Have you ever tried to go somewhere without a map or GPS? Traveling across town may be one thing, but going across the state or even multiple states is a whole different story.
For our honeymoon, my husband and I traveled to Tomhegan Wilderness Camp in Rockwood, Maine, from Boston, Massachusetts. (If you like living in a cabin, spending your days outdoors on a big, beautiful lake with little to no cell service, Tomhegan is for you!) The directions we had for our six-to-seven hour trip fit nicely on a Post-It note. That was all my husband wrote down for directions. Surprisingly, we only got lost once (but, it resulted in an extra hour of driving).
If I’m going somewhere I’ve never been before, I like to have directions. My husband, on the other hand, likes to “learn streets,” as he says.
Sometimes, writing can feel that way—like taking a cross-country journey with no map and no directions.
Getting From Point A To Point B
It’s really a frustrating feeling. Do you constantly find yourself wondering how to write more efficiently? You know where you are now (without any writing completed), and exactly where you need to be (with a finished, intelligent-sounding article). But it’s getting to that destination that can leave you stumped sometimes. So, what's the best way to get there? What is the most direct route?
If you’re fine with making a few mistakes along the way, trial and error works great! But, it takes you much longer to arrive at your destination. (Plus, it's overwhelming.)
The most obvious solution is to have a clear set of directions mapped out. It took me awhile to realize that giving myself a process to work through each time I wrote an article helped me write more efficiently—not only faster, but better. In a sense, I gave myself “directions.” And, lo and behold, they worked!
Here are the six steps I've identified that allow me to write higher quality articles in a shorter amount of time.
1. Establish the topic.
This isn’t the time to create a title or anything like that. Just in general, what are you writing about? What’s the overriding theme?
2. Compile research, sources, and quotes.
If necessary, do your research. Once you have what you need, put everything you find informative into one document.
3. Create a basic outline.
When I say basic, I mean basic. Notice the orange headings in this article—that’s literally what I start with. Then I’ll add in some thoughts (they’re more like phrases) and appropriate research/sources under each heading. At this point, I’m still planning out where I want to go, so I give myself just enough information that, later on, I can remember where I wanted to go with ideas.
4. Do some keyword research.
Find your keyword or keyword phrase before you start writing. When you identify your keywords at the start, including them will be easier and your article will read more naturally. It makes it so much easier to do it this way than to have to go back and edit sentences with a keyword/keyword phrase and try to make it sound natural.
(Not sure why you'd need keyword phrases in the article you're writing? For inbound marketing, of course! If that's a new term to you, check out our article, Okay, Smartypants—What Is Inbound Marketing? (Without The Jargon!). It's a really fast read that will help you understand quickly.)
Just write. Start from the beginning and work your way through until the end. As you’re going through, don’t do any major editing or revising. Just let your thoughts flow.
Now you edit, revise, and pick apart what you’ve written. Sometimes I like to take a small break in between writing and editing—it gives me time to gain a fresh perspective. If you know a skilled writer or editor, send your article to them so a fresh set of eyes can read through it. (Maybe you’ve noticed this, too, but sometimes I overlook my spelling or grammatical errors because I know what I meant to write!)
Plan Your “Route”
Admittedly, this certainly isn’t a groundbreaking process, but having it helps me write more efficiently.
Perhaps you go about writing differently—that’s great! The important thing is to develop some process that enables you to create quality content in a reasonable amount of time. Once you have that writing process down, consistently using it will continue to sharpen your skills.
What about you? Do you have a process that helps you? I'd love to hear about it in a comment below.