Let Your Blog Posts Marinate (4 Steps to Forming Great Ideas)

Man, I can’t tell you how valuable this blogging tip is.

Here’s what my typical blog posting process used to look like. I’d go hit up my RSS feeds, flag the feeds I wanted to write about and crank out whatever I was thinking of at the time, all in one session. Occasionally I’d get some winners out of that process, but mostly my writing just sucked. My biggest problem: I didn’t think through the structure of the blog post. I’ve always had what I would call “writers ADD”. I would write about whatever thought came into my mind at the time of reading the articles, knee-jerk style.

Now, before I go any further with this, I want to give the little disclaimer that some people pull this off and do a wonderful job at it. Why? Because they’re much better writers than me. I have to let my mind process what I’m going to say before I write about it, otherwise it’s really really hard to follow. In order to improve my writing, I’ve had to develop an intricate 4-part posting process, but it’s managed to work for me. Hopefully this will help some of you that struggle with developing your blog posts.

1. Jot It

If you’ve got a post idea, jot down the title and maybe some key thoughts about the idea. For me it’s whatever I can think of in about 20 seconds. After that, I just let it be. You may not even look or think about the idea the rest of the day. Just collecting it is what’s important.

2. Review it

Every day I’ll pull up my list of post ideas that I haven’t written about. I’ll glance through the titles and bullet points, and see if anything triggers a thought. If it does, I’ll write down another bullet point or idea. If not, I let it be. Usually more ideas for the posts come up when I’m doing something else.

3. Let It Develop

It’s hard to say how long this step lasts. Sometimes it’s all over in 15-20 minutes. Sometimes it takes weeks. The important thing is not to rush the process.

4. Post

Once you feel like your post is fully developed, start writing. Many times, I’ll start writing and realize that I don’t like the way the post is turning out. When this happens I just save the post as a draft, and let it marinate even longer by repeating steps 2 and 3. I always try to read through the finished post at least a couple of times to catch my bad spelling and grammatical woes. Sometimes the structure isn’t quite right, and I’ll tweak that too.

By always having a queue of collected ideas, you’ll never run out of material to post. And if, God forbid, you actually run out of content for a day (gasp!), don’t force the issue. Just let it go and skip posting that day. If you force something, odds are it won’t be that good anyway. And nothing ruins a blog like crappy articles. Take my word for it.

By letting the blog post develop naturally, your writing will become easier. Why? Because you’ve already been typing away about it in the back of your brain for a while. You’ll almost have the key points memorized without checking your notes.

Successful blogs are a thing of love, and readers can spot an un-loved blog a mile away. Ask yourself this: Would you read a blog that looked like the writer himself didn’t care about it? I know I wouldn’t.

Like the story? ThenĀ Reddit!

Leave a Comment

{ 45 comments… add one }
  • Akash SIngh December 8, 2018, 5:14 pm

    I maintain a Small Pocket Diary with me at all times, to Jot down all the post ideas that hit my mind Randomly. In the Evening, I Note them down in Google Keep or Onenote, only to come back later and review them

  • evbart October 29, 2006, 9:58 am

    I’ve been “letting them marinate” for a couple of months now and the results are getting better. I’ve been generally using the blog editor, ecto, and its ability to store drafts of articles before you actually publish them to your blog.

  • Easton Ellsworth September 14, 2006, 2:12 pm

    Right now I’m actually going through some bookmarks to marinate a bunch of fledgling posts – and lo and behold, I discovered this one :). Thanks for the tips.

  • Simonne Matthew September 1, 2006, 2:01 am

    I liked very much the idea of “marinating” the posts. So far, I’ve been only marinating fish or meatballs. But as I feel many times that my posts suck, I’ll try to write them this way, to see if they get better taste.
    I agree that my blogs are representing me, but in the early stage of development, they might not look as I want (I’m quite new to programming, too). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the stay on your site and I added it to favourites on my blog (I hope you don’t mind that).

  • evbart August 29, 2006, 4:59 pm

    I’d really like to hear more about the workflow aspect of this.

    I’m having trouble finding the right blog editor that lets me focus more on the content and less ont he formatting shortcomings.

    One thing I did like, when I used ecto (ecto.kung-foo.tv/ ), you could store drafts and come back to them later. It would be nice to be able to group them in folders, or create a more defined workflow of how a post makes its way to being published.

    Anyway, great post!

    My quick posts are definitely junk, the ones that wait are definitely better, and I think I would get more good posts out if I had a better workflow involving this “marinate” step.

  • Mike August 28, 2006, 12:23 pm

    Great tips. I have the problem of posting about something right after deciding I want to write about it also. I publish many of my posts when I’m rushed or pressed for time (posting while at work instead of working), so that doesn’t help the situation either.
    I’ve started a few posts, saved them as drafts, then came back to finish them and the quality was better than my usual rushed posts. I’m going to take that a step further and try the steps you outline above and see what I come up with. Thanks for the great article.

  • Rallyfan August 28, 2006, 9:55 am

    Thanks for the tip. I often get half way through a post, don’t like it and go back and edit. A lot of time I find myself “writing” a post the night before. I need to remember to keep a notepad by my nightstand.

  • Maggie August 26, 2006, 10:26 am

    Thanks for the ideas. I used to just post immediately, but some things I let sit for a while so I could mentally sort through them before I posted them. I do a monthly newsletter re:my 10 month old son, and that always takes a few days to mature. Good advice, though. I think I’ll work with drafts more often. Thanks!

  • Troy Worman August 25, 2006, 11:01 pm

    It sounds like we have something in common.

    Great advice. Thanks.

  • erik August 25, 2006, 8:07 pm

    I do this a lot as well. The most useful piece of advice though is to let it sit. It’s during that time that you really do think about it – even if you don’t realize it – so that when you come back to that particular blog posting you find that it’s got a few tweaks in store.

    Good post!

  • jdanylko August 25, 2006, 9:19 am

    Excellent post!

    I use Google Notebook (http://www.google.com/notebook/) for my ideas/brain dumps.

  • elial August 24, 2006, 7:33 pm

    Reminds me a bit of Robert Boice’s work on “How writers journey to comfort and fluency”

    It contains some apparently contradictory ideas (e.g. numbers 1 and 2) that take some getting used to.

    1. Wait
    2. Begin before feeling ready
    3. Work with constancy and moderation
    4. Stop in timely fashion

    I like the last one best, don’t finish it right away or burn out trying, which fits with your jot it and return later technique. This means you must be practicing the others e.g. working with constancy and moderation so that you are not on top of some deadline. Of course this last thought is primarily for other than blog posts.

  • James Weirick August 24, 2006, 4:11 pm

    Some really good advice. I tend to do the same thing. I have a Backpack page with a note for every idea that I haven’t yet written down and then when the idea is ready I draft it in a Writeboard and start revising it.

    You can find Backpack here: http://www.backpackit.com/
    and Writeboard here: http://www.writeboard.com/

  • glen August 24, 2006, 8:58 am

    Honestly, the ideas most of the time just come to me. I’ve stopped reading a lot of my feeds dealing with productivity, etc. just so I won’t try and write something that somebody already has. It’s allowed me to be very creative. And this way most of my posts are unique.

    As for when my ideas come to me: any time. For reference, check out the Idea Dumping post.

  • Neon August 24, 2006, 6:55 am

    Good idea, I was thinking of a decent way to form my posts better. I was thinking of writing the post in word processor before posting it so that I could write it, leave it and reread it later on.

    Another thing, research. I’ve found that a lot of my thoughts are on topics of which I know very little, hence my assuptions and sometimes misguided thinking. Can’t hurt to at least read a wiki page on the topic to get a better idea :)

  • andhapp August 24, 2006, 2:58 am

    To be honest I would normally jot few lines quickly…and read it atleast twice to ensure it makes perfect sense and is interpreted in the way I want it to…but I don’t have a lot of blogging experience under my belt. ;o)

  • Kris Krason August 24, 2006, 2:28 am

    Nice post, I hope it will help to get my posts better.

    And by the way, how do you find ideas for your posts ? I must say that this is the hardest part for me (and to come up with ideas to post at least 4 posts a week).

  • Danielle August 23, 2006, 6:38 pm

    Great post! I’m a big jotter as well. I carry a Moleskine everywhere and it holds random scribbles for three blogs’ worth of posting.

  • Ganesh August 23, 2006, 6:17 pm

    One thing that helps me with my posts is using Freemind. It makes it easier to record whats on your mind in a structured fashion. Once you have all the points you’d like to cover in your digital mind map, it becomes very easy to create a post out of it.

    You can find Freemind at: http://freemind.sf.net

  • ubertech August 23, 2006, 5:51 pm

    hey thanks for the tips, maybe my writing will suck less

  • Rick Stirling August 23, 2006, 5:07 pm

    I’ve realised I was doing the same – an odd brain fart is ok, it let’s people know you are human.

    I’ve been using Writely as a holding station – can access the documents from work or home and modify away, until I have the core or a post/article ready.

  • Jeff August 23, 2006, 5:04 pm

    Good tips, thanks for sharing them. Bullet points are a key ingredient for me. They provide the initial framework for most of my writing and help me stay focused.

  • glen August 23, 2006, 2:55 pm

    Thanks Martin.

  • Martin August 23, 2006, 8:09 am

    Good set of tips there.

    I’m a big jotter. I have between 20-30 ideas saved at any one time and I go through them every so often and see if something clicks.