main points. Each is structured just like your post:
- Quick introduction or hook.
- Thesis / nutgraf.
- Body text.
- Transition to next section.
Keep your medium top of mind: Use a subhead for each section to break up the post, as your audience is consuming it (likely quickly) on the web. Don’t be afraid to break up body sections and/or paragraphs further into shorter paragraphs and bulleted lists.
Take a look at this post. It is broken up into three main sections: Pre-Fight Warmup, The Main Event and Cool Down. Each of those sections are broken into numbered main points. Those numbered main points are, at times, broken into shorter paragraphs and bulleted lists for even easier reading.
The post’s closing bell; your conclusion restates the topic’s importance, summarizes its contents, relates back to the introduction or wraps up your main points with a bow.
Take that puppy off the grill: it’s done. Upload, format, optimize (there’s a primer here) and publish that sucker (after editing, of course). Pat yourself on the back: You’ve got yourself a blog post.
That’s the recipe. It’s up to you to bring the right ingredients.
Recommended victory celebrations: Dance. Drink a beer. Do it all over again.
Image Credit: arriba via Flickr