You know that feeling you get right before you publish a post?
The angel on one shoulder says you’ve written a post of enormous importance and depth, one that will change the lives of your readers forever. Meanwhile, the devil on the other shoulder calls you a halfwit with the writing talent of a chimpanzee doped on acid.
Well, it was a few days before Christmas in 2009, and the devil was winning.
“Please don’t publish it,” I sobbed into the telephone. “The post is crap. It’ll ruin me.”
Sonia Simone, one of the most respected editors in the world, listened politely on the other end of the phone. The night before, I’d sent her a post I’d been working on for months, confident of my writing genius, but mere hours later I was on the phone having an epic freak-out.
The good news is, after working together for years, Sonia was well accustomed to my neuroses, and she knew exactly how to handle me. “Darling, you are the most talented writer I know, and this is your most brilliant work to date.”
My sobs stopped. “Really? You think so?”
“Yes. Now let me get back to work, so we can make you famous.” Click.
For the next hour, there was nothing to do but sit at the computer pressing the “refresh” button over and over again. I trembled. I prayed.
And then the post went live (click here to read it).
The Article That Shook the Internet
Within moments, hundreds of people were sharing it every minute, eventually bringing in more than a million readers. The comment form was so flooded with notes from readers we had to turn it off.
Here are just a few of the comments that made it through:
In short, everyone loved it.
For the next few months, I floated around in a cloud of euphoria. Industry influencers were calling my work the greatest blog post ever written. Well-known magazines offered me as much as $5,000 per article to write for them.
I won’t lie. I enjoyed all the attention.
But I also felt like a fraud.
The Embarrassing Story of How I Really Wrote That Post
It wasn’t my idea at all.
In truth, the entire post was an imitation of this post by Brian Clark. Sure, the story was original, but the headline, the structure, even the cadence of the sentences – it was all parroting Brian’s work.
And the worst part?
Brian was my boss. He’d taken me under his wing a couple of years previously, teaching me more about writing than I could’ve learned in a century anywhere else.
And I just ripped him off.
For days, I waited for him to call me on it. I pulled up the homepage of Copyblogger every day, expecting him to have published a post titled, “Jon Morrow Is a Dirty, Despicable Copycat.”
But he didn’t. In fact, he didn’t say anything.
After a few days, the agony of the deception was eating me alive, so I called Brian and confessed. I expected him to yell at me, to fire me, to threaten ruination and shame.
Instead, though, I got perhaps the most important lesson of my career.
The Conversation That Changed My Writing Forever
“Hey Brian, it’s me. Let’s get this over with.”
“Get what over with?”
“Whatever you’re going to do to me for copying your post.”
He was silent for a few seconds, and then he burst out laughing. “You’re worried about that? Dude, I’m honored. You could’ve written that post a dozen different ways, but you chose to use my work as inspiration. You couldn’t have given me a bigger compliment.”
“Nobody’s work is totally unique,” Brian said. “There are only so many recipes. The only thing that changes is the ingredients.”
I was thunderstruck. “Recipes? There are recipes for writing?”
He laughed again. “Your post was a Three-Act Story. So was mine. It’s one of the oldest recipes of all time.”
“Huh. Is there anywhere I can find a list? You know… like a recipe book for writers?”
“Not that I know about,” Brian said, “but study the work of the best writers, and you’ll find them for yourself.”
And so I did.
It took me another five years, but one by one, I found and perfected a dozen different “recipes” for writing popular posts. What’s more, Glen Long (Smart Blogger’s Managing Editor at the time) and I figured out exactly what “ingredients” go into those recipes that make them so popular.
Starting a blog and writing popular posts are now as straightforward as cooking up a batch of your grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies. You just have to follow the directions.
Here’s what I mean:
How I Wrote the Most Shared Post in the History of Problogger
You’ve heard of Problogger, right?
It’s been around for over a decade now, publishing thousands of posts, but guess who wrote the one that got the most shares?
From what I heard, it crossed a million visitors years ago. For all I know, it could be up to several million by now.
And once again, it was a post where I used a three-act story, forming the recipe I now call “The Storyteller.”
Let’s break it down…
In a Storyteller post, the headline often has three parts, and each part corresponds to a subhead in the body of the post. For example, “How I Quit My Job” is the first subhead, linking to Part #1 of the headline.
A little secret:
The reason this headline works especially well is because each part is also a highly desirable benefit of its own. People dream about quitting their jobs and moving to paradise. Topping it off with getting paid to change the world is just irresistible.
The opening sentence, “After all, that’s the dream, right?” also connects directly to the headline, responding directly to the three promises. I call this style of opening the “Conversation Starter,” because it uses a conversational question composed of powerful words to bridge the gap between the promise of the headline and the rest of the post.
I could go on, but I want to save a few secrets for later when I reveal the full recipe. 🙂
Before I move on, though, there is something you should know:
This is the most advanced recipe of all. Most writers will need 20–100 hours to do it justice, and even then, very few have the storytelling skills to pull it off.
To use cooking terms, it’s the equivalent of making the perfect Boeuf Bourguignon. In my opinion, it’s the LAST recipe you should attempt.
The good news?
There are much easier posts you can start with. For instance…
The Easiest Way to Write a Post That Goes Viral
Have you ever noticed how many list posts there are?
You know, posts like, “11 Ways to Do This or That?”
Well, it’s because they are easy to write. You can just jot down your points, write a sentence or two about each, and you’re done.
But let’s be honest.
Most list posts suck. Not because the recipe is bad, but because people use terrible ingredients.
It’s like making a Caesar salad. It’s not complicated to prepare, but the quality of the lettuce and dressing are going to make or break the salad.
List posts work the same way. The quality of your ideas determines how popular the post will be.
If you’re regurgitating shallow ideas from other shallow thinkers, it’s not going to impress anyone. On the other hand, if your ideas are original and deep, the post will go viral in a heartbeat.
Take this post about making money blogging, for instance. I wrote it in about three hours, but take a look at the traffic graph below:
1,334,000 visitors so far, and it’s gaining about 25,000 per month.
Why does it get so much traffic?
Because of the quality of the ideas inside. While I only spent three hours writing it, it took me years to make those discoveries, and I gave them away for free to everyone.
To be clear, I’m not saying you need to invest years of your life into research so you can write a list post. I am saying, however, that you have to use your brain when writing it.
Anyway, enough teasing you with tidbits. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
Is It Realistic for You to Expect Your Posts to Get Millions of Visitors?
I’ll be straight with you…
That would be like taking an amateur cook just learning the difference between tablespoons and teaspoons and expecting them to work in a three-star Michelin restaurant.
But here’s the thing:
If you commit yourself to mastering the craft, you can absolutely get there.
Of course, you might not have realized there’s even a craft to master. You might’ve thought blogging is about sitting down, writing a few thoughts, and then clicking “publish.”
It’s not. Not if you want anyone to read your work, anyway.
Blogging is like any other type of art. There are structures and formulas and rules.
No one has ever revealed them.
For years, we’ve been developing and refining a system that makes writing extraordinary blog posts MUCH easier.
It works in every niche. It works for every topic. It works for beginners and experts alike.
And if you commit yourself to learning it, you’ll write the most popular posts of your life. Guaranteed.
We are only giving a peek to our loyal subscribers, so you have to be on our email list to get further details.
Stay tuned for further details.