Blogging 101, Day Twenty-Nine: Plan the Next Thirty

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It humors me that I should be writing about this particular topic at this particular time. Did you know that at this moment you are reading words that were written over thirty days ago? Yes, at this precise moment (over thirty days in the past), I was planning out over a month’s worth of blog posts to give myself some breathing room for other projects and goals.

Planning is super important if you want to keep your blog regularly updated and your brain functioning stress-free. Therefore, today’s assignment is to sketch out an editorial calendar to cover your next thirty days of blogging.

One of the best things I’ve done for myself in a while was to buy a little personal organizer notebook to help keep track of my blog scheduling. It helps so much to have a visual of what I’ve got planned, or to keep notes on ideas that I have for future posts. I can’t tell you how confused I would be trying to plan stuff ahead of time without being able to easily visualize what I’ve already done and what is left to do.

So do yourself a favor: grab an organizer, a calendar, or find a smartphone app that you like, and get planning. You’ll thank yourself later, I promise.

Blogging 101, Day Twenty-Five: Save a Few Drafts

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Planning blog posts ahead of time is something that I became intimately familiar with when I first started working out West. For most of us blogging is something that we have to work in around family, work, and other parts of everyday life, so planning ahead and collecting ideas for future posts becomes a very helpful habit to help keep your sanity.

Today’s assignment is to look back over what you’ve published. What have you been most proud of? What are the common threads? Which are most popular? Create and save two draft posts with ideas that come from those.

Looking at what readers have enjoyed reading in the past is an excellent way to decide what sorts of topics to keep blogging about. For instance, I regularly get a lot of feedback when I write about kids and memories from childhood that most people can relate to, so I make an effort to blog about those kinds of things as often as I can.

Going back over your old work can also give you lots of ideas for new posts by making you rethink what you’ve previously written. Nothing is ever written in stone, so you should feel free to go back and rewrite posts, or change your mind about a previous statement, or write a response to yourself. Bring the past into the future.

And always try to keep ahead of yourself, as I’ve learned time and time again. Getting some ideas down and scheduling a few posts in advance really takes the pressure off when real life smacks you in the face.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

70. Writing an ugly draft vs editing as you write.

The people behind National Novel Writing Month would have a field day with this one.

There are a lot of arguments for both sides of this conflict, but mostly it comes down to personal preference. Most writers I know tend to edit as they write because silencing your internal editor can be a herculean feat that hardly feels worth it. Then again, there are plenty of writers out there who subscribe to the NaNoWriMo method, which is basically “worry about quantity now, quality later”. I’ve also been told by fellow writers that there’s a specific way you should go about writing a novel: planning, ugly first draft, revised second draft, any number of further revised drafts until your story plays out exactly as you want it to, and final editing. I don’t know about you, but just looking at that system makes me want to gather up everything I’ve ever written and sacrifice it to the god of bonfires.

Like I said, it mostly comes down to preference. Some people can follow steps like the ones above and be perfectly happy and content. Other people completely lose the ability to move on with the story if their internal editor is screaming at them to go back and change things. Additionally, some people can revise their work a hundred times and still find stuff they want/need to change, while others manage to hit the bulls-eye with the first shot and just have to worry about editing. It all really depends on what kind of writer you are.

As for myself? I’m still working on exactly what kind of writer I am. When I was younger I could never finish anything I wrote because I would regularly find major issues with my plot or decide that I wanted to make a significant change, and instead of dealing with it as I continued to write, I would start the damn thing over from scratch. In fact, my current work in progress is a story that I’ve completely rewritten from scratch no fewer than six times over the years. I’ve never reached the end. In fact, until about a month ago I’d never even reached the middle. My internal editor is just that powerful…she is a cruel witch who should be burned for her crimes.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. So as I was saying, my default setting seems to be edit-as-you-go, but as I’ve just described that’s not always a good thing for me. What really showed me the error of my ways was when I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month. I really wanted to reach that 50,000 word goal, and I knew that my current habits would not allow for that, so for one month I let myself just write. No matter how many mistakes I made or how awful some sentences sounded, I just forced myself to keep writing. Guess what happened? No, I didn’t finish my story. But I wrote 50,000+ words toward it, which was way better than I’d ever done before.

So clearly adopting the “ugly first draft” method was good for me, but even after several more NaNoWriMo’s I determined that it wasn’t something I could strictly adhere to. These blog posts are a great example. I edit these posts as I go, and it works just fine for me. Maybe the wording isn’t always as good, my thought process as organized as it might be if I were to draft my post first and then revise it, but I’m happy with what I produce. Alternatively, I continue to force myself to (mostly) ignore my internal editor (as she screams at me from her burning stake) while I’m writing fiction because NaNoWriMo has taught me that its more important to get the full story written than to make that one chapter absolutely perfect the first time around.

So I guess the short answer is that I do ugly first drafts and I edit as I go. In this, as with many things, I am a rebel. Sexy, huh? Yeah…you know it.

Rules are Meant to be Broken…Right?

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

65. One writing rule you break.

Yes, I am aware that I am past #65 now. I wrote this one in my notebook and forgot to post it. I am not numerically dyslexic. Moving on.

Only one? I really can’t restrict myself to only one broken rule. I’ve already mentioned a dozen or more times that I don’t plan, don’t properly establish my characters and settings ahead of time, and don’t even attempt to pull the plot points together because I usually end up changing them a hundred times. I tend to use too many adjectives, not to mention too many commas and ellipses, and I have, on occasion, been bad for using cliches in my writing. I also have no bloody clue when it comes to proper revision. Hell, I’ve been revising/editing my zombie apocalypse novel for almost two years now…and hey, there’s another broken rule: I hear you’re not supposed to revise and edit at the same time. Who knew?

But if there’s one rule that I break more than all the others combined, it would be the one about having the willpower and dedication to actually sit down and write. Make no mistake, I write a helluva lot more than some people who claim to be writers, but I don’t write nearly enough for someone who claims to wait to be a professional writer.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Some quick calculations based on my approximate writing speed therefore tell me that I have to write approximately 7,500,000 words before I might be considered an expert. Now if you subtract words that I’ve written for this blog (approximately 52,000), words I’ve written during NaNoWriMo’s (approximately 240,000) and words I’ve written for various other projects since I first started writing creatively (I’m willing to bet 1,000,000 is a fair estimation for over the past sixteen years or so), that means I still have about 6,208,000 words to go. If I had been more diligent over the years that number would probably be a lot lower. If I had even written 100,000 a year (the equivalent of two NaNoWriMo’s) just since college I would be down to about 5,000,000. The point is, plain and simple, I don’t write enough for someone who wants to be a published author.

I’m trying to fix that via Wildly Improbable Goal #3 (which, in case you forgot, was to write a million words this year). Even if I achieve my goal it will only bring me 16% closer to that “magic number”, but 16% is better than my previous averages, which have been somewhere in the range of 0.96%.