We’re gonna embrace our inner Type-A personality, coddle our little methodical inner gnomes and examine one writer’s blogging workflow. My workflow, to be exact. Not trying to be a narcissist here, I just know my workflow and can explain it best. Yes, I’m biased.
We’re not exploring the creative side of the writing- each individual will have their own path to stir up the creative juju and produce brilliance- but the actual, step by step logistical process to writing.
Buckle up, put on your logical thinking cap and let’s dive in.
When I began writing my blog, I really didn’t have a system and hadn’t stumbled upon anyone elses writing system, so, I adapted my professional photography workflow when applicable and winged it when not. Through trial and error and 9 months of writing regularly my system seems to be working pretty well- when the writer’s block doesn’t take hold. But that’s an article for another time.
Step 1. Frolic with your Muse!
I venture out into the world to drum up my writing material. My blog, for the most part, is based on my personal interactions with people and places while traveling. I keep a moleskin journal handy and jot down notes, headlines or just vague concepts for my articles. This step will vary based on your topics, but be sure to recognize and embrace your creative muse and allow time and space in your writing routine to frolic with your muse.
Step 2. Let the music flow.
Your style may differ, but I can not write without music. And not just background noise floating around all “Sound of Music” like, but serious, techno-style Moby/Thievery Corporation beats. Long songs, complex musical structures, few words and powerful rhythms. And no ordinary headphones will do. You are entering the zone- hoping to be sucked down the rabbit hole into the vortex of your mind- you need professional grade, noise canceling headphones that immediately send you into a parallel universe. This is of the utmost importance if you work in public locations, like coffeeshops, for every screaming baby and steamed cup of milk will break your concentration and pull you back to reality.
Main point- respect and cultivate your writing environment and be sure you have the proper tools to tune out distractions.
Step 3. Enter the WriteRoom.
No, the WriteRoom isn’t some dark, dank writer’ cave tucked away on the shores of Walden Pond (though that wouldn’t be bad) WriteRoom is my computer’s happy place that sends me into the writing zone and, if I’m lucky, propels me into the Flow.
WriteRoom is a down-loadable computer application that, when opened, turns the entire computer screen black and your computer becomes a word processor- circa 1985. It’s gorgeous! The dock is gone, no icons are screaming for distractions and no birds are Tweeting or emails dinging. Nothing. Just a black screen, green awkward font and my thoughts. I actually can’t write without it. Pony up, spend the $30 bucks, buy the software and go to your Flow.
Step 4. Write.
Yea, that’s a no brainer, but not always an easy thing to do. If I know what I’m writing about, I type in the headline- or a rough draft of a headline- and then write. I do punctuate and capitalize, but some people frown upon this as it breaks the flow of your writing. It’s personal preference- I just do it naturally. I do not correct spelling while typing and I turn off all spell check notifiers. That Red Line is a deal-breaker in my book and you’d be wise to do the same. I suck at spelling, I get that, I’m OK with that character flaw and I don’t need a constant reminder of my inadequacies while I’m in writing Flow.
Now, if you are staring at a totally black screen and no words are coming out of your fingers, then just write gibberish. Write about what you ate for breakfast. Write about the dickhead that cut you off on the way to the coffeeshop then tossed his cigarette out the window. Write about the next door neighbor trimming the hedges in her silky nightgown yesterday morning while the old timer sat on his porch across the street taking it all in. Whatever- it matters not- just write. After some time, you’ll find an article or a theme starting to rear its little head. Encourage the little theme to surface, nurture it out into the open and let it morph into your article. And whatever you do, DON’T STOP WRITING. You’ll know when you’re done.
Step 5. Save it!
Again, no brainer. But really, save the document- usually in a text format. If you’re not using WriteRoom (shame on you) write this draft in a text document program. The lack of formatting and options helps the words flow out. I use a naming convention based on the date and a slug related to the topic (YYYYMMDD_SLUG.txt). The file is saved in a folder with the same naming convention and the folder lives in a Category Folder that reflects the categories on my blog. Here’s a screenshot if that last sentence sounded like Mandarin.
I’ve used this naming convention for years with photography and it’s a necessity. Why, you ask? Why the anal file naming convention, oh work-flow-nazi? Well, when you use the following naming convention- 20100822_WRITINGWORKFLOW.txt (and yes, it must look exactly like that- YYYYMMDD_SLUG ) then your files will automatically order themselves chronologically in your folders. And when you’ve been writing for months- or years- and are trying to scan through hundreds of articles to pull out an old post for your portfolio, you’ll know exactly where to find it.
Seriously, I can’t stress this enough, if you don’t organize your writing files, you’ll have a train-wreck and your blog and writing will suffer eventually.
Step 5. Copy and Paste.
Now, WriteRoom is not the best for editing and does not format your text, so copy the writing and paste it into your word processing program, such as Pages for Mac or Word. I save the file using the same naming convention as above, IN THE SAME FOLDER, and then I hit my trusty friend, the Spellcheck! I like to knock this out right away so I don’t start off my editing with a reminder of my character flaw. Save it, close your computer up and go get some sunshine.
Step 6. Edit.
After some substantial time away from your article, three to five hours at a minimum, return to your computer, open up the word document and start the editing process. Just like writing, everyone will edit differently. Some will harp on the AP Style, others will obsess about it’s versus its and others will just gut the piece like a red snapper fresh from the sea. One of my professors at journalism school, a brilliant writer and historian, would print out his articles and physically cut sections together and tape them back the way he wanted them to flow. He’s in his 70s, so he learned to edit before computers!
Know your voice, know your writing style and edit accordingly. I know that my voice is unique and my grammar blows- at least for my blog articles- but that’s a more natural, conversational tone that I strive to maintain when editing. I know that my voice can reflect my years of bartending and my discovery of Eddie Murphy’s Delirious at the tender ago of 13. My vulgar use of the English language is one reason I don’t have my mother proofread my articles (and yes, my mom is a professional proofreader).
Step 7. Re-read it! Read your article. Read it again. Go on, one more time.
Step 8. Format for the Web.
Go through your article and find any points in the writing that might be well-served by a few hyperlinks, find them on the web and paste them into the article next to the actual place you’d like to place the hyperlink. This little step saves you time once you’re entering your article into your blog platform and will keep you from flopping around on the internet like an ADHD 7 year old without your meds when you’re supposed to be focused on publishing.
Step 9. Photos and Graphics.
Choose your photos or graphics and add them to your folder with the articles. Be sure the pictures are formated for the web (a 72 DPI resolution and sized no bigger than 900 pixels wide) and, for the love of god, be sure you have permission to use them.
DO NOT grab a random photo off the internet and make it your own. Not only is this tacky, disrespectful to the photographer and just cheesy- it’s also illegal. Illegal to the tune of $125K per copyright violation. Just don’t go there. Use Flickr’s Creative Commons section for free photos (with attribution) or learn how to take your own photos.
And don’t use sucky photos. We’re a visual society and we take quality images for granted- meaning- your readers expect quality photographs and if they come to your site for the first time and see shitty pictures, your words might not be strong enough to keep their eyeballs on your site. OK, I shall step off the photographer’s soap box now.
Step 10. Send it to the Web.
Finally. We’re ready to publish!! Open up your admin panel for your blog, click the new post and copy and paste your text from the edited version into your article. Cut the hyperlinks and paste them into the Hyperlink dialogue box, add your photos in the appropriate spots and add whatever special excerpts, thumbnails and formatting your blog requires. Then, hit publish. Go on, don’t hesitate! You’ve gone through the steps, your writing is brilliant and people will love it! Go for it!
Are we done yet??
No. Time to let the world know your life-altering prose are available for them to consume.
Go to the Ping.fm , visit the Facebook, fly over to the Hootesuite and send your article out to the world. In 140 characters or less, tell the world why your article matters and why they need to read it. Use Hash Tags to get your article in front of the right eyeballs and let it fly!
One more thing- BACK UP YOUR WRITING. Yes, back up your blog folder structure on your computer to an external hard-drive and send it to the cloud.
Now, you’re done. Uncork some wine, pop open a beer, brew some tea, sit back and take in your work. Revel the accomplishment of a fabulous article sharing your unique knowledge with the world.
Go forth and write.