As many of you already know, I’m a screenwriter. When I set out to develop a longer story, say for a web project or a screenplay, I plan ahead. My initial idea might begin with a cool character or situation, but an idea alone is too flimsy to carry me through to the end. Characters, no matter how cool, need goals, conflicts, and other characters to relate to. A story needs a theme, a plot, and a direction. If I jump in without at least a notion of what the major components of my story are or how they fit together, I can’t know where I’m headed. Without a clear path, it’s too easy to lose my way—and my motivation.
In many ways, your blog is like an unfolding story. You may have started with an idea, but now you need to develop that idea and establish a direction and a clear path to follow. Otherwise, you might find yourself at a loss for material and disconnected from your original purpose and motivation.
So far in this series on blogging, we’ve discussed many of the path-building tools at your disposal. Today we’re going to look at another powerful tool that helps you stay on track and stay motivated: the blogging schedule. Once you know how frequently you want to post, you can begin to schedule what topics you’ll cover when. By following these tips, you’ll soon have a dynamic writing tool for getting those posts done.
Grab your favorite calendar tool. These tips will make more sense if you can already start integrating them into your blogging schedule. For this you’ll need a calendar. You can work with a paper or a digital version. Just make sure you’re looking at a full month at a time. If you’re working on paper, you might want to use pencil. A blogging schedule is an ever-changing thing!
Schedule by category. Categories help you organize your posts so that your readers can find what they’re interested in more easily. TwoPointUhOh’s categories include Blogs, Building Visibility, Getting Started, Interviews, Mastering Technology, Social Media, Storytelling, Tools, Track Progress, Websites, and Why To. If we’re ever stuck for ideas, a glance at our categories is often enough to stir the creative juices. Right now, for example, I see we’re due for another interview. (Excuse me while I make a note in our blogging calendar.) Once you have identified some categories for your blog, look at your calendar and see if it would make sense to schedule weekly or monthly posts on a particular category.
Schedule by type of post. If you’ve been following our discussion, you’ve been introduced to several different types of blog posts. For example, you might want to do an interview on Mondays or answer reader questions on Tuesdays. A popular blogging trend which I only just discovered myself is Wordless Wednesdays. Every Wednesday, participating bloggers substitute a photo post for their usual written post. Or you might decide to reserve the last Thursday of the month for guest bloggers or Fridays for list posts. Whatever you choose, mark it in your calendar.
Take notes. The more you blog, the more you’ll develop a sixth sense for juicy blog items. Jot down your ideas, even if they’re vague, and put them in your calendar a few weeks out. Don’t worry about fleshing them out yet. You don’t need to turn them into polished posts right away.
Let things simmer. Allowing ideas to simmer on the back burner can yield rich treasures, as long as you’ve put fresh ideas into the pot. When you add your rough notes to your blogging schedule, you’re spurring your subconscious into action. It continues working on those ideas–even when the conscious you is not. This is one of the wonderful mysteries of the creative process. Don’t question it, just embrace it. And keep taking those notes!
Outline posts. Each week, revisit your calendar. Take one of those rough ideas off the back burner and see if you’re ready to tackle it. Do some brainstorming. Can you give your post a title? Can you identify at least three key points to discuss? Great, you now have an outline for your post! The next step, a completed post, should now be infinitely easier.
Research. But maybe your idea isn’t ripe enough yet. No worries—that’s what Google is for. A quick search will turn up a wealth of information, including what’s already been covered and questions that people may have about your topic. See if you can find a fresh angle. Add your notes and discoveries to your calendar.
Create sequences and series. One of my favorite pieces of writerly advice comes from Ernest Hemingway: “Stop writing when you know what will happen next so you have momentum to continue the next day.” Do you have an idea for a longer post? Consider breaking it down and scheduling it as a two or three-part piece. Do you have an idea for a series, like this one on blogs? Schedule it into your calendar.
As you can see, using a blogging schedule encourages you to work on more than one post at a time. On any given day, you may be fleshing out an outline into a full-blown post, brainstorming new ideas, checking over your categories for inspiration, expanding on some notes for a second post, and doing research on a third post. This keeps the momentum going, making it easier for you to stick with your blog.