We've all been there — you've narrowed down the topics of what you might write about, and you get stuck. It can be difficult moving from "brainstorm" mode to "production" mode. Here are some steps you can follow closely or losely to help you move from stuck to prolific.
1) Brainstorming Your Blog Post Title
Spend just a couple minutes listing possible titles for your post. If you get really excited about one (usually it's number 3 or later), move on to step 2. These are not final headlines. This early headline exercise is designed to help you narrow your topic. The headline will continue to change, so don't get hung up here.
< 5 minutes
2) Write Your Intro
You've just gotten excited about a topic, so elaborate a bit and give the bird's eye view of what you're going to be communicating. Or just jump right in.
< 8 minutes
3) Revisit Your Headline
Is this post going where you thought it would go or have you evolved your core topic?
4) List Goals for the Post
What do you want this post to accomplish? What will be the reader's take-aways? What will make them want to share this post? What do you want the reader to do after they've read your post?
< 5 minutes
5) List Your Points
This is the prep for developing the outline for your post. Capture as many specific points as possible that you want to make.
6) Scan for Keywords
Review your bullets for points or keywords that you think are likely to be hot topics for your readers. Are you going to be helping them craft a solution to a real and specific problem they have? We want our post to be visible for that.
< 5 minutes
7) Revisit Your Title
Has your topic narrowed? Narrow is good. Have a separate doc handy to record ideas that don't fit in this post. This post can't and shouldn't include everything. But now is when additional post topics are flowing easily, so be sure and collect them!
3-5 minutes (but spend as long as you want on that "future blog posts" list
8) Develop an Outline
Consider your outline at a high level. How do you want to organize your thoughts so they're easily scanable and will prove useful and interesting on the initial skim (those few seconds when people are deciding whether or not to give this post their time). Are you going to do a "Pros & Cons" format? Bullet list? Q&A? What are you going to do to break up the content visually — and in how you approach the writing — to make the article easy to digest?
9) Start Writing
For me, about 10 or 15 minutes into thinking through my outline, I just want to start writing. I know a lot about what I want to say for some parts of my outline, and others are very murky. But my urge to dive in gives me confidence that those murky bits will come together too.
I like to start at the beginning of the post, keeping my outline in the back of my mind, but other people might like to start with points on the outline that are easier to tackle and go through the list in an order based on difficulty — because it does get easier as you write.
Identify additional posts that you could write and link to from this post, and resist the urge to go into deep detail on too many points (cramming the content of what should be several different posts into one jumbled, unorganized post).
< 30 minutes, depending on the needs of your topic
10) Improve Headings and Visuals
After 30 minutes or so of writing, you're in a good position to take stock of how it's flowing and what you think your headings throughout the post will be. Look again at opportunities for breaking up long paragraphs and adding lists.
Also think about visuals — could a diagram help make your point? Or photos of people in action? First aim for real — real photos you or your team took, an original illustration or infographic based on your content. Stock is fine if you have nothing real, but try hard to use something real first — or better yet, go out and make it.
11) Identify Opportunities for Linking
The top priority is linking within your site, promoting content on your product or service pages or in other blog posts.
12) Fill in Gaps & Craft Your Closing and CTA
Go back to the list of priorities and take-aways. Did you make your points? Is there anything you need to punctuate further? End on a positive note, and incorporate a CTA. Providing that opportunity for the reader to take a next step is critical.