Friday, March 23, 2012

Super-Efficient Writing: How I Consistently Write Over 1,000 High-Quality Words in Less Than 60 Minutes

Super-Efficient Writing: How I Consistently Write Over 1,000 High-Quality Words in Less Than 60 Minutes:

Writing is the bottleneck.
Not for everyone… but for a lot of people – particularly who are involved in any kind of blogging or content creation. It’s time-consuming, which keeps you from creating all the content that you want to create. And it’s frustrating, which prevents you from expressing your ideas as compellingly as you like.
Except… it doesn’t have to be that way.
My blog posts are usually between 1,200 and 1,400 words long, and I usually spend 60-90 minutes writing them. Often I’ll write two blog posts in a morning, and then spend the rest of the day on other things. That’s how I wrote 80+ guest posts in less than a year, and it’s why people started calling me the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”.
Is it because I’m some kind of writing genius? I wish, but sadly, no. ;-) It’s because of the process, and it’ll work as well for you as it does for me…

Defeating the blank screen with ruthless proceduralization

When most people write, they do it all wrong. They fire up their word processor, create a new document, and try to decide what their first sentence will be.
Big mistake.
See, if you start by staring at the blank screen, you’ve already lost. It may seem counter-intuitive, but we’re often most creative, and most effective, when working within very tight parameters.
By the same token, writing works best when you take the guess-work out of it. This is done by developing procedures for everything; straight from coming up with the angle, to writing the last word of the post. That way, we avoid wasting energy and thought on stuff that isn’t relevant or useful at all, and divert it all towards the goal of excellent and effective writing.
That’s what I do, and it works like a charm, every time. Here’s my process:
  • Start with the headline – this gives you a solid grasp on the scope of your post, and ensures that everything you write after the headline will be relevant and on-topic.
  • Then write the hook – this is the first few paragraphs of the post, that will grab the reader’s attention and focus their attention on reading through to the end.
  • Outline the rest of the post – create sub-heads for each of the sections, with a short note of what will go in each section.
  • Write the post – you’ll be amazed at how easy it is if you followed the first steps, because there’s no more guesswork!
Okay, let’s explore this process, one step at a time…

Start with the headline

You’ve probably already heard that the headline is the most important part of the post, and that serious writers spend as much time writing the headline as they do writing everything else combined. Which is true, but most people don’t understand what that really means.
See, writing a good headline isn’t just about choosing the words that will grab the reader’s attention – it’s about choosing the angle for the post, that will genuinely interest them. That’s what the headline is really about: the angle of the post. And by writing it first, you guarantee that you will stay focused on your actual topic, stay relevant, and not get lost on a tangent somewhere along the way. So how do you write a great headline?
First, of course, you need an idea. There are lots of good ways to find those; you can lean on your Assess, Decide and Do buckets brimming with good ones to write about, or try one of 21 great content ideas as a starting point. For starters, you should know that this is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Take a few minutes to see which posts have been very popular with your target audience (i.e. on the blogs that they actually read). Do they like list posts (## ways to SOMETHING)? How-to posts (How to SOMETHING)? Comparison headlines (How SOMETHING is like SOMETHING)?
Find a few formulas that are proven with your target audience, and stick with them. It’s really that simple!

Write the hook and outline the post

Next, you have to write the hook and outline the main sections of the post. A good hook describes the symptoms of the problem that your post is going to solve. Really hammer home the pain and difficulty that the problem causes, and then pivot to say that you’ve got a solution.
It sounds simple, because it is, and it works like a charm, every time (go back to the top and read the opening section of this post as an example). Then you can go ahead and outline the rest of the post. The four main sections that you’re going to want after the hook are:
  1. The problem that is causing the symptoms
  2. The underlying cause of that problem
  3. The solution to the problem
  4. How the reader can implement your solution
Almost all of my posts follow this structure, and the beauty is that rather than making your posts seem formulaic, it gives you the space to make the posts truly detailed, in-depth, and valuable to the reader. For each section, just write the sub-head for each section, and a few notes about what you’re going to put under it. Give enough information in the heading that readers who skim will have an idea what the section is about.
Now that we’ve outlined the whole post, it’s time to do the actual writing…

Write the post (this is the easy part!)

The great news is that by this point, you’ve already done all the heavy lifting, and the hard part is over! If you’ve really outlined the entire post, the rest is really easy. All you have to do is go section by section, expanding on your notes, adding appropriate links, and delivering the information that you promised in the headline, hook and section headings.
The beauty of this method is that by this point, you already know what you need to write! Your brain is ready and waiting with the information, and all you have to do is spell it out. Once you’ve got the sections fleshed out, do a quick proofread for spelling, grammar and flow, then hit save, and you’re done!
I’m not kidding when I say that filling in the entire body of the post can take less than half an hour – try it and see for yourself! And the very best part of this process is that it can be done in batches…

Works well with batching, too!

You don’t have to do one post at a time, either – you can do them in batches (that’s how I routinely write guest posts these days).
Write all the headlines, create all the hooks, and then go do the section headings for each post, one by one. Once you add the body paragraphs to each post – bang! You’ve just written an entire week’s worth of content (assuming you post daily) in one morning!
You’ll be writing post like a speed demon. Or, *ahem* like the Freddy Krueger of Blogging.
Actually, if you apply this process to your writing, you could even become the next Freddy Krueger of blogging. That’s what my Write like Freddy training program is all about – this very same process, but amped up to the Nth degree.
(Photo credit: close up blurred view of male hand touching computer keyboard via Shutterstock)

@DannyIny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, expert marketer, and the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on how to build an engaged audience from scratch.

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