I’ve been working in the open source community for almost 5 years, building and promoting developer tools including Meteor and Apollo. In that time, I have found that blogging is one of the most effective ways to spread ideas.
It doesn’t take as much time to craft a blog post as a video or conference talk, but it’s easy to consume and can reach a ton of people. I’ve personally had a ton of benefits from writing: It’s helped me organize my thoughts, teach people about techniques I love, and get my name out there.
Since publishing my first blog post in 2014, I’ve ended up writing 68 posts so far here on Medium, some with over 50k views and 1000 fans, and edited many posts for my friends and co-workers. During that time, I’ve chosen a few strategies for taking a post from concept to publication.
1. Find a good topic and commit to it
You can’t get started on a post unless you have something to write! When I talk to people who want to start blogging, this is often their main deterrent.
The easiest strategy is to write about what you know. If you spent several hours learning about something, and you think you can explain it in just a few minutes, you’re going to be providing a lot of value to your readers.
Another idea is to write about an area that you feel is lacking in material. For example, there aren’t a lot of posts about how to apply to tech conferences right now, so content about it can fill a gap in the community.
A step-by-step guide to achieving a specific goal: “Building a great scrollable list in React Native with Flatlist” or “Simplifying your React components with Apollo and ReCompose”. These are great for readers who want to get in, do something, and get out fast.
In-depth survey on a particular topic: “Using Nullability in GraphQL” or “Anatomy of a GraphQL Query”. These are useful if you’re targeting a more interested audience who wants to grab a cup of coffee and learn a ton.
A numbered list of useful facts around a common theme: “4 Simple Ways to Call a GraphQL API” or “5 Benefits of Static GraphQL Queries”. These are fun, light-hearted reads because you don’t have to commit to reading the whole thing, and the bite-sized pieces are easy to consume.
There is already material on this topic. Don’t let this stop you. Even if your idea has been written about before, you can put your own perspective on it, or make it specific to your situation.
My idea is not interesting enough. Many of my friends and colleagues do not finish writing because they are concerned that their conclusions may be boring or obvious. It’s a common feeling! If you are an expert in something, surely the conclusions you are writing about will be boring to you. The key is that the people in your audience don’t know that stuff yet.
Having said all that, at the end of the day, it’s hard to predict which topics will make a great post and which won’t, and often it’s execution that makes or breaks a post, not a great topic. My main suggestion would be to try writing about several different things and see what works.
2. Make Your Goals and Audience Specific
Now that you know your topic, you need an audience and target for your post. Who will be reading this, and what are they going to gain from it?
Your goal should be specific so that you can focus all of your energy on one main idea. For this post, the goal couldn’t have just been “writing about blogging.”
Once you have these, keep your post focused by removing anything that doesn’t contribute, and avoid adding extra detail as it relates. I have found that relatively short posts with a reading time of 5 – 10 minutes are most successful.
Knowing your audience’s background will allow you to tailor your writing to their existing knowledge, and can help determine how you should publish and promote your content. For example, I hope to publish it on Freecodecamp, because many people in my target audience may already have read that publication.
3. Begin, Middle and End
When a post turns in a direction you didn’t expect, it’s distracting. Plot twists can be a big advantage in fictional short stories, but a technical article is easy to consume if you get exactly what you expect. You can keep your readers on track by giving your posts a comfortable structure.
The first paragraph or two of your post will either convince the reader to stay or distract their attention. To help people understand where your posts fit into the bigger picture, start with a little context. Then, tell your audience what they will get from reading your article.