January 11, 2021 Content Chat Recap: Long-Form Writing Tips and Best Practices

A #ContentChat header image that says today's topic is long-form content creation, with guest Chris Craft.

Despite the prevalent misconception that audiences always prefer short and concise content, long-form content has a rightful place in your content marketing plan. Many audiences rely on deep-dive resources that can answer their questions, explain how they can work more efficiently, and provide a deeper analysis than can be achieved in a 500-word blog post.

In this #ContentChat, we’re joined by Chris Craft, editor-in-chief of InspireFirst, to discuss how marketers can use the 3×3 writing process to accelerate the creation of long-form content. Read the full chat recap below, where we explain what the 3×3 writing process is, share tips to overcome the hurdles of writing long-form content, and discuss how to ensure your content meets its intended goals (from start to publish).

Q1: What is the 3×3 writing process, and why should marketers follow it when creating long-form content?

The 3×3 writing process is a framework to optimize your content creation. It has roots in academic writing, but can be applied to most content.

A1: The 3×3 writing process is a writing framework that helps writers get organized and produce well-researched content efficiently. I wrote about it here:https://t.co/UYFO6i5SVF#ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

A1: The 3×3 writing process was mostly used for academic writing until I stumbled upon it and experimented with using it for crafting blog content. It has worked tremendously for our agency’s content and client content. #ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

The writing process is designed to help you write higher quality content faster by following a specific set of steps. The community recommends that you revise your copy after you’ve finished the first draft, because editing as you go can bog down your creative process.

For me, 3 x 3 writing involves:

✔️ Besting with an ugly first draft
✔️ Rewriting the draft do you’re writing for the reader this time
✔️ Editing and finalizing things#ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) January 11, 2021

It’s so important to get that initial draft done BEFORE you start revising/editing. I think the ease at which we can edit as we go often impedes the content creation process. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

Absoutely! It will ultimately create better content and save you time if you get everything out, rather than editing as you go. I think the same applies for editing — read through it, get the big picture first before diving into the details. #contentchat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 11, 2021

One editing caveat for your first draft: ensure that basic proofreading is complete before you dive into the next steps.

I agree with on caveat—sometimes as an editor you receive content that hasn’t had basic proofreading done before you got it in hand…in those scenarios, I often have to do that first so I can read it without that interfering with taking in the ideas. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

Per Jennifer’s question, Step 3/Revise is ongoing, but you should focus on publishing content once it is finished (for the time being) and updating it at a later time.

Do you find that Step 3 is ongoing, due to optimization and performance? #ContentChat

— Jennifer L. Dawson (@JLDContentQueen) January 11, 2021

@JLDContentQueen – Yes, there is always room for improving the content. BUT, it shouldn’t keep you from shipping/publishing. The beauty of the web is that you can always update your content later. #ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

Yess! 🙌 And lately, I’ve been trying to focus on one thing so I can hit publish: progress over perfection.

You don’t want to stop creating just because you can’t make the content perfect. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) January 11, 2021

Q2: Prewriting is the first group in the 3×3 writing process. What is prewriting, and what do you do before writing your content?

Prewriting involves anything you do to get organized before writing and editing your content. This can include keyword research, subject matter expert interviews, competitor research, industry research (including relevant industry data), creating a content outline, and more.

A2: Prewriting is all of the tasks related to getting organized before you dive into writing and editing. This includes research! #ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

A2: For me, this stage is about topic research (including SME interviews), keyword research and competitor research. Then, outlines! Outlining blog content (with ideas for headers, bullet lists etc.) can be a game-changer for the writing process. #contentchat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 11, 2021

A2: Laying out the researched content to create a flow or at least see what’s the best flow/structure. Is that a chronological? Is it a tree with branches? Is it a setup-problem-solution? or is it a contrast? From my collection of “ways of structure” #ContentChat

— BegayaCat (@Begaya) January 11, 2021

A2. Before writing, I reserach the topic to see what others have written about it, what angle I should focus on to add value, whom I can interview to get insights, and what industry data I can use to backup my story. #ContentChat

— Teodora Ema Pirciu (@emapirciu) January 11, 2021

You know, now that I think about it, I think that outlines are my form of prewriting. I form each section in the format of a question so that I can have a natural prompt… maybe that’s it! #ContentChat

— Maureen Jann (@NeoLuxeMo) January 11, 2021

A2 For my prewriting, I’ll normally jot down all my ideas for the content, then I’ll outline them in a manner that flows best
-Alyx #contentchat https://t.co/e7yeQe2tab

— Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) January 11, 2021

Erika recommends that you create a blog post template that includes your prewriting necessities. This will streamline your process, ensure you have key information top-of-mind when writing, and remove the need for extensive back-and-forth emails with your colleagues or clients.

I put a lot of my prewriting tasks into the blog post creation templates I create for and use with our clients. It’s nice to get all that pre-writing thinking down in one place, and make sure it makes it into the blog post and its distribution plan! #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

Templates…this sounds so efficient for handling multiple clients and know that you’re going to have some similar or “standard” content articles/types that can then be personalized to the respective client #ContentChat

— Jennifer L. Dawson (@JLDContentQueen) January 11, 2021

Q3: What are some of the long content post types that marketers should consider when prewriting, and how do you determine the best form for your content?

Your content format should match how your target readers prefer to consume content. By knowing your audience and their level of familiarity with your topic, you can better assess how in-depth your content needs to be.

A3: Put yourself in the readers’ shoes and think about how they would want to consume the content. Make it easier for them. In some cases, a listicle is best and in other cases, a standard format with subheads is better. #ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

Their level of familiarity with your subject matter can also be another indicator. Do they need more in-depth content from this piece? Or is it a higher level overview that links into those deeper dives… #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

There are many ways you can format your long-form content. A few ideas include guides, ebooks, white papers, and in-depth blog posts.

A3: When I think of long-form content, I think pillar content, guides, ebooks, white papers. Which one you choose depends on the topic, your audience needs/pain points and what else is already out there. The world may not need a 10th ebook on one particular topic. #contentchat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 11, 2021

A3. Off the top of my head: In-depth guides, how-to pieces, eBooks, and skyscraper blog posts.

Which one is best? Know your audience to get the answer to this + look at what the topic demands. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) January 11, 2021

Q4: Writing is the second group in the 3×3 writing process, which may sound deceptively self-explanatory. How can marketers efficiently approach the “zero draft” of the content?

Do not judge your zero draft as you write it. This is still a very early phase for your content, and the point is to just get your ideas down with a general flow.

A4: Don’t judge your writing based on what you come up with first. The early writing phase has to be a judgement-free zone in order for you to execute the 3×3 writing process without a lot of stress.#ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

A4 Just get it down on paper. This is the step to bust out that first draft and get down all your ideas, no editing, nothing pretty, just a rough draft
-Alyx #contentchat

— Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) January 11, 2021

Use your prewriting materials from step one, including your outline if you created one, to guide your zero draft.

A4: I like to use my first draft to chase down all the aspects of the topic and see what ends up being the most interesting and needs more space. Often, I find that the original outline may have anticipated sections being of equal weight that don’t end up that way. #ContentChat https://t.co/JP6kYOlmh3

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

A4. First the outline, then the writing. #ContentChat

— Teodora Ema Pirciu (@emapirciu) January 11, 2021

YES! If you did a good job w/ pre-writing you will have a great outline to go from… The outline is the BOSS and creativity fills the gaps. #ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

If you’ve done step one, writing shouldn’t be terrible. Refer to your research and your outline, and start crafting. I like to barf it all out at once non-stop for the first draft unless I find I’ve written myself into a corner. #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) January 11, 2021

Write the content at a pace that is most approachable for you. You can set a timer and crank out content as quickly as possible to later review…

A4. Set a timer and write like you’ve ghosts tailing you. And, no, please don’t stop to think it’s ugly. Good or bad, get it on paper first. Rewrite and refine later. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) January 11, 2021

Or break the process into chunks based on how productive you are feeling.

A4: Keyword “efficiently”. For me, sitting down and writing for a long time becomes counter efficient: instead of one long look, approach it with many “baby steps”.As soon as I am loosing “fire” I switch off, take a break and try to approach from another angle. #ContentChat

— BegayaCat (@Begaya) January 11, 2021

Focus on editing your content after the zero draft is finished. Ideally, step away and give yourself a break from the content (can be a few hours or a day) to reapproach it with fresh eyes.

And always good to give yourself some time away before revising (though tough to find time in marketing land where everything is 🔥). #ContentChat

— Jennifer L. Dawson (@JLDContentQueen) January 11, 2021

A4. I sleep on the zero draft, do a hard edit, and then hand it off to an editor that can help me turn it into the masterpiece it needs to be. #ContentChat

— Maureen Jann (@NeoLuxeMo) January 11, 2021

Q5: Revise is the final group of the 3×3 writing process. What tips do you have for efficiently revising your long-form content?

If you’ve just completed step two, take some time away from your content to refresh before editing.

A5: For me, the most improtant thing is to walk away. I need to give myself time and space away from the piece before revising. Even if I only have a few hours, I find it’s incredibly helpful for perspective. #contentchat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 11, 2021

Read your copy once without making edits or comments. Then, reread it to layer in notes, comments, and edits as needed.

A5. Tips for revising long-form content:

👉 Proof read first, edit second
👉 As you read, make pointers of what needs changing
👉 Make edits and re-read
👉 This time, read out loud to see how your content sounds to the ear (conversational & all that) #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) January 11, 2021

A5b: Next, I do a read through without commenting. Then, I go through and do a hard proofread and grammar edit to clean up the writing. Then, I go back and add in my comments about places that need refinement or reworking. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

Read your copy aloud when you’re editing. If it doesn’t read well, it isn’t ready to publish.

A5: My favorite tip (besides leaning on another set of trusted eyes) is to read my writing out loud. If the copy doesn’t read well, then it’s not ready for publishing. #ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

If you struggle when reading your content aloud there’s a high likelihood your readers will struggle when reading it too. Great tip! #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

I sometimes use the “read aloud” feature in Word. Amazing how many left out or misspelled words are caught when I use it. #contentchat

— Deb Lee (@DAllisonLee) January 11, 2021

Change the font or color of your text so your brain can more readily recognize any errors.

Yess! That works wonders for me too! Letting your draft rest and changing fonts help me too. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) January 11, 2021

Or, print your content out so you can review a hard copy.

A5 I have to let it sit
Then I like to print out a physical copy (if possible) and mark my corrections/ideas in colored ink, and then pass it off to a trusted friend to do the same
Then go in and rewrite it with the corrections
I like to do this at least 2x
-Alyx #contentchat https://t.co/wwnvCBEf5S

— Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) January 11, 2021

Revisit your creative brief or content template to ensure the draft copy meets its intended goals.

A5a: When revising content, I go back to my creative brief and/or content template and make sure I delivered on my objective, the content fits the SEO description I wrote, and I’ve included all the internal and external links I’d planned to use. #ContentChat https://t.co/qAJnOVWLuM

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

Share your content with an editor (or two) for another review.

A5: As I think we were just saying, editors are your friend here.

Take a pass or two yourself, and then hand the piece off for editing if possible. #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) January 11, 2021

If you have the luxury, you should have two editors – a content editor, and a copy editor.

One makes sure you’re continuous and make conceptual sense.

The other is a grammar, spelling, and punctuation nerd.

Love them both. #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) January 11, 2021

Agree! We have a similar process here, which we’ve found especially important for #SEO. You have guidance from a grammar brain and a strategy brain. #contentchat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 11, 2021

A5b: If it’s a really long form piece, like a book, hand it off in sections. #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) January 11, 2021

A5. Have someone read your content and make edits if necessary (it’s necessary most of the times). Nothing beats a good editor. #ContentChat

— Teodora Ema Pirciu (@emapirciu) January 11, 2021

100%. Another set of eyes can be a game-changer for your content. Yes, they can catch mistakes, but they can also offer a different POV you may not have thought of in your initial process.

We wrote about it here >> https://t.co/XC16H4ZCDh#contentchat https://t.co/47evAm3YpX

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 11, 2021

You should handle any SEO needs at this stage, too. A checklist will come in handy here. At a glance, you should consider your meta description, content title, internal and external links, keywords, and alt text.

I find a standardized #SEO checklist is super helpful at this stage. #contentchat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 11, 2021

I usually check the internal and external links and the keywords last or somewhere in the middle. It probably because I tend to highlight keywords as I use them so I only need to check if all are there later on. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) January 11, 2021

I love that you mentioned EXTERNAL links too. Google loves a balanced/realistic link profile within content. #ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

Q6: What questions should marketers ask themselves after writing a piece of content to ensure it meets its intended needs?

The community shares the questions you should ask to ensure your content meets its intended needs. Read through their questions below, and comment if we missed any important questions to ask.

A6:

1. Does it fit within our click path? – https://t.co/4JPn8sP7DL

2. Does it answer the question that it was intended to answer?

3. Is it optimized for SEO?

4. How can I can get some backlinks to this baby?#ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

A6: Are you adding value to the conversation or just contributing to the noise? #contentchat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 11, 2021

A6. Some questions to ask after having written your piece:

✔️Does the piece solve your reader’s problem? Is it actionable & clear enough?
✔️ Does it align with your brand voice?
✔️ Is it easy to read and visually appealing for the reader? #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) January 11, 2021

A6. Where can I promote this piece of content besides the regular channels? #ContentChat

— Teodora Ema Pirciu (@emapirciu) January 11, 2021

A6: asking “does my reader understand what I’m saying” goes a long way. In the end we create stuff for our audience and not for ourselves. #ContentChat

— Jette-Mari Anni (@JetteAnni) January 11, 2021

Does this content help someone do their job better (B2B) whether they buy your product or not?

— Anne Merkert (@anniemerkert) January 11, 2021

A6: This is where you go back to step 1, and look at your notes about why you wrote the piece. Put it in the form of a question. Read, and then decide if you answered the question. #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) January 11, 2021

A6: Before you hit publish, think through how you will distribute the content, particularly on social. What’s the WIIFM for the people you need to reach? Why should they care enough to consume and share? If you can’t craft a great Tweet for it, it needs some work! #ContentChat https://t.co/UVFC7K02zn

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

A6 How will this help solve my audience’s problems/address their pain-points?
Is it easy to read/is the content easily digested?
These are the 2 biggies I always ask
-Alyx #contentchat https://t.co/uDZ7xdOfO1

— Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) January 11, 2021

Q7: What general tips and best practices do you have for people struggling with long-form content?

First, know that long-form content is not as scary as it sounds! By following the 3×3 writing process, long-form content feels much more approachable.

A7: Take it one step at a time. That’s why I think the 3×3 writing process is so important. It chunks up a big undertaking.

If you prematurely jump into writing a 3000-word article w/o doing all of the necessary early steps, you will get exhausted. #ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

A7: I think sometimes we feel overwhelmed by it, which leads to procrastination (I’m 100% guilty of this). But I find getting into the initial phase, especially creating an outline, can make it feel so much easier and manageable. Just dive in and see what happens! #contentchat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 11, 2021

A7. Writing long-form content can be overwhelming, so take it one step at a time, make a checklist of all that you have to do, and always start with outlines. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) January 11, 2021

The 3×3 writing process can also help you decide the best format and length for your proposed content. Remember, long-form content has a valuable place in your content strategy, but some content ideas are best left in short-form or as a visual.

Bonus tip:

Lastly, not every article is meant to be long-form. Avoid fluff at all costs!#ContentChat

— Chris Craft (@CraftWrites) January 11, 2021

Make the content skimmable with subheads, bullets, and visuals. You can approach individual sections bit-by-bit to break up the process.

Making your content accessible for skimmers is so important. I know I like to scan a long piece before committing to it. If it’s just a wall of text, I’m a lot less likely to set aside the time. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

A7: make sure your spacing makes sense. Sometimes long-form content takes forever to chew through and other times it seemed so short and left me wanting more. Mostly because there was a clever breakdown and visual build up. #ContentChat

— Jette-Mari Anni (@JetteAnni) January 11, 2021

Experiment with short-form content until you feel ready to tackle a long-form piece.

A7. Practice with short-form content until you feel confident to attack a long-form piece. #ContentChat

— Teodora Ema Pirciu (@emapirciu) January 11, 2021

An executive summary and a table of contents can help your reader decide what sections (if any) they want to explore. Bonus points if your table of contents links to the corresponding sections of your content.

Also a great reason to put an executive summary at the front of every piece of long form content. Let them dive deeper if they want #ContentChat

— Maureen Jann (@NeoLuxeMo) January 11, 2021

And ditto for having a table of contents. Just b/c you included 5 sections, for example, doesn’t mean everyone wants or needs to read all of them! #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

And please, learn how to do internal links from your TOC to the relevant content! It ain’t hard! #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) January 11, 2021

Chat about your article with your colleague(s) to build out the idea. Subject matter experts are a valuable sounding board as well.

A7b: I also find talking through the article with someone (or multiple people) can be helpful. Do an SME interview, walk through the outline with a colleague, etc. It can be a huge help if you’re feeling stuck. #contentchat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 11, 2021

Templates and checklists are your best friend. This way, you don’t reinvent the wheel each time, and you can more easily confirm that you have all the details you need to start writing.

A7: Don’t reinvent the wheel every time you write a new piece of content! Create a checklist or template format that reminds you of all the particulars to keep top-of-mind for that specific type of content’s process. #ContentChat https://t.co/m7oOjLHL7w

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) January 11, 2021

And if you have an idea, explore it! Like John says, just start and decide if it’s worthy. Your content may not fit your original vision, but you can find a better way to package it so that it provides value. It all starts with having the rough idea on paper.

A7: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

― @StephenKing

Just start. Decide to write about something. Pound it out. Decided if it’s worthy. If not, revise. If so, publish.

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) January 11, 2021

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top