4 Steps to Writing Great Content Quickly
So, you’ve followed all of the tips in our previous article on getting your writing to flow – you’re capturing ideas on the go, you’ve set distraction free time aside once a week so you can build up a reserve of posts and not be under constant pressure to come up with content on the fly… Now your problem is how to make best use of those precious minutes so you’re writing great content efficiently.
Keeping your website up to date with fresh and interesting content can be time consuming, and your time is a precious and rare commodity. Having a notebook full of ideas and the time to write is only half of the battle. If you’re not used to writing on a regular basis, you might find that the process feels slow, clunky and generally unpleasant. Is it any wonder that we’d often prefer to do something else instead?
So here’s the plan to get the cogs moving: you’re going to batch your writing tasks.
Batching is a great method for getting the most out of your time. It works on the principle that it is easier to get into the flow and stay there if you do similar tasks together.
1. Create An Outline
First, select a few ideas from your notebook to work up into articles.
Now spend some time, 10 minutes per post maximum, outlining. Remembering that all good communication has a beginning, middle and an end, concentrate on trying to answer each of these questions:
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- What is the solution you’ve come up with?
- How do you propose to implement this solution?
For example, take this post: The problem is that keeping a website fresh with up to date content can be a time consuming task. The solution is to have a good workflow and to learn to write quickly and efficiently. The way you do this is to keep practising, have a plan, keep things simple, give yourself breathing room and to make sure you proof and edit before publishing.
You might want to work up your outline as a mind map, as a series of bullet points in long hand or have a template on your computer with useful prompts. Whatever tools you find useful, now you’ve got your outlines it’s simply a matter of…
2. Filling In The Blanks
Put your outlines in the order you’re going to write them in – preferably prioritising the one you least want to write so you’re freshest when you have to tackle it – and then put them to one side. Before you start writing, take a quick five minute break. Set a timer if you find that a useful motivation to get back to it and then get up and move around a bit, make yourself a cup of tea, grab a biscuit but whatever you do, do not give in to the temptation to check email, your voicemail or Twitter/Facebook. That way procrastination lies! The idea here is to give yourself a quick, refreshing break, not to get caught up in external distractions.
The rest of your time in this session is going to be pure, hardcore writing. You’ll already be loosened up from creating your outlines, so you’ll soon be back in the flow and hitting your word counts with ease. Don’t aim for perfection in this sitting, that comes later. For now, keep it simple – concentrate on getting the main thrust of your ideas down using your natural voice and expertise. If you need a source, statistic or a graphic that you haven’t got to hand right now, make a note to find it later and keep on writing!
3. Giving It Room To Breathe
This is an important step that a lot of people skip, but you shouldn’t because this is where the magic happens.
Take the posts you’ve just written and put them away for a little while to marinate. This will give you the time to go and find those sources, statistics and fiddly bits that you need to finesse your article but, most importantly, it also gives you some distance from what you’ve just written. Spotting the ideas that don’t flow quite right or the sentences that don’t read well is easier when you’ve given yourself some space between writing and editing.
4. Edit and Proofread
The last job to do in making your web content ready is to tighten everything up. Read through once to make sure it scans well. At this point you’re getting rid of waffle, amending clunky sentences and adding in any research points you didn’t have before.
Next, read through again to check for mistakes. By all means use your spellchecker first but don’t skip this step – a spellcheck won’t notice if you’ve mixed up they’re and their or are and our. A useful proofreading trick is to read your copy backwards to by-pass your brain’s tendency to see what it expects to see. Of course, the proofing gold standard is to get someone else to read over what you’ve written. When I worked for a print and design company, you could guarantee that when the “second eyes” step was skipped, no matter how carefully it had been proofed by the person who wrote it, that was the time the presses rolled with a typo that became glaringly obvious as soon as the run was done. At least online it’s just a case of clicking the “Edit” button!
So there you have it – a writing process that will get you from point A to point B in the least amount of time possible. Try it out and see if it gets you where you want to go. Don’t get disheartened if the words don’t fly from your fingertips in your first couple of sessions. Just like exercise and eating healthily, writing is a habit so the more you do it, the easier it will become. Keep coming back to your scheduled writing appointment every week and you’ll soon find that when you sit down to write, you’ll get into the flow more easily and be able to bang out several posts in one session.
Next in this series, we’ll talk about how you can use your content to drive traffic to your website.