Author Ann Handley joined #Bufferchat to discuss ways to take your writing to the next level. Check out her latest book, “Everybody Writes” for great advice on writing and content marketing.
Check out the full recap on Storify here!
As I was brainstorming ideas for my last post on the Buffer blog, I started reflecting on what I’ve personally learned during my time at Buffer.
My writing process is considerably different today than it was when I joined Buffer nine months ago, so hopefully you can find some nuggets in the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned that might help you as well.
When I first joined Buffer, Leo had been running the Buffer blog pretty much on his own: he wrote or sourced the content, published it and promoted it all. Leo and I approached blogging from almost exact opposite ends of the spectrum; Leo is great at getting something up quickly and tweaking it to fit, whereas I was prone to spend a long time on my “first draft,” which was more like a fourth draft by the time I eventually sent it over for Leo to look at.
I often get asked about my research process for the Buffer blog. For my science and life hacking posts in particular, I rely heavily on scientific research to back up my points, so there’s a lot of research to be done.
Unfortunately there’s no secret sauce or magic bullet when it comes to this process. It’s mostly just a matter of time and practice. I do have a few tips to share about where and how I find the sources for my research, though, so hopefully you’ll find these useful.
The first thing I do when I start a research-heavy post is start digging into the topic to learn everything I can. Here are a few ways I find studies and research papers for my posts.
What does your ideal day look like? Would you believe there’s a scientifically correct answer to the question?
Research into the human body—its hormone allotment, its rhythms, and its tendencies—has found that there are certain times of day when the body is just better at performing certain activities. Eat breakfast no later than 8:00 a.m. Exercise between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Read Twitter from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. (your fellow tweeters are more upbeat in the morning).
Turns out our optimal times for performing a large number of tasks are best left up to science. If breakfast can be black-and-white, does that mean writing and creativity can be, too?
“Routines are important, but only if you make them your own. Simply copying someone else’s routine probably won’t work.” — Jeff Goins
Although I’ve researched daily routines and habits often, I still find myself constantly coming across great ideas from other bloggers, marketers and entrepreneurs about how they manage their time and productivity.
Productivity and using time wisely is always on our minds at Buffer as we develop our social media management tools. In fact, “work smarter, not harder” is one of our 10 core values.
Here are six tips from bloggers who continually produce great content, based on their own routines.
During this time, I’ve also been experimenting with small changes in my workflow, my writing process and the types of content I produce. The result has been an improvement in my writing and a better understanding of how I work best. Hopefully you’ll find some of these things helpful in improving your own writing.
Feedback is hugely important for my writing. If I don’t spend long on a piece, I often overlook small typos or grammatical issues. I don’t craft my words quite as carefully as I could, and I tend to repeat myself a bit. Having someone read over my writing can highlight these issues and help me to clean up my work.
On the other hand, if I spend a long time on a piece, it can be just as bad. It’s easy to become lost in a piece after a while, and have trouble stepping back and seeing it objectively. It’s also hard to forget all of the extra context I have in my head by that point, and read it as a reader, who has little or no context about the topic.
When you’re facing a blank page with no idea what to write, it’s hard to imagine how you’ll ever get to the other side of a finished piece. I’ve gone through this a few times, so I thought it might be helpful to share the methods that have worked for me.
This is actually the method that inspired this post. I was working on a post about Google Analytics recently and I was struggling to get started. After a few false starts, I finally decided to just write my concerns into the post. It turned out well, and made me think that sharing this method, and others I use, could be helpful to others.
I’ve been reading some advice from successful writers lately and exploring what their routines are like to see what I can learn about
It also features actionable tips for you on how to implement them in your own writing.
I write because it comes out — and then to get paid for it afterwards? I told somebody, at some time, that writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman and afterwards she gets up, goes to her purse and gives me a handful of money. I’ll take it. — Charles Bukowski
Unlike Charles Bukowski, writing well doesn’t come so easily for a lot of us (including me). It takes a lot of mental energy, strains your working memory and often makes you feel vulnerable if you try to be open and honest in your work.
The pure effort of writing is hard enough, but coupled with the pain of putting your work out into the world and letting others judge it, this can be enough to stop you from getting started at all.
Consistency in style, tone, grammar, and punctuation is essential to an enjoyable blog experience. Successfully done, these elements go unnoticed by readers who are too busy consuming the easy, breezy content. That’s the way it should be. Style guides create uniform content and allow that content to shine.
Invisibility is the hallmark of a well-used style guide. You may not even notice the hundreds of subtle decisions that make browsing a blog seamless, but know that they are there. Everything from capitalization to commas, styles to sources, and so much more gets covered in a content style guide.
Content style guides are easier to set up than you think, and the payoff can be substantial for the success of your blog and the enjoyment of your readers. For those interested in a blog with consistency and quality, a content style guide is an invaluable resource.
I’ve heard blogging referred to a couple of times recently as a mixture between an art and a science. If this is true (and I think it is), there’s no ‘right way’ to approach blogging if you want to be successful. There are plenty of people who’ve done a great job of it though, and I thought it would be useful to learn from them.
These 16 bloggers shared one important tip each for blogging beginners. No doubt, even if you’re not a beginner these tips will probably prove to be useful.
Create blog posts that answer the most interesting questions from people you engage with on social media.
This can be a great way to gather ideas of what topics people would most like to read about, which will help your blog grow! One of the best ways I’ve seen this in action is through blog comments or Tweets. In one example, here on FastCompany a lot of people requested a post that features more women entrepreneurs:
Now, a few weeks later adding such an article where just women contributed and built great businesses was a big hit: