Don’t Hit Publish (Until You Ask These 5 Questions)

How do I know when my writing is ready to publish? What does it take to ship a blog post, an article, or even a book? When do you wait and when do you push through and share your writing with the world? If only there were an app for that. 😉

Don't Hit Publish (Until You Ask These 5 Questions)

Every week, writers email me asking these questions. And the truth is I didn’t have a very good answer.

Until now.

I used to say things like “You just know” or “that depends on you.” I’d rattle off cliches that even I didn’t believe. And this, I think, is a problem.

Most writers don’t know when it’s time to share their writing and when it’s time to keep working on it.

At best, we operate on a gut instinct, working tirelessly on the piece until we run out of time, and have to ship it. This, in fact, was my method for many years. But not too long ago, it started failing me.

Breathe new life into your blog

About a year ago, I noticed my blog was stagnating. Readership engagement was dropping. Comments were declining. And my passion was waning. I just didn’t feel excited to blog, as I once did. It also took me much, much longer to complete an article.

Sometimes, I’d publish an article too soon. Other times, I’d wait too long. I’d lost all objectivity. So, I went to my team and asked for help. What resulted was a series of questions that I now ask every single time I write an article, blog post, or even a piece for a book.

Doing this removed the subjective part of the writing process and forced me to stick to a rubric. In other ways, it made me less of an amateur and more of a pro. I hope these questions help you do the same.

Good writing doesn’t happen by accident

Every writer needs a code. Something to live and work by. If my questions aren’t the right ones for you, I hope they encourage you to find your own rubric.

Every writer needs a code. Something to live and work by.

Jeff Goins

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Below are five questions you can ask yourself when you get ready to hit “Publish.”

(Or you can just use Don’t Hit Publish, a free web app that does the work for you.)

Question 1: Is this the best thing that’s ever been written on this subject?

Have you written the most authoritative piece on this subject available on the Internet today? If not, what would it take to make this the best? Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you have to become the next Hemingway or Austen. It just means that you’ve done your best.

And remember: if you can’t be better, then be different. Sometimes, the best is simply another point of view.

Question 2: Does the article make a bold promise and fulfill it?

My friend Marion likes to say that all good writing has an argument. Doesn’t matter if it’s a short story or a nonfiction essay. Doesn’t matter if the subject is intergalactic space travel or how to knit a dog sweater.

You are trying to say something. But have you said it effectively? Did you set out to do something and complete the assignment? If not, then rewrite the piece until it’s clear exactly what you’re saying.

Question 3: Is this article shareable?

Have you incentivized your readers to tell their friends about it? Are their share links and click to tweets? Do you have memorable phrases that are easy to repeat and share?

Question 4: Do you call the reader to action?

Do you offer the reader an opportunity to buy something or download a free lead magnet? Is there a way you can get them on your list so your audience can grow?

Question 5: Are you prepared to promote this?

Good writing in and of itself does not usually spread. It needs help. So before you hit publish, you should have a plan on how you’re going to promote this piece.

Good writing doesn’t happen by accident.

Jeff Goins

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Don’t Hit Publish (the App!)

These five questions are what led me to create Don’t Hit Publish, a free web app that my friend Bryan Harris and I built together (he did all the hard parts).

If you find yourself getting stuck, as I was, this app is designed to help you know when and what to publish. Check it out at DontHitPublish.com.

Next steps

  1. Identify your most popular blog post.
  2. Run it through Don’t Hit Publish.
  3. Pick the goal of “get more leads.”
  4. Follow the action items listed.
  5. Post your results in the comments.

When do you know it’s time to hit publish? Share in the comments below.