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Cover image for How to write a blog post: The four-drafts method

How to write a blog post: The four-drafts method

amrutaranade profile image Amruta Ranade ・5 min read

If starting a new blog is one of your new year resolutions, this video will help you write a blog post in four drafts:

Blogging workbook mentioned in the video: https://mailchi.mp/28475be5d736/bloggingworkbook

Transcript:

In today's video, I want to share my four-drafts method to write a blog post.

Starting a new blog is one of the most common new year resolutions.

I have been having a lot of conversations with my friends and coworkers about how they want to start a blog in the new year. And the common theme among all these conversations is that we have a very romanticized idea of what it means to start a blog or about writing in general. And there is this idea of inspiration striking and then you sitting down at your laptop and writing a masterpiece in one afternoon.

I write for a living as a tech writer so I know that writing is not as much about inspiration as it is about a step-by-step algorithm. And that's what I want to share in today's video.

So I have this four-drafts method that I use for any writing project. I adapted this method from the five-draft method for writing a novel by Jeff Goins. And I customized it to meet my writing requirements. To make things even easier for myself, I converted the method into a workbook. I will leave a link to the workbook in the description box below. So without further delay, let's get into the four-drafts method for writing a blog post.

Let's start with an overview of the four-drafts method:

We start with a blank page and then you dump everything you possibly know about the subject onto the blank page to create the "Throwaway Draft".

Once you have all the information that you know about the topic onto the paper and out of your brain, now it's time to process it and think about the reader. This is where you perform audience analysis and decide the structure and the content of the document.

We edit the Throwaway draft based on this information to create the "Rough Draft". Then we self-edit the rough draft, pass it through Grammarly, use a text-to-speech software, and use a style guide to create the "Review Draft".

And finally, you send the review draft for technical, editorial, and peer reviews and incorporate the feedback to create the "Final Draft".

Okay, so now that we have an overview of the method, let's do a deep dive.

The first draft of the four-drafts method is the Throwaway draft. The first reader that you write for is yourself. So the idea here is to free-write for 25 minutes without thinking about sentence structure, or grammar, or punctuation. No editing. Nothing. Nobody is ever going to read this draft except for you. This will help you get all the thoughts and ideas about that topic out of your brain and then put it on the screen so it becomes easier to process those thoughts and form a coherent
narrative out of them.

Now that we have written a Throwaway draft for ourselves, it's time to think about the reader. You get this step right and the blog post practically writes itself. But getting this step wrong is how we end up with an ineffective blog post. In this phase, I try to figure out who my audience is -- who is my reader? What brought them to the blog post in the first place? While thinking about your readers, it's also important to remember that you might have multiple readers.

Your blog post might have primary, secondary, and gatekeeper audience.
You might want to use the Audience Analysis Worksheet for each of these audiences to cover your bases.

The Audience Analysis Worksheet will also help you determine the best content structure for your blog post.
Should it be a listicle?
Should it be an opinion piece?
Should it be a comparison between two products?
Depends on who your audience is and what you need to tell them.

So once you know what content structure is the most effective for your blog post, go back to the Throwaway draft and then try to format the Throwaway draft into the content structure format.

Once you are done with the audience analysis, the next step in the process is the "Rough Draft". Now that you know who your audience is and what they are looking for, go back to the Throwaway Draft and see what points of the Throwaway draft are applicable or relevant
to your audience.

Now it's time to start thinking about the language. This is where we start editing and nitpicking and getting the sentences just right.

I have a four-step editing process. The first step is to read through the blog post and make changes as I go. This is where I polish the blog post as much as I can. The second step is to use Grammarly to check for tone and grammar. The third step is to use the text-to-speech feature on my Macbook Pro to have the laptop read the document out loud to me to hear for any awkward phrasing or any weird sentence structure.

And then the fourth step is to use any organizational style guides that you might have to make sure that you are following the rules in the style guide. This is an optional step -- like, if you are writing a personal blog post, then maybe you don't have a style guide. But if you are writing a blog post for a publication, then they might have a style guide so it's important to make sure that you follow their rules. By the end of this step, we will have what I call the "Review Draft" -- which is a draft that is good enough to be seen by other people. If I am writing a blog post for work or if I am writing a technical blog post in general, I will send it out for technical reviews. I also ask for peer reviews and editorial review. And in some cases, a sensitivity review.

Once I get the review feedback, I incorporate it in my blog post and then the blog post is ready to be published. I usually publish on my personal blog as well as dev.to which is a developer-focused community platform.

And that's it -- that's how I write my blog posts in four drafts. I hope this video was helpful. Bye!

Discussion

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murrayvarey profile image
MurrayVarey

Great post Amruta!

I've come to realise how important it is to have a writing process. Too often I've neglected one of those early stages.

Out of interest, where do you fit research into the process?

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amrutaranade profile image
Amruta Ranade Author

Excellent question! Research, self-study, and user-testing the process/product workflow is my pre-writing phase. The throwaway draft is the output of the research phase.

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murrayvarey profile image
MurrayVarey

Makes perfect sense -- get the research done, then get the words out onto the page. Thanks!

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piotrmurach profile image
Piotr Murach

Thanks for sharing your process. I've never thought about playing the article back to me via speech processing - brilliant! Will try next time.

Similar to you, my first draft is a dump of all my thoughts about the topic. However, before I do that I like to create a high-level outline of what I want this article to be about. I find that without the outline my article may veer off the path. The outline helps me decided what things to keep and what to throw away. I'm not a professional writer at all, but I'm committed to getting better at this craft. So thanks for sharing!

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Amruta Ranade Author

Thank YOU for sharing your process :)

I used to write an outline first and then write the draft. What I found, however, was that the article could end up being about what I want to say instead of what the reader (or the user) needs to know. This works perfectly fine for my personal blog posts but it doesn't really work for my technical documentation tasks. Hence I broke up my process into two distinct drafts: the first draft is a braindump of everything I want to say. Then I switch my mindset to that of the reader and use the audience analysis worksheet to figure out what the reader needs to know. And the rewrite the draft from the user's perspective.

(I admit it might be an unnecessary step for someone who doesn't need to craft professional tech docs, but it's what works best for me in my job as a tech writer.)

I admire your commitment to get better at writing! Good luck and I look forward to following your writing journey :)

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codingmamakaz profile image
Kazumi Karbowski

I'm inspired to write more. Thank you, Amruta!
Do you use a paid-version of Grammerly or is the free version good enough?

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amrutaranade profile image
Amruta Ranade Author

I am so glad the post inspired you to write more!
I use the paid version of Grammarly but that's because I use it at my job as a tech writer. If I wasn't using it professionally, the free version would have been good enough for me.

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codingmamakaz profile image
Kazumi Karbowski

Sounds good! Thank you. I feel my first Dev.to blog post coming up!

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ramramsaheb profile image
Vineet Singh

Excellent article Amruta!

I'm looking to start my own blog soon and this is just perfect for me

Thanks again

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armw4 profile image
Antwan R. Wimberly

Nice 👍🏼

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blyoung profile image
blyoung

Very Nice!!!! This is very helpful.

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mrsmarian1 profile image
The Tb Joshua’s Blog

Great Post .very useful keep it up

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speshov profile image
SPeshov

Will be different for more technical posts - I just sit and write it at once, interesting method.

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amrutaranade profile image
Amruta Ranade Author

I use this process specifically for technical posts. As a tech writer, I found that writing the post in one session does not produce a draft good enough to be published professionally. Hence the rest of the process :)