If you’re like most writers, you’ve lost many mornings staring at an empty screen—but it doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you’re looking for a way to stay motivated or for the secret to adding punch to your blog posts, here’s a solution you might not have considered: bookending.
What Is Bookending?
Bookending is all about the order in which you write your posts. It means writing the end, then the beginning and finally the middle. While helpful for blogging, it’s also applicable in every kind of writing context, from magazines to screenplays to short stories.
Why Does Bookending Work?
Sometimes the hardest part of writing is knowing where you’re going. With bookending, you start with the end—so you always have a sense of what you’re working towards. Once you know where you’re headed, it’s easier to know how to get started. Then, all that’s left is filling in the remainder
The Bookending Blog Process
When you’re new to the bookending technique, it can feel daunting. You know you start with the ending, but how? And does it matter what your beginning is like? What about the middle? Here’s a more in-depth look at the different parts of the bookending process:
Writing the End of Your Post
Writing the ending first is all about knowing where you’re going with your post. It’s like getting in the car, knowing you’re leaving Chicago, bound for Texas—you automatically know to point your wheels south.
Discerning Your Direction
In her previous BlogWorld article, Allison Boyer says, “Before you start writing (or staring at a blank screen wondering what to write), take a moment to identify a broad goal for the post you’re about to publish.”
In taking that moment, you may want to ask yourself questions like these:
- What do I want my readers to feel or think after reading this post?
- What do I want them to take away?
- Do I want them to do something after reading?
- What difference will this post make to my readers?
Answering these questions will help clarify the goal of your post, which will show you what the ending should look like.
Knowing the direction of your post brings several benefits:
- Easier post writing because there’s a specific outcome in mind
- Less of a tendency to wander or get off track in the post
- Assurance that you’re writing something with purpose
- Increasing loyalty among readers who see this pattern in your posts
Writing the Ending
Once you’ve settled what kind of message you want to share in your post, it’s time to write the ending. If you’re stuck for ideas, reach into your writer’s toolbox and consider creating an ending that takes the form of one or more of the following options:
- Summary: Drive home your point by reiterating and summarizing it at the end of your post.
- Story: Amplify your message with an anecdote sure to connect with readers—this can be a powerful way to keep them thinking about your post even after they click away.
- Question(s): Encourage discussion by finishing your post with open-ended questions that ask your readers to respond.
- Call to action: Give your readers a specific way to respond to your post—ask them to share it, tell them to subscribe, give them a task to go complete as a result.
- Link: Conclude your post by pointing to other helpful resources that support your topic, whether newspaper articles or other blog articles or books.
- Hint at Next Post: Tell your readers what’s coming next in order to keep them interested and build anticipation. This is especially helpful when you’re writing a series of blog posts.
Writing the Beginning of Your Post
The beginning of a blog post is like a first impression—it sets the tone for what’s coming. When you’re writing the beginning, you want to be intentional about what you’re communicating.
Key to Beginning
A good blog post can begin in many different ways: a story, a summary, questions. But no matter which format you choose, one thing is the same: you need to pull readers in and communicate what your post is going to be about. As Erik Johnson writes in his previous BlogWorld post, “When you want your listeners to stick around and listen to what you have to say, you need to give them a compelling reason.”
Questions to Ask
To test your introduction for quality, ask the following questions:
- Is the first sentence interesting?
- Will this introduction draw readers in?
- Am I communicating what the post will be about?
- Is this short and sweet, or am I rambling?
- Does this tell a reader why he should keep reading?
Writing the Middle of Your Post
While your introduction sets the stage for the content to come, the middle of your post delivers it. This section should be the easiest to write because it is the heart and soul of what you’re trying to communicate. Still though, it’s easy to lose readers if you make classic mistakes.
How to Drive Readers Away
- Don’t meet expectations: If your introduction says you’re going to give me five reasons for visiting Milwaukee, your blog post better give me five reasons to visit Milwaukee. When you don’t deliver on your promise, you send me packing.
- Be long and boring: We’ve all gone to blogs with too-long posts that ramble on and on about off-topic issues. Don’t make this mistake. To keep readers, it’s smarter to be to-the-point.
- Don’t be different: Say what everyone else is saying, and I have no reason to come to you.
- Overwhelm them: Here’s a tip that bears repeating—get rid of popups and auto-playing music. If I start reading your post and am hit with giant popups that cover the screen, I’m clicking away before I find out what you wrote.
Characteristics of Quality Content
Okay, so when you know what not to do, then what? What are the marks of good content (i.e., good middles)?
- Show What’s in It for the Reader: From the end to the beginning and everything in between, have something to offer your readers. Show them why they should be reading and what the information matters.
- Be Unique: Set yourself apart by being different from everybody else. Don’t copy the content and style of another blog—be unique.
- Use Compelling Images: Images amplify your content and make it more interesting. In fact, quality images are one of the top three factors in raising your blog’s quality and reputation.
- Make Your Content Scannable: Statistics show blog readers spend less than two minutes reading the average blog post. That’s because they’re not reading; they’re scanning. If your message gets buried inside several long paragraphs, you can count on most of your readers not getting it.
Bookending is a pretty simple idea—but a powerful one. How could it change the way you approach the blogging process? Is it different from your typical routine?