As I’m continuing to challenge myself with the direction of my blog, I’ve tried to do a better job on the planning side. Unfortunately, you don’t get a chance to see that side of things. So, I thought I’d share what works for me.
I keep a Numbers grid (Excel for Mac) that I update at least once a week that tells me what I need to post everyday. It has 8 columns: the date, the day of the week, and a column for each category on my blog. Once I’ve published a post, I’ll change the background color of the cell to yellow so I can keep track of what I’ve accomplished.
For a while, I tried planning a month out, but the problem? I’d find things that I’d rather write about sooner. Or, things I planned to write about at the end of the month were already obsolete. Remember, it’s just a plan.
I’ve talked about this before. In Kristina Halvorson’s book, Content Strategy for the Web, she talks about developing a content audit: going through your site and keeping track of all the content that you’ve posted. It’s been great for several reasons
- Big picture for what’s on my site
- Reference when I’m linking between my blog posts
- Knowing what content needs to be updated
This grid is huge! I have 11 columns. Then, there’s a row for every page (right now I’m at 160).
- ID Every page has an ID
- Date The date that the post was published
- Title The title of the post
- Link The page URL
- Summary This is to help me remember the content that’s on each page
- Category These are the categories (i.e. My Life, Programming, Photography, Design, Finder’s Keepers, Web 101 — obviously your cateogries will look different) associated wtih a given post
- Type Your grid may or may not need this column. I have all my posts organized by the type of post (i.e. link, post, movie, picture, post, or quote)
- Notes These are reminders to me of what I need to go back and update. For example, I have a whole series on jQuery. I want to go back and create a series page and link all those pages together. My reminder lives here.
- Tags This is a list of tags for each post
- Meta Keywords This is for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). If you were at Google, this is a list of all the keywords that I think you might use to find my post
- Meta Description When you’re at Google and the summary of site appears next to my link, this is where it’s pulling that from
It’s a lot of work to keep this updated. Honestly, I still have a lot of gaps that I need to go back and fill in. It might be contrary to what Kristina Halvorson suggests, but I update this once a week when I do my scheduling (I think she recommends updating it everytime you write a post).
Brainstorming for Future Posts
MindNode allows me to create a mind map with all my post ideas. I’ll add to this throughout the week as I think of things. (Usually ideas will come while I’m writing or while I’m reading other blogs.)
When I get ready to schedule, I’ll pull out my mind map.
Writing blog posts in Markdown
Markdown is an abbreviated coding language. Hopefully I didn’t scare anyone, because the people I probably scared are the people that would love Markdown the most.
a text to HTML conversion for web writers
It’s probably easier that I **show** you, instead of just **telling** you.
Normally, if I wanted a link and I were coding it in HTML, I would type:
<a href="http://www.amyhaywood.com">Visit my site</a>
but, with Markdown, I just type this instead:
[Visit my site](http://www.amyhaywood.com)
I like to code as much as the next person, but Markdown is so much easier to read! Haven’t sold you yet? Here’s the HTML for an ordered list:
<ul> <li>Item one</li> <li>Item two</li> <li>Item three</li> </ul>
But, Markdown is simply:
* Item one * Item two * Item three
If this interests you, you can look at John Gruber’s site for a complete list of Markdown syntax or if you’re interested in learning more about HTML, I’ve written a post, A Crash Course in HTML…in English.
Writing blog posts in Notational Velocity
I generally write my blog posts in Notational Velocity. It’s a VERY generic text editor, similar to Notepad if you’re a Windows user or an even more dumbed down version of TextEdit if you’re a mac user. I love it for a couple of reasons.:
- I can search (bar at the top)
- It syncs. I have my personal laptop and work laptop syncing through Dropbox. I also have my personal computer (only) syncing with my iPhone and iPad through SimpleNote. This means, no matter where I’m at, I can work on a blog post draft. If I’m going through my RSS feeds at lunch and find a link and think “That would be great for today’s five post,” I pop open Notational Velocity, quick copy and paste. When I get home, everything syncs automatically, I can pick up right where I left off.
As soon as I’ve finished writing, I’ll copy and paste the post into TextMate. Then, go to *Bundles > Markdown > Convert Document to HTML. * It will do exactly what it sounds like it will do, converts everything to HTML, adding in all my tags. Then, I copy and paste everything into Expression Engine. This might be too cumbersome for some, but it works for me. —that’s the important part. Find something that works for you.
If you’re interested in this setup, here are a few links that can help:
NOTE I have a special build of Notational Velocity. Steven Frank forked the code to create a third pane for MarkDown.
NOTE If you’re syncing your computers with Dropbox, you can only have one of your computers sync with SimpleNote, otherwise you’ll create an infinite loop and you’ll end up with duplicate posts.