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Blog Struggles: How Do You Know When to Stop Writing a Blog Post?

Blog Struggles Article SeriesAs I prepare for my meeting with Alan Dean Foster, one of the world’s most prolific and famous science fiction authors, I’m not the only one inspired by the whole concept of making dreams come true.

Robyn Seaton introduced Alan Dean Foster to me after she and I met at WordCamp Phoenix, and PodCamp Arizona last week. She didn’t have a blog yet. After a fully packed weekend, she was ready but overwhelmed. What to blog about?

She twittered and emailed me that she wanted to help me in my quest to meet Alan Dean Foster. In the process, found her blog passion and voice. A few days ago, she started her very first blog in , Robyn Transforms, and now has two posts published on the blog. She says she was inspired by me, but I feel inspired by her!

I want to share a few of her questions on blog writing, as they also apply to my upcoming meeting with Alan Dean Foster.

How do you break away from a post? In other words, how do you know when to stop fussing with it? One of the reasons I hadn’t posted before was because I kept going back and rewriting. Every time I look at something, I find something about it I want to change. I’m sure I completely rewrote my About page at least 4 or 5 times, even after I had published it. (Should this go here? Would it be better in a post? Blah, blah, blah.) I suppose the answer becomes as simple as “when you get too tired or find something else to do.” I hope it’s really that simple.

How Do You Know to Stop Writing a Blog Post?

I assured Robyn that her questions and feelings are normal. Birthing a blog is like birthing a baby. There is a lot of anticipation and anxiety, a ton of questions and great unknowns, but once it’s born, it’s a responsibility. After a while, and a few accidents along the way, the answers come instinctively. You somehow know what to do as you get a little more experienced.

Honestly, there are no rules for how long a post must be. In my training workshops and keynotes, I tell everyone to write until the job is done, then edit, edit, edit, edit, re-read, edit, and hit publish. Trust your instincts. If it feels too clunky or makes too many points, then break it up. If it feels right, hit publish.

Here are some more specific points on the basics of writing a blog post:

  1. Write Until It’s Done: Sit down at your blog post or text editor and write until the thought is done. Don’t worry about self-editing, spelling, grammar, or what others will think. Just write. You’ll know when you’re done, but focus on pulling all the thoughts out of your head first.
  2. Edit, Edit, Edit: The true art of writing doesn’t come with just the writing but the editing. It’s rarely perfect the first time out of your head. I call that stage the “brain dump” as I pull all the thoughts out as they come. Then the editing process kicks in to clean it up, restructure, and break up the thoughts into the final form. Sometimes it takes a lot of writing to make all the critical points in one document, and other times a few words do the trick and you’re done. Editing helps you make those decisions as you sift through the thoughts you’ve just written.
  3. Write in Complete Thoughts: Do not write with the expectation that the reader can read your mind. Edit your thoughts so they make sense and we can follow all the dots. Don’t assume we’ve read what came before. Give us a recap of the history, if necessary, and help us understand where you are coming from.
  4. Don’t Be a Perfectionist: Unlike published books or articles, you can always fix a blog post.
  5. Make Your Point and Stop: It’s that simple. Don’t try to shove 84 points into a single blog post. Make your point and stop. Save the other points for more blog posts.
  6. What’s the Right Length for a Blog Post: There has been some research over the past few years on the correct length for a blog post. While short and concise usually wins, the reality is that if the post is well written and pulls the reader through to the end, they will read until the end. Don’t write to a word count. Few people really judge the quality of a book by it’s page count, nor should they blog posts. You will know instinctively when a post is long enough or too long. Trust that.
  7. What is Your Point? “Make your point and stop.” That’s true, but it only goes so far. What’s a point? What’s your point? What if your point takes a long story to tell in order to make the point? What if you need 3 or 10 points to get your message across? While there are template formats for writing a “proper blog post,” write in your own style and voice. Tell your own story your way, after all, it’s your story! We’re reading your blog for you, not for the format. Let you shine through and make your point your way.

In an Dig Museum, Alan Dean Foster actually answers this better than me.

Do you remember what was the first thing you wrote (not necessarily published)?

Yes. It was a story about an aluminum Christmas tree that was thrown out with the trash…and took root, and grew. Nice idea, not enough story.

If you don’t have enough story, don’t publish. If you have too much story, edit it down. When the story is right, publish.

You can find more guidelines on blog writing in “Blogging Is About Writing” published on Darren Rowse’s , and in my Writing category.

Putting This Into Perspective and Reality

As I worked with Robyn to calm her fears and stay focused, I realized that I’d spent the last few days feeling exactly the same way.

Knowing you are going to meet your rock star fantasy hero in two days gives you time to get past the giddy, passing out, swoons and fears, and into some serious contemplation and planning. I’ve been reviewing all of Alan Dean Foster’s more than 100 books and stories, sorting through the memories of the stories I’ve read two to four or more times each. I’ve recalled where I was in my life for each of the books, and how that book impacted my life and helped me change direction, or keep moving forward. I’ve reviewed many of his articles and interviews, including info on his Wikipedia page and listened to some of my favorite podcast interviews with Foster on The Future and You. I’m finding the man behind the stories as I read and listen again to my favorite author’s thoughts on writing, movie making, movie script writing, publishing, and science fiction, but am I? Who is he really?

I’ve been gathering questions from fellow fans on what to ask Alan Dean Foster, and coming up with a huge list of my own. With two days to think about it, I’ve had time to think up a million questions. Too many. I organize them, try to find structure, edit non-stop in my head – unable to sleep and starting to panic that these questions are old ones, asked a million times before, or that I’ll overwhelm him or myself in the process – or worse. Think too much and blow the whole thing.

When Robyn emailed me about her own panic on how to write a blog post and knowing when to stop writing, I realized that I was doing the same thing. Over-working the entire process in my head.

I stopped. I am treating the upcoming interview like my blog. It has to be organic. Natural. Whatever will happen will happen. Listen, feel, and let the experience flow.

You have to do the same with your own blog writing.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

27 Comments

  1. Posted November 22, 2009 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    I find if I have a lot to say on one subject, I’ll make it Part 1 of X… My record is 13! I just had a lot to say about a trip to Turkey about a year ago.

  2. Posted November 22, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I use the old fashioned pen and paper route also just to get my points down, list in priority and then type it up on the computer. Also recommend taking a break once you’re done then come back to see how it looks, sounds, feels and edit more if necessary. Great points made here! :)

  3. Posted November 22, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, This is perfect advice. Thank you.

    Once I sit down to write, I tend to write a lot (as evidenced by this comment). I know I don’t have time to do too much of that in a blog, and I don’t want to put anyone to sleep. The recommendation about picking a point and sticking to it is a good thing to remember. I also like the idea of being able to write long or short depending on the point or the story. It’s a bit like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears.

    According to WordPress, my first post was a bit over 500 words, which seems like a pretty good length to me. My second one was over 1000. I thought that one was a bit long, and that’s why I asked you the question. However, I wanted to tell the whole story so far and post it before your meeting with Alan Dean Foster. So I think I’m happy with the length of that one, too.

    I have a feeling you’re going to need several posts to tell us about your meeting with Alan. I’m looking forward to them.

    Robyn

  4. Posted November 22, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I think many of us blog web publishers have struggled at times in determining what is to much or too little for a blog post.

    What seems to work best for me is simply going to Microsoft Word Program and writing as the thoughts come to me without concern about the length of the post.

    Once I’m comfortable that I’ve conveyed my main points, I go back and edit for grammar, clarity and length and of course that I have covered my central points for the blog post.

    I use Microsoft tools to get the actual word count. If my post is under 350 words, I edit to ensure I at least have a minimum of that amount. If my count is over 800 words, I edit to bring the word count within that range of words. So 350 to 800 words is a good gauge for how much to post. Most people do not want to read a blog post longer than 800 words because we are in a hurry to get information mode.

    After you have your word count, then copy and paste your intended blog post to notepad and then to your blog post.

  5. barney
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Anent your meeting with ‘The Fos’
    Rather than hit him with questions that were provided from others, why not just talk to the man and hear what he has to say?

    You know he’s a celebrity, he knows he’s a celebrity … leave the celebrity out of it – and the hero worship, so to speak – and talk to him the same way you’d talk to any other new acquaintance?

    I promise, it will pay more dividends than you might imagine.

  6. barney
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and as to your title to this post,
    I have a simple[r] formula. Stop when it feels right. Don’t over-edit, don’t rethink it, just stop when you’re done, whether 30 words or 3,000, stop when you’ve said what you have to say. Apart from review for typos & grammatical mistakes, I’m not a big fan of self-editing – that’s usually more an attempt to appeal to a wider – or specific – audience than it is to make your writing more coherent.

    Stop when you’re done, review for errors, and – the biggie – publish!

  7. Posted November 25, 2009 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    Lorelle, I know you’re meeting with Alan Dean Foster went really well. I can’t wait to hear about it.

    Good ideas from everyone. Thanks. The third and fourth posts I wrote were around 800 words. I think they were a better length, but I probably still need to focus and cut it down a bit more. I’m learning.

    I think there’s a fine line between doing too much editing and too little. I usually do need to do some to cut out extra fluff. Some rearranging usually helps, too. However, I can see how it can become a time sink with diminishing returns.

    Robyn

  8. Posted November 26, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I think your advice is good advice. What I have trouble with is the editing, editing and editing and that means I’m being a perfectionist.

    I no longer worry about word count as I did when I first began to blog. There is no rule of thumb for post length aside from adequate coverage of the topic at hand. I have learned that my readers will read any length of post, provided that it’s well written and it holds their interest from beginning to end.

    I’d also like to pick up on what Ian in Hamburg said in his comment above. When I find myself going on and on I stop, assess the situation, and consider creating a series of posts rather than a single post.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Lorelle. Thank you do much for giving us bloggers lots to think about and to act upon all year round.

  9. Posted November 30, 2009 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    When my mind goes blank. When I think I’ve said it all and there’s no point of writing more static. When I feel like I’m ranting (those posts have their own category :). When the article has a clear idea. No retouching, no keyword stuffing.

  10. Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Before I started my own blog, I struggle on the idea on what to write about as well.

    My first reaction was that I don’t think I’m really a writer. But you know what, the more you do it, you think aloud and the reflection of that thought starts to flow into your writing.

    At some point, I decided to separate what I write on my blog from what I want to share from my ‘expertise’.

    I can relate to your feelings with your encounter with Alan Dean Foster. I had the chance to meet Mark Victor Hansen as he came into town. Boy was he tall!

    By the way, should (7) be before (5) or combined? So what’s your point? ;->

  11. Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    When I am not doing enough reading/studying – it’s a good sign, personally, to write even less.

  12. Posted December 14, 2009 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Having an idea to write a post is not enough for me. I’m not an English native speaker, so I often worried about many things, such as spelling, grammar, and some difficult words. Before I publish my post, I will edit it for several times, but still I feel that it’s not enough and there are some mistakes in my post. Usually I will stop to write when I feel so difficult to find the appropriate words. I will take rest for while and then try to find another topic. Your article is very useful, you teach me how to make a good post. I will try it step by step, thanks for the sharing.

  13. Posted December 16, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I struggle with this all the time. At this writing I have several posts ready that I keep procrastinating because I don’t feel they’re ready. I should take your advice: post now, tweak later. :)

  14. Stephen Downey
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Well, a blog is somewhat like a diary where you publish your thoughts.
    The trade off is between your thought on one subject which begins to ramble into another subject or just wahtever is going through your head. The old saying my english teacher had applies “Never write the first word until you know the last”

  15. Posted January 20, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Spot on.
    I always struggle writing a post and want to get everything in.
    I write my posts a bit at a time and do lots and lots of editing.
    Good question to ask yourself… what am I trying to say in this post.

    BTW noticed the “Notify me of new posts via email” at the bottom of the comment box, alongside the more common “Notify me of follow-up comments via email”
    What is the plugin that gives you both options?

  16. zoya
    Posted January 27, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I initially used to try to cram all my pointers into the posts but later realized that it could get boring and tedious. That’s when I tried cutting down on the content as much as I could. Some of my articles are long but with good analysis (says my friends :)) while some are short/long with spoilers.
    This I’m trying to curb too.

  17. gh
    Posted February 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I kind of figure if it takes the reader over a few minutes to skim it and or fit it in while they are “working” then it is good. If it is so long that you may lose your reader due to short attention span then you are doing something wrong.

  18. Atchuthan Sriskandar
    Posted February 14, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    When writing an article, it is really hard to figure out how much information is too much information. This also affects how hard it is to read and understand the content.

  19. Jozi
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    Yea, I think its a fine balance between quality content and volume. Nobody likes reading tooo much!

  20. pars
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I initially used to try to cram all my pointers into the posts but later realized that it could get boring and tedious

  21. Posted March 18, 2010 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle, this is exactly what happened to me as a new blogger, especially the edit edit part, Nice post, greetings.

  22. Posted March 21, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m a bit late to the party, but found my way here, albeit indirectly, from the official Google Analytics url. Thank you, Lorelle, for your pointers. I am a very novice blogger!

    After reading through the comments, I’d emphasize the importance of David Lawrence’s post, “At this writing I have several posts ready that I keep procrastinating because I don’t feel they’re ready.” I find myself doing this too. At my job we call it “analysis paralysis”! And the consequence is that I do a lot of writing but hardly any blog posting! Ideas can lose their relevancy quickly, sometimes in a few days. I think you and David are so correct: post now, revise later.

  23. Posted April 2, 2010 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    What does your future hold?

  24. Posted April 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    I am lazy. I don’t edit much. It works best when I use pen and paper.

  25. Amanda Ford
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I find having a large number of topics to write about helps me. When I have a lot of posts to put out I tend to spend less time on each one.

    At some point I just feel like “Good enough is good enough” and it’s time to move on to the next post.

  26. James
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I think the advice often given to new marketers when writing a press release is also very relevant here. Does it pass the ‘so what’ test. Get a friend to read your blog post and give you an honest opinion. If they fall asleep before they finishing reading it then it probably is too lo…. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  27. Posted August 15, 2010 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    I so agree with “Don’t Be a Perfectionist: “, don’t spend a lot of time perfecting your blog post when it comes to grammar or words as long as it’s direct to the point and understandable. This way, you can write more blog posts.


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] more: Blog Struggles: How Do You Know When to Stop Writing a Blog Post [...]

  2. [...] Know when to stop: Carefully consider when it’s time to stop editing a post. [...]

  3. [...] Know when to stop: Carefully consider when it’s time to stop editing a post. [...]

  4. [...] long should a blog post be? As long as it needs to be. Research has shown that people will read to the bottom of a post, no matter how long it is, if it [...]

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