Look at all the pretties! As you can see, I’ve made a few changes to the site: mostly superficial, but hopefully nice to look at. If you have any other ideas for improvements, please, please, please let me know!
In the meantime, on with part two of my blogging system. (If you missed last week, you can find part one here!) Last week, I talked about how I do my scheduling. But what is a schedule without the drafts and the ideas to back it up?
Directly following the schedule, I have the drafts, each separated by double-spacing and an all-caps title. The drafts come in all degrees of doneness, from a rough outline, to just an introductory paragraph, to a final draft ready to be posted. I have them written out chronologically, with the top of the queue at the top of the page. It makes it easier for me to tell at a glance how much more work I need to do before posting, and how soon that work needs to be done.
When it’s not a NaNo month (because NaNo months are lazy months), I try to have first drafts done a week before posting, and final drafts done the day before posting. That way, I have a bit of a buffer if something happens and I can’t write, or if the schedule needs to change with little notice. It doesn’t always happen that way, but it’s way less hectic for me when it does.
There are usually two to four active drafts in this section. Some sit there for weeks or even months before I’m satisfied with them. After a draft is finally posted, I delete it from the document to clear room for a new draft.
Down at the bottom of the document, I have the notes. These are the ideas that are too ugly and vague and newborn to even have a scheduled slot yet. This is the area I come to when I am scheduling a new quarter.
But how do you generate a robust notes section?
Any way you can. Whatever gets your brain ticking, do those things. I try to do my brainstorming- both for fiction and for blogging, depending on the mood- when I’m doing otherwise brainless tasks. Washing dishes, chopping veggies, folding laundry, exercising, showering, etc… We all have chores we have to do that don’t take too much thought; use that time to think about other things. Keep track of interesting dreams, weird happenings at the supermarket, funny scenarios in the police blotter, whatever. And whenever possible, have the means to write those ideas down immediately.
Another tactic to keep in mind: other writers probably have a lot of the same questions you do. Quite a few of my blog posts have come about because I had questions- about craft, about querying, about social media- and spent a lot of time finding answers. Why not write a blog post about those answers?
Whenever you attend writing events- critique groups, conferences, writing guild meetings, book signings, etc- take a some paper with you. Jot down notes throughout the event, and then take the time to talk to the presenter(s) afterward. Get permission to write up a blog post, and then ask other questions that may have been left unanswered. You suddenly have not only a write up of the event, but also an exclusive scoop. Similarly, think of field experts you can interview. Other writers you know? Book shop owners? Reviewers? Acquisitions librarians? Writing teachers at your local schools or universities? Come up with as many as you can before you even start to think about feasibility.
You can also look into what other bloggers are writing about. If someone you follow had an article about diversity that got you thinking, why not write a blog post about your thoughts? If you read another blog that got tons of great comments and you know people are interested, why not write your own take on the same topic?
Whenever I get a new idea, no matter how stupid, I write it down. Truly stupid ideas can always be erased later (Alas, Brandon Sanderson probably won’t grant me an interview just because we both write and are Mormon); but I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to delete an idea only to stop, and tweak it, and suddenly have something I can work with. Never decide an idea is too bad to work the moment you have it. Sometimes those ideas just have to stew a while until you can find a better angle. Write everything down, and keep it all in one spot.
When it’s time to schedule another quarter, I first skim through the archived schedule to get a good idea for what I’ve already written recently, and to maybe get a sense of any gaps in the topics I’ve covered. Then I come to the notes section and start stewing. I cut/paste the workable ideas from the notes section into the new schedule, again with more refined ideas toward the top and less refined toward the bottom.
After I pull out all the good stuff, I am left with a stinking heap of terrible ideas in the notes section. I do not delete any of them. A bad idea will sit in my notes section for nine to twelve months before I let it go, sometimes longer. But I never delete them in batches, and never after a scheduling session.
The notes section is only useful if it is full and active. Constantly add fresh ideas, constantly tweak old ideas. Nearly everything I write about on this blog spends some amount of time in the notes section. It’s like the slush pile for my blog, but I work really hard to make sure it’s all useable eventually.
And that’s about it! The ideas support the schedule supports the drafts, and it all comes together once a week on the blog. I think blogging makes me a better writer for two reasons: it forces me to constantly come up with new ideas; and it forces me to constantly write new material. I don’t usually have a schedule for my fiction and it’s easy to let that fall to the wayside. Blogging ensures that I don’t ever step completely away from writing.
So for those of you who blog, what do you do to keep yourself on track? What’s your blogging system?