Recently on the ProBlogger blog, blogging and writing expert Ali Luke shared a simple 7-step iterative process for speed writing. Using this method, you can build articles step-by-step in short bursts of time – ideal for busy people who have limited time to write. Evernote is perfectly designed to complement to this speed writing method.
How do I know this? Because it’s the way I manage all of my writing! It’s an ideal tool for taking advantage of random, short downtimes throughout my day – those 5-10 minute blocks of time that most of us let go to waste or invest time checking our family and friends’ latest Facebook updates can be used to propel your writing projects faster. Stuck in a traffic jam? Waiting in a long line? Cooling your heels while waiting for an appointment? All can be turned to productive use, if you have the right tools and process in place.
Here is a summary of the 7 step speed writing process Ali recommends, to which I have added brief explanations on how to adapt them work with Evernote.
Step 1: Ideation (20 minutes)
Your goal during this first stage of the speed writing process is to brainstorm as many blog content ideas as you can.
Step 2: Planning (20 minutes)
Pick 4 ideas. Spend no more than 5 minutes briefly planning each one. Try to maintain a consistent structure, such as:
- Several key points
Evernote is perfectly designed to capture an idea and then iteratively add to it. Each time you return to your note, your brain is in a slightly different place – which means you’re likely to get new insights, which you can add to the note. In addition, Evernote enables you to move seamlessly between all of your computing devices. No matter which one you use next, it will contain the latest versions of your ideas.
Step 3: Outlining (10 minutes per outline)
Go through your 5 minute plan and flesh out each key point. Add notes about:
- What specific tips and ideas you want to include in each section
- Any links or examples you want to use
- Format lists with bullets or create numbered lists.
- Add horizontal lines as dividers (invoked by using the dash key three times and then hitting the Enter key)
- Use font size, style and color to denote headings and visually differentiate them from the body of your notes.
Step 4: Drafting
Add content to each section, based on your outline. You can dedicate a longer time period for this part of the speed writing process, or you can draft in short bursts (10-20 minutes per day), if that suits your schedule better.
The fact that you can return to a draft repeatedly and incrementally move it along to completion within Evernote is a real plus. Evernote automatically syncs your notes between all of your devices, so you can start an article draft on your smartphone, and then continue to develop it on the desktop version of Evernote several hours or days later. That’s incredibly flexible and efficient!
- Tip: To write faster, use Dragon Dictate, which automatically syncs the Evernote notebooks you specify with it. You can dictate the content of your ideas, as well as give Dragon Dictate formatting commands, such as “new paragraph,” “bold that” and “italicize that.” Many of my ideas come to me while I’m doing something else – so I use Dictate or my iPhone’s built in Siri intelligent agent to quickly and efficiently dictate my ideas.
- Tip: To help me get re-acclimated to my drafts when I return to them, I’ve gotten into the habit of leaving myself little notes on what needs to be done next or what information I still need to add. I use the text highlighting tool to make these items stand out within the body of the note.
- Tip: Don’t forget – you can easily create to-do lists in Evernote, using the checkbox list tool.
Step 5: Rewriting
Walk away from your draft for several days. When you return to it, you’ll be looking at it with fresh eyes. Then:
- Cut out any sections that don’t belong in the post.
- Rearrange as needed to give your article a better flow. If you think your article may be better served by reorganizing paragraphs or sentences, try it out. You can always use the “undo” command to return your article to its former state.
- Add what’s missing. This could include a quote from a subject matter expert, a link to a related blog post or additional wording to clarify a point.
Rewriting is best done on the desktop or web versions of Evernote, because it’s easier to edit while working on a larger screen. This is another one of those tasks you can do incrementally in 10-20 minute bursts.
- Tip: When you need to stop in the midst of an a partially finished rewrite, you need to know where you stopped editing. I’ve found that adding “start here >>” to your draft and highlighting it makes it obvious where I need to resume the rewriting process.
Step 6: Editing
Review your article closely for correct grammar and punctuation. Look at sentence structures and word choices with a critical eye.
Once again, editing requires a certain amount of precision – and a keyboard. You CAN do this on a smartphone, but why put yourself through that hassle? Editing is best done on the desktop or web versions of Evernote – or on a tablet, if you’re using it with a keyboard.
Step 7: Formatting and links
Select images. Apply heading styles, blockquotes, bullet points, etc. Make it easily readable. Look for opportunities to add links – to another post on a similar topic on your own site, or a link to someone else’s site.
As you finish the process of polishing your final draft, it should contain links as separate text, so they’re easy to see. Ideally, you should have been collecting these links during your article research process. Now’s the time to decide what you want to include in the body of your article. If you’re creating a long, detailed blog post, you may have many resources to which you want to link. Decide on a format that works best for you.
You should also make notes on which text should be formatted H1 and H2 – especially useful if you’re creating the content but someone else is posting it to the blog. Same with blockquotes and bulleted lists.
Finally, use your note to include the keywords and phrases you want to tag your blog post with.
I wish you much enjoyment implementing this simple, practical and incredibly efficient workflow. I hope you find it as valuable as I have. Finally, thanks to Ali Luke for putting into words the iterative process I’ve been using for the last several years!