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My blogging challenge

Eight posts in a month. It's time to try a new approach.
Vladimír Záhradník
June 14th, 2020 · 7 min read

I’ve been actively blogging for about a year, and I started taking it seriously sometime in December last year. Until then, I was trying to figure out whether I enjoy writing. It turned out I do. Now I’m looking for ways to take my writing to the next level. I get inspired by other authors on Medium, and also I experiment. What I’ve been struggling with for a long time is consistency. There are periods when I publish two articles a week, and there are periods when I don’t write anything at all in three weeks. And that’s what I want to work on.

At Toastmasters speaker clubs, we work on various projects. In our first speech, we start simply by introducing ourselves to the audience and saying something about ourselves. It gets more interesting later. The training system is divided into several levels according to difficulty, and I’ve looked at projects from level four for a long time. For example, there are projects like PR Strategies, Creating a Podcast, Building a Presence on Social Networks, or even Writing an Impressive Blog.

It’s been a while since I looked forward to something so much. And now, it’s time; I can finally work on the projects. I already practice many things that are mentioned in the training materials. I’m a pragmatic person, and if I need to know something, I’ll study it right away. However, it can still be said that these materials provide me with new information that I didn’t know about. A week ago, I talked about how I am building a presence on social networks. Next week, I will talk about how I promoted an event myself, which I also moderated and organized. And in early July, I would like to present my insights on writing a blog.

Eight blogs in 30 days

A project focused on your own blog is, in many ways, specific. You can’t complete it just like that; you need preparation. If you don’t have your own blog yet, you need to create one, and most importantly, you have to start writing. The project requires me to write at least eight articles in a month — it may not seem like much to someone, but it does to me.

Time
Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay

If you look at my posts, you’ll find that most of them break down the topic in-depth, and it can’t be said that they’re short. However, writing such a post takes me several days. Writing is still not my job, so I need to develop a strategy to succeed.

I am currently publishing one post in two weeks on average, and I need to jump to two articles a week. However, it is already the middle of June, and I’m only starting now. I will have to work harder.

How to write blog posts faster?

I have been worried about this question for several months. I write my average post for about four to six hours; then I do proofreading, add graphics, and then solve translation. I write bilingually for two different groups of people. So for simplicity’s sake, we can calculate that I need one working day for one post. But I also worked on some for five days. And it is this challenge that forces me to approach the problem differently.

Shorter posts

The first thing that comes to my mind when I decide to shorten my writing time is making shorter posts. I’ve noticed that posts with a read time of three to five minutes attract a lot more people. We live in a hectic era, and people want quick and easy bits of information nowadays. This whole group of people is currently passing me by because my posts are too long for them. I’d like to reach a reasonable compromise — out of eight posts, three to four will be within five minutes of read time, and the rest will be within ten minutes. However, interestingly, I don’t yet know how to write a short post. Every time I choose a topic, I somehow keep writing until I end up with a long one.

Writing in my native language

The second thing that can help me a lot is writing in my native language. So far, I have written articles in English and translated them. Even though I know English well enough, I am much more skilled and faster in my native language. Suddenly I understand those authors who sit at the computer and write an entire post in an hour. In my case, it’s firstly in the Slovak language, and then I have to do a translation. I am writing my third post in this way, and it’s worked for me so far. Later, as my English improves, I’ll try to switch it up again.

Limiting distractions

You need quiet to write. I’ve been trying to write for a few days now by opening an empty text editor and focusing only on its window. I make sure to close sites like Facebook or Twitter straight away, and I also turn on quiet mode on my cell phone for a while. My focus is then much better, which helps me write rapidly.

Writing without interruption

To write efficiently, I mustn’t interrupt the train of thought. It’s helpful that I’ve mastered typing with ten fingers so I can type very fast.

Don't waste your time
Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

In my first posts, I typed more slowly and continuously added links to the resources I used, looked for pictures or other documents. That is inefficient. You will do much better by writing a rough draft and getting your thoughts on paper as soon as possible. In the next step, you should go through the entire text and edit it. Scroll through the text again and add images. Next, make corrections. I guarantee you that you will write it faster this way, even if you run through the post five to seven times.

Templates

I recently found a pretty helpful tip. For a blogger, there is often nothing worse than starting with a completely blank page. Try creating templates for several types of posts that you normally write. For example, in a technical post where I present a software solution, I need an introduction to explain its use. Then I analyze the software architecture, mention some two or three examples of use, evaluate the solution used, and write a conclusion. Once you have such blocks ready, adding content is much less intimidating compared to a blank page. Moreover, your posts will get a more coherent look. I realize that a template is not suitable for every blog post, but it’s worth considering using it.

Mind maps

Mind maps are a very effective technique for writing posts. They let you think about what you’re going to write about before you write a headline. Especially for large and complex posts, this technique helps me a lot.

My blogging challenge
Mind map for this blogging challenge

I draw a tree, add connections to the branches, and then connect those. Subsequently, when writing, I select the branches from the map and create a complete text.

People want to hear stories

Since I take this challenge as an experiment, I’m trying different writing styles. Although my posts are valuable in terms of content, I realize that they can discourage some people due to the form.

Finding out what your readers like is key.

In January, I attended a workshop focused on storytelling. What I’ve learned probably won’t surprise you. We perceive stories much more intensely than dry speeches that only present information. If we hear the story, our imagination starts working, and a film starts projecting in our heads. At the workshop, I learned the basic rules of what works and what doesn’t, and I will write a separate post about it. But I can already see that stories work for my readers as well. I had a few of my acquaintances read the first two posts I wrote like this, and they all confirmed to me that they were drawn into the stories and, despite their length, they read them in entirety. You can tell almost anything in the form of stories; it just takes a little practice.

Creating a posts buffer

In computer terminology, the term buffer refers to a temporary block of memory used to move data from one location to another. Imagine this on an example of a CD burner. It burns a CD at a constant speed and needs a constant supply of data. However, the computer cannot provide such a supply in all circumstances. If you have a video player open while burning, which plays the movie over the LAN, it may happen that the burner will have nothing to burn.

And that’s what the buffer (also called the cache) is for. Even before the burner starts burning anything, the data is read into the temporary memory, and only after this block of memory is full, then the CD will get burned. As the data is written, the buffer gets emptied, but new data is continuously stored in it. In other words, the buffer eliminates sudden outages. And that’s exactly what I want to try when publishing my posts.

Burning a CD
Image by Chris Yates on Unsplash

As I mentioned, there are weeks when I write two posts a week, and there are weeks when I don’t write anything. So I need to create something like a buffer and make sure I have at least two posts ready for each week. In my case, I set the size of the buffer to eight posts, which will cover a month of writing. Subsequently, I just need to add posts — sometimes I write more, sometimes less. But there will still be enough posts ready to be published twice a week, consistently.

By coming up with this concept, I did not reinvent the wheel. It is used successfully by several content creators. But apparently, everyone has to go through that phase when they produce erratically, without preparation. In time they conclude that it doesn’t work like this.

Consistency is essential and allows you to build a strategy.

At the same time, you won’t be nervous when the new week is approaching, and you don’t have new content yet. However, this approach also has one disadvantage. Your posts cannot respond to breaking news. You publish them at later dates. In the future, I will deal with this by preparing posts that won’t age quickly. And when I see an opportunity to comment on a topic that people are dealing with on a large scale, I will write a special post about it and publish it immediately. I think that is a very sensible compromise.

Are you in?

If you haven’t written a blog yet, how about you try it? Give it a month and write your eight posts. They don’t have to be perfect, but just by writing them, you realize your thoughts. Later you will see if writing is for you or you prefer to do something else. What do you think of the tips I gave here? Can you think of something I didn’t mention? Please share in the comments below.

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