Could you write a 2,500 word blog post in 3 hours?
That was the challenge I set myself a year ago – to build the perfect process for writing in-depth, quality content before lunchtime, including research, writing, images, the whole shebang.
Day one was a cinch. Day two was a breeze. Day three slowed down. Day four dragged. Day five collapsed before the finish.
The problem with writing is that creativity and productivity are difficult to balance out.
However, while improving the process to keep my output consistent I’ve learned a few key points which you can use to write a long form blog post in 3 hours (as I’ve since managed to achieve and maintain).
No excuses – it’s time to write like you mean it.
Plan before you research
The first thing you should do is make a plan.
I can’t stress enough how useful a plan before you start writing (or even researching) is – it gives you a framework to jump into the rest of your work and to build the skeleton of your post.
It doesn’t have to be anything in-depth, but you should take your idea and quick-fire note down the points that you think you’ll be making and any information you can remember off the cuff.
Again, don’t worry about double-checking any of your points or going into details such as specific facts and figures – focus on the elements of your post and how they fit together.
Ultimately you should be considering what the point of your post is and how your various points fit into that, but this may be difficult before you start researching. Do what you can, then move on.
Above all, however, don’t stray beyond what you already know – the key to writing quickly to a high standard is to block out your activities, and right now, you’re planning.
Research before you write
Once you’ve got the basic structure and potential points of your post down you need to do some basic research to give you the grounding for the body of your work.
Again, resist the temptation to write as you research, as this will wreck your writing flow. Instead, note down core ideas and points (and a link to their origin), quickly slot them into your plan (if you want to use them) and carry on.
One of the best ways to rapid-fire research is to search your topic in both Google and BuzzSumo.
Google is an obvious source, but take note of the angle that the top ranking posts are taking – get a sense of what their audience wanted by searching the topic, and see if there are any holes you can fill.
BuzzSumo, meanwhile, shows you the most frequently shared article within a certain time period (eg, in the last month). From this, you can see what’s popular on social media and potentially get fresh ideas for your post to beat what’s ranking in Google.
Try to skim read if you can – some topics will take more research to understand than others, but the amount of time you’ll save by skim reading over just a couple of posts is intimidating. Also, remember that you may not need to do much research – if you’re doing an opinion piece then you can probably look up some basic facts and sources to bring in and then move on.
Write the whole thing before editing
Once you’ve finished your research it’s time to get stuck in and actually write your blog post. This is both the hardest and most time consuming part of the whole process.
If you’re going to miss your deadline, it’ll be because the writing took too long.
The main point that I’ve found to help with this, however, is to force yourself to write the entire post without stopping to edit. That way you can lock yourself into a writing flow without leaving a chance to get tempted to stop.
In other words, forget about perfect spelling and grammar. Don’t worry about word choice or even your overall structure (your plan should have taken care of that anyway). Worry about getting the word count down with some killer points.
Don’t forget to take breaks if you need it either – everyone’s brain turns to mush from too much information, and sometimes it’s better to take a break and type with a fresh head than to force yourself to plough through.
Do a broad edit before putting in links and images
Once you’ve written the post you need to let it sit overnight. Yes, I know that I said “write in three hours”, but in terms of the time you’re actually spending on the post, it’ll be correct.
The main point here is that you can’t edit properly when you’ve just written it – you’ve got your head in such a rut from all the research and writing that you can’t see the bigger picture. Going back to do a broad edit the day after will let you see your mistakes with fresh eyes and far more quickly make improvements to your spelling, grammar, word choice, and even overall structure.
Then, once your edit’s done, add your links and images and you have yourself one finished post.
Write in a minimum distraction environment
The final element to writing a long form blog post in three hours is to make sure that you’re writing in a minimum distraction environment. This means both your physical and digital locations.
Put simply, you need to be sat somewhere where you won’t get distracted (no loud noises or eye-catching technology such as TVs) and also write using a writing app like Quip. Compared to WordPress, Google Sheets, and even Word, Quip provides the best interface for focusing on your writing.
Essentially, Quip is so boring that the only thing you can focus on is your post (tough love is sometimes the best method). That and that alone is enough to make it one of my team’s indispensable blogging tools.
Focus on the process
It all starts with the process. Everything I’ve told you up to this point has basically been a documentation of my process.
You may not realize it, but you already have a process. Whether you’re writing a blog post, maintaining standard operating procedures, or running an email marketing campaign, you have a process you’re following. It may not be a very good one, but there’s always a process.
What you need to do is focus on the process. Figure it out. Break it up into smaller, digestible chunks. Simple tasks for you to complete.
Once you do that, you’re on your way to understanding business process management. You can build out all of your processes and figure out how to continuously improve them.
All of the above sounds incredibly simple, but a little organization really does go a long way towards being more productive. Having said that, I’d love to hear how you organize your writing workflow in the comments!
About the author
Oliver Peterson is a content writer for Process Street with an interest in systems and processes, attempting to use them as tools for taking apart problems and gaining insight into building robust, lasting solutions.