When you have a blog post or article to write, a blank white page – or screen – can feel daunting. So here are my tips for getting started…
Whether you’re preparing to write a blog post, a feature article or an opinion piece, these tips may come in useful. Though you’ll need to extend the time you spend preparing depending on the length and depth of your work.
1. Be clear on what you’re writing
Before you open your laptop, make sure you’re clear on the focus of your writing. So you may feel inspired to write something about body positivity. But what, exactly, are you writing? Is it a response to someone’s Instagram post or a reality TV show? What’s your angle? Is this a first person piece or a more general, factual article; bringing in other people’s research?
Decide on the subject, the angle, the voice, the tone, the length.
2. Get the structure down
If it’s a blog post or article, it could be a ‘tips’ piece – eg. 5 ways to reduce plastic in the home. Here, you write a short intro then head straight into the tips. A feature will usually be longer and include stats and comment from experts or other people with an opinion on the subject. An opinion piece will be first-person and doesn’t need to include other voices but it still needs a structure: beginning (introducing the subject), middle (why this issue matters), end (what you’re doing; or what can be done).
Decide on the structure and break it down: if it’s a tips piece – what are the tips? Write the headers. If it’s a feature; think about how you’ll structure your argument and start gathering comment. If it’s an opinion piece – decide on a basic beginning, middle, end.
You may be setting out with a really clear idea about your response to an issue, challenge etc but the more research you do, the better. So if I decide I’d like to look at how Brexit may impact freelance mums, I don’t just think of a few possibilities and turn them into an article – I look at what others have written. I try to find studies. I look beyond that specific question, extending it to how Brexit will affect freelancers, women, mothers. Go broad, and then narrow it back down.
Referencing existing work/research on your subject – whatever the structure – will add depth to your piece. But don’t overdo it; this still needs to be your piece, in your voice.
4. Start writing
This is an annoying tip and it’s one that often floats about… ‘if you want to write you need to just start writing’. But what I mean is that once you have your subject and structure nailed, get a few lines down. Write an opener: a fact, an issue, why you’re angry or happy. It doesn’t matter if it sounds shit; you can go back and change it. But getting a line down will probably inspire you to then write another. And another.
Don’t aim for the perfect opening line, just write down one line about this subject and see how it looks and feels. Does it lead to another thought? If so, go with it.
5. The edit matters too
But once you’ve started properly writing, you don’t need to tap out the full article before editing. Return to the beginning and tweak, if it needs it. Check the flow; does the order of information need to change? Are you repeating yourself? You may find that going back to the start sparks new ideas. Make notes. Add bits in. Delete the rubbish lines. Remove all cliches or overused phrases. Remember that simple is always better than over-complicated.
The edit is really important. So do it as you go, as well as thoroughly editing once you’ve finished a draft. Proofread. Correct typos. Make it as perfect as can be.
Do you have any tips to add?