The Snowflake Method in Planning Blog Content

When we first start a blog, we can easily get caught up in over-planning.  This can create writer’s block, anxiety, and nifty way to procrastinate actually writing blog content. My method is a combination of Randy Ingermanson’s “snowflake” method and my own home-made process of creating a loose structure for planning blog content.

Back in the Olden Days (the 90s), blogging was more of a fever dream than a business plan–and one of the interesting aspects of blogging is that “off the cuff,” casual writing feel. But damn, it’s hard work to write well in a casual style.  Free-blogging, just writing whatever seems “right” — can quickly turn into a stream-of-consciousness introspection that fails to relate to audiences.   It can also lead to its own writer’s block issues.   Here I present how to begin to put structure into our blogs while creating a good backlog of ideas that we can draw on continually to build coherent, customer-relatable content.

Breathe: Planning Blog Content Does Not Suck Entirely

 Yeah, well, it does when you’re starting out and finding your voice. We have to find the right balance, when we first start out, between planning content and just “doing it.”  Without a strong idea to help provide a direction when we write, we can run out of ideas, motivation, or just that creative energy to write, day after day after day.  If you’re interested in blogging-as-a-business, the question of how you’re going to serve your customers should be central to the planning process.  What products do you intend to create for sales?  E-books? Training courses?  Hair style products?  Aromatherapy?

Selling is often seen as a “dirty word” — and given the schlock we see out there on the Internet, it’s easy to get that vibe.   When I look at the 25 “top” ways to create blogging plans on Pinterest, I have to shudder at the push to create click-bait. Start with a catchy title? Please, that can take you down all kinds of wrong roads.   

In a blog post about branding your blog, writer Randy Ingermanson asserts:

Branding is about making a promise of consistent quality. Your blog does that by defining itself sharply and then delivering consistently.

I borrow many techniques from Randy.  He’s “the snowflake guy,” the fellow who invented and popularized the “snowflake method” of writing fiction.

Here’s how I’ve adapted this method for planning blog content.   It’s not a perfect method;  I’ve been using this method of working on posts every day since 23 December 2017.  But I have been blogging for over a decade, so this isn’t my first rodeo.  It’s time-tested at least for me.

Here I’ve  taken Ingermanson’s ten steps and reduced them to five, suitable for a post-a-day engagement.

Start with an idea.

Write a single sentence about it. Not a headline, not a paragraph, just one tight sentence about what the post is going to be about.

Develop a purpose.

Having a purpose and direction for our businesses helps define our blogs.  A post should have its own, smaller, related purpose.

Am I going to be teaching something ?  If so, what?   Why?  What will my readers know or be able to do after reading it.

Am I going to relate to my customers through writing? The “This blogging life” posts are about improving my essay writing capacity.  I want to write posts that help people connect with me and understand my point of view.

Do I want to build my community?  I might want to introduce a particular blogger, for example.   Those Sunshine Blogger awards are good for that.

If I wanted to sell my expertise (not ready for that yet), then I might want some piece that establishes my credibility and knowledge, like an in-depth research piece.  If I were selling aromatherapy projects or vacation get-aways, then I’d make sure my blog had researched posts that supported my credibility to advise on aromatherapy or vacation get-aways.

“Snowflake”

The “snowflake method” of writing fiction is one way of working on new ideas that we can storehouse and develop over time.  Originally created for novels,  by the above-mentioned Randy Ingermanson,  the snowflake method has ten steps.    I’ve adapted this to blogging and broke it down to four steps.

Step 1 Write a one sentence summary of your book. blog post.  I often do this when one idea hits me while I’m writing a different blog post.  I save what I’m writing in the first post, then I go create another draft of the new post.  I give the new draft a title to help me remember it, such as “Planning Blog Posts”  or “So-and-so-Plug-in” .   Then I write that sentence, and return to the post I was writing.    I often have a dozen of these draft notes that I organize and develop later.

When I’m ready to write,  I can begin working on one of those drafts, without leaving WordPress.  I can plan out the week by choosing a writing post,  a product post, a teaching walk-through, to provide variety and interest–which it how it helps me in the planning process.

Step 2 –  Expand that sentence to a paragraph.    When I’m ready to think about the topic, I go back and flesh out a paragraph.  It usually becomes the second paragraph in the post that tells the audience what I’ve written about.  I usually include my purpose in this paragraph–as it helps me later to remember what I was thinking when I first brainstormed the post. 

In Step 3, Randy Ingermanson has the fiction writer create a one page summary of each character.  Instead, I think of my own fictional characters, my “customer personas” — composites of the people I consider to be my target audience. What do they want to read?   I often write a few sentences about what they want to read about — to help guide my research.   This helps remind me who I’m writing for.  

I usually put the URLs I come across on the draft blog posts.  This way, if I have to stop and do something else (real life, oh my), I have those URLs ready for me when i come back to writing.

Step 4 – Write and develop the post.  I usually shorten and adapt the original idea of the draft. I look at the online materials –the URLs I used to research the idea– sometimes re-reading them, often incorporating the better ones into the post.

Step 5 – Last of all, I write the “lede” and the headline, find and develop the featured image.   Nowadays, I use that Yoast SEO plug-in thing to help edit the post so that it is more SEO-friendly — which is surprisingly mostly about things like repeating the topic multiple times in the text, using the same words. “Planning blog content” in the case of this post.

Step 6 – I publish.  Because I’m that way, I usually read the post and have to run back and correct grammar and writing mistakes.  But I get it out there.

Putting it All Together: Planning Content Holistically

After each step, I often have to stop, given issues of time constraints.  I currently have 19 baby posts that I can choose from to develop on any given day.   I try to consider making sure posts have a  good variety so that my different customer personas are getting something they want each week.   Have I written too many walk throughs this week?  Have I not written a walk-through in a while?  I look at my statistics and try to figure what posts have had traction– and what posts haven’t.  Do those that haven’t just need promotion?

The Results: A Loose Structure, Lots of Ideas

When we are getting started with blogging, we can get lost in planning.   After we develop a loose structure, we can begin to start considering the more difficult problems of marketing, “funnels” and making our blog a coherent site with good flow.   Tightening the structure can come when we’re ready to think critically.   More soon.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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