The story about my story
Back in early 2009, a window opened up in my life to write the memoir I had been itching to pen for years. I wrote a rough first draft of a story that recalled my sown wild oats of youth, and I was pretty proud of it. With my little pitch and chapter summary, I then went to the DFW Writers Conference to pitch it to an agent. I attended a couple of the agents’ workshops and one in particular pulled no punches. I loved his brutal frankness. He had a thick German accent and spoke truth: writing is one thing but getting traditionally published took a lot of research, effort and perfect timing.
Cut to my 10-minute pitch: I’m nervous and squirrelly. But after stammering through a few graphic details, he had a glint in his eye. Turns out he was thrilled with my concept and anxious to get his hands on my first chapter. He wanted to see my writing! It took a solid 30 days of scrambling to do the research he wanted, start my social platforms and to finish a proposal, get the first chapter edited and top off my chapter summary. But this felt like such a major win because he is famous for being difficult to impress. My heart soared! I couldn’t believe it! So everything was packaged up and sent back, and he shared his excitement to be receiving it.
Over several days, I started to deflate, wondering what he thought. He said that he was ready to love it and the concept was marketable, but …in the end he said the writing was not good enough. “Too lyrical,” he said.
As some would say: “Whomp, whomp.”
So there it was. I was devastated. I didn’t really want to rewrite it to meet the needs of a market. It felt like the book wouldn’t be the same without my style of writing. I accepted the fact that writing was not my gift and I moved on.
Fast forward a few years, and I realized my LOVE for writing never really went away, but I became paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. Tightened prose, concise phrasing, telling a story were all things I learned were necessary, but didn’t know how to begin learning.
I discovered that I wasn’t a creative writer, as much as a semi-technical one. Blogging became a way for me to meet at the halfway point. I LOVE sharing all that I have learned about blogging and all the plugins, tools, resources from blogging masters who came before me. I had to let go of being a perfect writer so that I could share the technical side of blogging. I can’t not write, and I get better slowly, and Andi is more willing to edit now that my writing has improved some. In essence, I just kept writing, good or bad, edited or not, concise or clear or whatever, I keep picking them up and putting them down, day after day. So can you. If you have to, you’ll know. And don’t let other things push blogging out of your life.
How do we create content that adds value, provides direction and makes a difference if we are not natural writers? Does the fear that YOUR OWN writing may not be good enough, or keep you from blogging?
This fear of not being good enough still haunts me of course, and it probably does for you sometimes. Push it away and get to work. It’s a true personal struggle. If you are like me, not a naturally gifted writer, then you may want to use the process that I outline below to help you with your blogging journey.
What should I blog about next?
I am a hard-core list keeper: I create mind maps, list in Evernote and only paper that I can reach when an idea strikes. When I am ready to pick my next blog post idea, I just go to these lists and pick one. Considering the fact that I am constantly worried about running out of ideas, this step is crucial to my success.
Check myself using a Keyword Tool
After I have a topic, there’s a tool to use to make sure people care. I use the Google Keyword Tool to do some quick research. I am looking to see if people are searching on or around the topic and to see what the competition is (high, low, medium). Sometimes when I do this type of research, I find gems of information and expand the post into a series or take my thoughts in a completely different direction. That’s ok, too. Just keep notes. Don’t get up to do dishes, or anything, just keep track of your new thread of thinking on topics.
Do some research
There are two types of blog posts that I write: the ones from the heart and the ones that are DIY or screenshot tutorials/videos. On a topic such as this post, I like to see what others have to say. For example, I read a wonderful piece by ProBlogger on how he writes a blog post.
Take some notes.
It is a good idea to have a least three main points in any blog post. When you are doing your research, take notes of what you would like to share. Make sure that you have details and facts to back up these main points.
Note: Remember to never steal ideas from someone else. If you run across a tip that you want to share directly, credit the original author.
Outline the post
By now I should have a solid idea of the points that I want to hit on and this is when I create a basic outline.
- Working Title
- At least three main points
Get to the details
I go backwards and fill in the details for each bullet point. More times than not, I will end up adding additional bullet points and sometimes I even kill an original point. If I find myself struggling to fill in the post with enough valuable content, my first instinct is often to delete the post and move on. However, I have come to realize that some days, I am just not feeling it and I set it aside. It is amazing to me how often I will go back to a blog post later and be extremely inspired on the topic. You can do this, too.
The first aside
Once you go through the steps above, you should have a functioning rough draft, minus a conclusion. You should set this draft aside for a day or so and then reread it. When you revisit the post you may love it or you may hate it. No matter how you feel about it, it is likely that you will want to make changes. This is your moment to clean it up and make it a piece that adds true value.
No blog post would be complete without some sort of ending, so I have to write one of those too. The best idea is to sum up what you have said, maybe add one last tip and then end with a question.
Be the best editor that you can be
Don’t publish a piece of work without a second and a third look. While perfection would be a beautiful thing, try not to let that goal keep you from hitting that publish button. My advice is to set the blog post aside for at least 24 hours and then reread it before publishing it.
What I’ve learned is that there is no “proper” way to create a piece of content. All that matters in the end is that you added the value that you intended.
So tell me folks, how do you write your blog posts? Do you have a strict process or do you just sit down and start writing?