Want a writing tip that helps you create more engaging blog content for your audience – and do it in less time? On the surface, it seems like an old-fashioned approach, but if you want to write clearer, stronger posts, consider index cards. A ubiquitous sight throughout production offices and in writers’ rooms, the humble index card is a fantastic resource for visually representing the structure of your blog posts. While there are digital versions available, there are good reasons to stick to the real deal.
The Time Dilemma
Every writer knows that creating engaging blog content is a lot harder than it looks. You probably often feel short of time due to the many deadlines you need to meet. What’s more, you may also be producing eBooks, social media content, and the like. Research and distractions like schedule and topic changes also take up a lot of time. So how do you get it all done?
Get More Efficient
Bird by Bird author Anne Lamott is a big proponent of index cards. She carries them with her everywhere she goes, places them all over her home, and recommends jotting down ideas and observations as they occur. Since great content is also great storytelling, why not use the technique for your own blog content? The process is simple and you’ll soon find that it also makes you a better writer. Here’s how to go about it.
Research and Beyond
Yes, index cards are great for jotting down notes and flashes of brilliance, but they also serve to help you tell a coherent story that delivers the audience, leads, and conversions you’re looking for. Much like prepping a research paper, the index card system offers a clear vision to construct great content.
- Getting Started. Once you pull your topic from your editorial calendar, jot down the main points you want to make on separate cards. Then create a new card for each subtopic. For example, if you’re writing about real estate, main points could be buying, selling, and financing. Subtopics would be lead generation, marketing, and mortgages. Some people like to use different color cards for each level of content, and this can come in handy farther down the road when constructing your “story.”
- Stay on Point. Each card should represent a point you want to make. Keep it short – 10 words or less is ideal. Most blog posts can be covered in 20 cards or less. Make one card each for your opening and closing points.
- Plan for Shuffling. Make your points general enough so they can be rearranged if necessary.
- Choose a Workspace. Some people swear by posting cards on the wall, while others prefer being able to slide them around on a counter or table. Find what works best for you. And if you don’t want to put tacks in the wall, use post-it notes instead.
Putting it Together
Now comes part where the beauty of an index card system really gets to shine. Quickly lay out the cards in the order you think you want to tell your story. Then take a step back and read them in order. Does the post flow? Do you see places where it would make more sense to move a point closer to the beginning or end of the post? Is there a card in there that would work better for another post later on? Take it out. After a few passes, you should have a post that practically writes itself. Keep in mind that it may take doing the process several times before you appreciate its real beauty.
Plan for the Future
The index card method is easy to do, and it’s a lot more appealing than coming up with content under pressure. You can also use the system to do preliminary work for future blog content. Jot each of the next month’s blog topics on its own card and then start collecting data or jotting ideas down on other cards that you stack below it. Repurpose cards for future posts and make a note on them as to where they first appeared. That way, you’ll be able to easily backlink.
The best storytellers have been using index cards for years to help them tell unforgettable stories. With just a little adaptation, you can do the same for your blog content. While there’s no magic way to make a story write itself, it’s often the case that by trying new tools you can improve your own storytelling abilities.