As a ghostwriter blog content has been one of the most enjoyable and creative aspects of content writing. But when I began writing blogs for clients, I found it was one of the areas of writing with which I was least familiar – and least productive. Coming from a long career in news, features and science writing followed by many years working in marketing, writing website content, press releases and articles was a piece of cake; but I wasn’t sure how to approach blog writing.
Fortunately, I was able to employ a writing technique that’s been very useful to me over the years, and one I started using more than 20 years ago, not long after I began working as a news reporter. Back then, the newspaper for which I worked had pretty rigid word counts for each of its sections: A news story had to be at least X words and never more than Y; a story in lifestyles had to be at least A words and never more than B; and so on. Because I was just starting out as a reporter, I tended to focus on the word count before I even started writing. Once I had a general idea of the direction of the piece I was writing, I would write with the primary goal of reaching that count and a secondary goal of the actual content I was using to fill the space. It wasn’t that I didn’t self-edit, but once I was within the word count parameters, I pretty much considered my work successful. Sadly, so did my editors.
The really eye-opening moment for me came as I pored over other newspapers and truly began to “listen” to them – the content they chose to include, the way they flowed. I realized that while my articles had all the pertinent facts and met the all-important word count, they could usually have been vastly better. Then I set out to learn why.
That’s when I stumbled on stream of thought, sometimes called “mind-mapping” (although my use of stream of thought is not quite so dependent on flowcharts and diagrams, and more focused on jotting down lots of notes and phrases).
In a nutshell, stream of thought involves focusing on your topic, the tone or voice you want to achieve and your audience, and then jotting down all the ideas and approaches you come up with. You don’t have to take hours to do it – in fact, sometimes it only takes a couple of minutes.
This technique helps you identify – and include – the most important information and the most creative approaches to your piece – the ones most likely to draw in your audience. It also helps identify the best places to include those all-important keywords.
To be truly effective, you have to be a good self-editor, and that comes with practice. In the end, once you’ve used the technique a few times, you’ll find the content you write not only makes its point – and includes the critical keywords – but also is highly effective in reaching its audience and reflecting the client’s point of view.
Karen Z is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.