Oh I’m sure you know the feeling:
You sit down to write a new post. You want to help your audience, engage them, and convince to sign up for your app in the process…
…and a couple of hours later, you still struggle to get it done.
Other things begin to cry for your attention. Developers need a sign off on a new feature. Users send support requests. And prospects email their questions.
But you just can’t give it up now, not until you finish the piece.
You end up stressed, burn out, and wish you’d never started that damn blog.
But your struggle comes as no surprise.
Writing is a complicated process, involving what I believe to be the most challenging aspect of communications – converting the abstract ideas in your head into a tangible form – words on paper.
And hell, even seasoned writers struggle with it sometimes.
Luckily, there are ways to speed up the process.
And in this post, I’ve put together a list of tricks that will cut your writing time and also, help you create a much better content faster than ever before.
Ready? Let’s not waste any more time then.
#1. Define the Problem You’re Writing About BEFORE You Get to Write
Here’s the deal:
A working title isn’t enough to define what you’re content is going to be about.
Sure, it can help gain clarity on the direction and the type of content you want to write. You will naturally write in a tutorial style if your working title includes words like “How to.” But it’s not enough to define exactly where you want to take the reader.
But from what I can see, that’s where many founders start. They come up with a working title and set off to write…
…and then, halfway through the piece, begin to struggle with what to talk about.
Luckily, the solution is simple:
Start with the problem instead.
Before doing anything else, writing a working title, a headline or the first line of the copy, ask yourself what problem do you want to help your audience overcome.
Knowing the problem will help you write nearly every section of the post.
You will know how to open the piece (more on this in a second), what advice to include in the article, in what order, and finally, you’ll know what to tell the reader in the conclusion.
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#2. Start with the Outline
Ever noticed that content that captures and engages you flows naturally from start to finish? It’s every section comes out from the one before it, and leads you through the piece, almost hypnotizing you when you read.
That’s no accident.
It’s a result of careful planning the author put into the piece before starting to write – outlining.
Outlining involves listing all sections you want to include in the content. Start with the main ones. Then breaking them down into the smaller sub-sections, until you’ve exhausted the problem.
Then, describe what you want to say in each section, and include any reference materials, research, etc. so that you can refer to them when you write each piece.
To outline content, I use a software called OmniOutliner. But even a piece of paper will do if you prefer to do it this way.
And here’s my template for content outline:
Let me explain its each section.
Topic – the general topic I’m writing about. For example, time-saving writing tips.
Objective – what I want to achieve with this piece. My objective for this article, for instance, is: to show SaaS founders who blog tips on how they could cut down their writing time and improve their content at the same time.
Note: The next two elements are I picked up from Andy Maslen’s fantastic book, Persuasive Copywriting. They relate to two emotions you need to target in your content:
Steady-state –how the customer feels about the problem right now, and
Target emotion – how do you want them to feel once they’ve finished reading the copy.
Sections – this is where I list all sections and sub-sections I want to include in the content along with comments and notes for each.
Notes – initial notes I typically make while researching the content.
Ref (References) – links to various resources and other reference materials I want to include in the content.
Naturally, you can use a completely different structure for your outline. For me, this one has worked particularly well over the years.
#3. Narrow What You’re Going to Say
Here’s the deal:
Even though you’ve defined the problem, you’re still at a danger of getting lost when writing the piece.
Why? Because you might try to cover its too many aspects.
After all, you can approach almost every problem in many ways and apply multiple solutions, right?
Therefore, when outlining the piece, pick a single aspect of a problem and stick with it.
If you write about ways your reader could write blog posts faster (like I’m doing right now), instead of covering all various sub-topics, like writing faster, writing productivity, or writing tools, pick only one and advise your readers on overcoming this particular problem.
You’d be surprised how much easier it is to write if you only focus on one thing.
#4. Get Through the Opening Fast
For most people, writing the opening is the most challenging part of the process.
You know you need to capture a reader with the first sentence and, fearing the failure, you blank out.
Or you spend countless time tweaking and reworking the introduction, without moving on to write the rest.
But get through the opening as fast as possible. Don’t let it hold you from completing the entire blog post.
Sure, you may have to rewrite it later. But by then, you will have your all ideas on paper, right in front of you. And finding the best way to open the piece might no longer be that difficult.
Here are a couple of strategies for opening your content.
For the sake of this article, let’s pretend that I’m writing a piece on public speaking. I could open it in a number of ways:
- Ask a question – What if you could walk out in front of others and talk without having a shaky voice?
- State the problem – Many people fear public speaking, to a point of being completely paralyzed.
- Twist it – Imagine being pushed on a stage, in front of a large auditorium and not being afraid to speak. How would that feel?
- Use research – Did you know that 19% of people suffer from Glossophobia or fear of public speaking? So, if you do too, you’re not alone.
- Compare facts – More people fear to speak in public than spiders. Shocking but true.
#5. Use Simple Language
Seth Godin once said:
“Don’t do business writing. Write like you talk instead.”
Paul Graham advises the same:
“Here’s a simple trick for getting more people to read what you write: write in spoken language.”
But of course, writing like you speak doesn’t mean filling your posts with yyyyyh’s, ummmm’s, and pfffff’s.
It means using simple language, words you’d use when speaking to somebody.
And sure, if you throw an occasional f-bomb when you talk, don’t hesitate to do the same in writing.
#6. Write Shorter Sentences and Paragraphs
Doing so may seem challenging at first, true. Naturally, we want to keep going with a thought, expanding it further and further.
But here’s the catch, writing short sentences helps you gain focus on your writing. It limits what you say to a handful of words, and makes the writing process faster.
Why? Because you get to the point quicker, and finish the piece.
The same rule applies to paragraphs. Instead of beating around the bush on the topic, say what you need to say and move on.
As a bonus, shorter sentences and paragraphs make the piece easier to read.
Double win, if you ask me.
Not sure how to do it? Check out these great copywriting exercises to help you learn to write in short sentences.
#7. Write All Subheadings First
I’m sure you know:
Subheadings guide a reader through your copy. They allow a person just to skim it and still get the gist.
But, they also help you write it faster.
Once you have all headings down on paper, you know exactly what you need to write, what tone of voice to use in each section, and how to move from one to the other.
I typically write subheadings during the outlining process. But you could do it later, right before writing the opening.
The point is to write subheadings as they will be in the finished piece. And then, just fill each one with relevant information.
#8. Write in Bullet Lists
You don’t have to write in sentences and paragraphs all the time.
In fact, some information works better when you present it in an easy to digest form. Like in a list, for example.
- Lists are easy to write
- Help you organize the information
- Help create concise statements
Not to mention, they help a reader get the idea of the section much quicker than if they were to read a full copy.
#9. Close by Referencing the Opening
Ending the piece can be as problematic as opening it.
After all, you’ve shared all the advice with a reader. But you still have to come up with something to close it.
It’s just… you’ve covered everything already. You’ve nothing left to say.
Out of many tricks writers use to close the content is referencing the opening, slightly rewriting it but focusing on the same problem.
Sure, there are other ways to do it.
But if you want to finish the piece fast, just restate what you’ve opened the piece with.
Writing is so darn time-consuming, isn’t it?
You know you have to do it. After all, that’s the best way to promote your product and attract new users.
The thing is… it often takes you away from other, more pressing things in your business.
Luckily, there are ways to speed up the process. Follow them and you’ll notice your writing time cut in half, at least.