What if I told you there was an amazing technology which had only been around for 2 percent of human existence? That is was so difficult it had only been invented twice?
Once you have this technology, you can live beyond the grave. It’s how I’m magically transmitting an idea from my head to yours: the written word.
Running a little business is about letting people know what you do and why you do it. For years I worked as a writer in finance, but this wasn’t a job I trained for. I’m lucky enough to come from a family of people who love words, which admittedly an advantage in trying to string a sentence together. What I learned on the job, however, was how to put a structure in place to make it easy to create a lot of content. I’m going to show you how I do just that.
Firstly, before you start writing anything, go do stuff. Me personally, I might read a book or a magazine. I need to give my brain input. Go to a show, meet a friend for lunch, see some comedy. To have something to say, you also need to have a life. The inspiration for this blog came from the book “How to invent everything” by Ryan North. It’s great. Get a copy. I give you full license to procrastinate.
You might want to write a blog for your website, or a short article, and are struggling to get it down. So how do you start?
Firstly, I aim to write about things that are useful for you, a little business owner. Fun as it might be to write about my fitness regime (spoiler: there isn’t one), if I’m writing a blog it’s to convey information that helps you get ahead. Think about what’s useful for your audience, your clients. What do you know that they might like to know?
The I crack open a word doc and write this skeleton list:
Para one Heading
Para two Heading
Para three Heading
CTA (Call To Action)
This is my paint-by-numbers approach to writing a blog, and you can use it to help you get started if you’re struggling.
Before I start, I probably have an idea of where the article is going to published, because I might want to tweak it a little for different audiences, but on the whole I’m likely to distribute the article on the MindMafia website, and also on Medium, LinkedIn and Facebook. Hence “Distribution”. You can decide that at the very end.
Now, here’s the trick. I start in the middle of the skeleton.
We start in the middle, because we need to get started! The stuff that trips you up, in writing as in life, is worrying about the start. That first gym session. Eating more leafy vegetables. The first kiss. That first bloody wretched sentence.
So start in the middle, and you can knock something up and then worry about the details once you’ve got the bones of it done.
I write paragraph one. Without knowing how I’m going to start OR finish the article. I leap into the middle because I know I’m going to make 3 main points in the article:
Then I write a short conclusion (my outro) and a (hopefully) funny one-liner summarizing the points I’ve made, to give the article a bit of a punch.
Then I give each paragraph a headline, setting you up for the content in it. If I can, I’ll phrase these as a question, with the first line of the paragraph being an answer to the question.
By now, I probably have an idea of what my Title will be, so I go back to the top and write and intro to the article – around 50 words. The point of writing the intro LAST is that now you can set your audience up for the punchline at the end of the article. Here’s where we start to weave a theme through the article so that it all hangs together.
Okay, I might add a fourth paragraph heading from time to time. Particularly if it’s a long article, like this one. But let’s say you’re going to keep to 600 words. You could break it up like this:
Title: 10 words
Intro: 50 words
Para 1 150 words
Para 2 180 words
Para 3 180 words
Outro: 50 words
Punchline: 10 words
Finally, you need to decide on what image would match the point you’re trying to make. So feel free to wander off to Shutterstock or Unsplash to look for an image which works for the theme of the article. Try not to get sucked into a time-vortex looking at pictures of puppies. The image often acts as a bit of inspiration for a final title, too. Don’t do what I do, which is to create a picture for the blog you write using tiny people, unless you really like to lose time. I do it because it amuses me. For me, the first rule of working for myself is that I’m having fun.
You should also have a Call To Action on every article at the end. Ask yourself, what do you want you reader to do? Sign up for more blogs? Direct them to something I’m trying to sell? In this article my Call To Action is actually a word template so you can have crack at this yourself. Once you’ve done all of this, put the article aside for 24 hours. Read it again after you’ve had a mental break, and then you’ll find you spot little changes which put the final ounce of flesh on your skeleton’s bones. Everybody needs a little cushioning.
When it comes down to it, writing might be art, but writing a short blog needn’t be a pain in the art.
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