I’ve found a certain problem to be fairly consistent when I’m trying to write blog posts, and I doubt I’m alone. If you run a blog and you’re not much of a writer, maybe you find more trouble trying to up your word count than keep a cap on it, but that’s just where I tend to fall down. As well as that, I ramble when I write: I go off on tangents and often ‘nest’ what I’m writing, with what is really four or five posts all ravelled in to one indecipherable ball – like when you tangle a Slinky. Now, you can have a planned outline for your post – which I’d often recommend – but sometimes this just doesn’t suit my style of writing. I like my writing to develop naturally, and honestly this tangent issue still comes up even if you thought you had it all planned out. I’ve started using a certain strategy recently, and only today really realised it was a technique to combat just this. Ever since defining my niche more precisely, working out who my target reader really is, and coming up with more refined blog post ideas, I’ve really noticed when I’m rambling because I’m no longer answering the question I set out to. Now, this is fine sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with going on a tangent within your writing, assuming you’re still adding relevant content and value to the reader somehow, and that you come back to your original point, and answer the question at hand.
Here’s a simple process I’d recommend for writers who ramble:
Step 1: Choose a question you’re going to answer.
Let’s assume you’ve already worked out your niche, and who you’re talking to when you write (if not, you can read my tips on that here). One approach to writing content is to ask yourself what these people want to know: what is it that they are going to be Googling to come across your post? Checking what’s trending in your field on the likes of Pinterest can also be very helpful. If you’ve got that down, you’ve got the premise for a successful blog post.
Step 2: Write!
It may seem obvious, but this part escapes you more often than you might think. How many times have you come up with a great idea for a post, or some other creative endeavour, and it’s just never happened? Exactly. So, start answering the question. It should be something you’re able to answer, or provide insight on in some way, since it’s a question your target audience is likely to ask (and you know your target audience, right?) So just write, share what it is you have to share, and keep writing! Really get in to the flow of it, and don’t worry too much about what you’re saying at this point. Of course I don’t mean just make stuff up, or write poorly, but know that you’re going to come back and edit later – you’re not setting anything in stone now, so relax. If you want to read a little more on planning, researching and editing your posts check out *this article*.
Step 3: Stop and assess.
So, you’ve got a fair bit written by now, and if you’re anything like me you’re a million miles off topic. You started out writing about digital marketing and now you’re writing about flaws in the NHS, or something. Don’t worry! What you’ve done here is actually not a bad thing, and can be made to work to your advantage. Here’s the trick. Read over your writing, which is something you ought to be doing anyway, and work out where you’ve started to ramble to the point of no-return. You’ve invested enough in this tangent that to loop back to your original point would probably be confusing to your reader, and leaves them with a lot of superfluous information, which has possibly already caused them to lose interest. To just get mad at yourself and delete this chunk would however be a gross waste of content! Instead, take everything from this point of departure where you’ve gone astray and copy it in to a new post. This is going to become a whole other article, as it’s likely something you’re interested in, know a lot about, and want to write about if it has come about quite naturally.
Step 4: Find out what question you are answering now.
If this new piece of writing is a total tangent from your original piece, chances are you’re answering another question. Working out what this is gives you a way to constructively keep this piece of writing alive, and in doing so gives you a whole new blog post! This way, your writing can go on and on as much as you like and still end up in congruent sections. Another post might emerge from this new one you’re writing, and that is totally okay; in fact, it’s a good thing, because it means more content. As long as you’re keeping an eye on what question you are answering, and of course you still want this to be something that your reader will likely want to read and that adds value to them in some way, you’re on track. If you find that something you start to ramble about doesn’t really answer a new question, or isn’t particularly relevant to your blog, I would say keep it anyway. Have a folder of writing that is just for you. This is still going to develop your writing ability, and give you a bank of writing to reflect on and perhaps draw from in the future; because not all writing has to be for content, writing for yourself is great (and I’ve written all about the benefits of that here). Now, you can work on all of this later, but first there’s something important you have to do:
Step 5: Finish answering the first question.
What you want from this process isn’t a whole bunch of unfinished blog posts: you’ll need to come back and keep writing until you’ve sufficiently answered the question, and rounded off the post. Like I mentioned above, you might generate a few additional posts to the core one you’re working on, but always come back to finish the one you’re actively working on. It would be like a hairdresser who also makes wigs: you wouldn’t just stop cutting somebody’s hair mid-way because now you have enough hair to make a wig, you finish cutting their hair. Then you go and work on your wigs. At the point where you previously went on to ramble, maybe you’ll want to insert a link to the other post you created if there’s some sort of lead-in (which there likely is). Then, keep writing on a more direct path that answers the original question. There you have it, you get to have your cake and eat it, too. Ramble as much as you like, and still end up with well-defined content (and more of it!)
Hopefully this process makes sense. You might end up generating a couple of off-shoots form your main post, and those off-shoots may grow up to have little off-shoots of their own. The main thing is you’re creating congruent content top-to-bottom, and finding value in what you might otherwise disregard. The process doesn’t make much sense unless you make sure to come back and always finish answering the question you set out to, so be sure to do that. Being adaptable is key to being creative, so having this technique in your utility belt means you’re less likely to lose the faith when your writing is sprawling all over the place – use these 5 fairly simple steps to keep it in check, and keep yourself on track.