It has taken me a while to come up with a process and structure to keep my article and blog post writing organized. This article summarizes where it stands now. I’ll start with how I organize things on the computer first, and then the process I actually use to write. The two complement each other.
Organize Your Files
Ok, the first thing I did, which should have been painfully obvious, was to organize my writing in one place on my computer. Seems like I should have done this a long time ago, but I didn’t. I thought I was organized but I really was not.
So, I now have an “Articles” directory, and under that separate directories for the various websites where I provide content.
Then I have three sub directories that kind of line up with the process steps that I’ll describe below.
When I first get an idea for an article or post I just create a document at the top level of the website directory where I think it will belong. This doc can contain anything, from a full outline to just a few notes. Sometimes these docs will sit there a while and “percolate.” I try to name them so they will jog my memory later.
As soon as I have written a complete article or post I put it in the Drafts folder. I always let the article sit there for at least 24 hours before I edit it. I can’t remember where I read that is a good idea, but my experience is that it does indeed work.
Often, I will work on a few articles in the Drafts folder on the same day. I just find that some days I feel more creative than others and on the less creative days editing a few articles keeps me productive. After I complete editing I move the article to the Ready folder.
When I am actually ready to publish an article I do one final edit. This is my last chance to catch any little errors that I somehow missed previously. Once I have actually published the article somewhere I move it to the Published folder.
The folder structure I described does a pretty good job of keeping my article and blog post writing organized while they are in process. I still needed a way to track articles after they are published.
For this tracking I’ve found a simple spreadsheet works best. I track the following:
- Picture (If I used a picture / graphic)
- Word Count
- Date Ready (the date I completed the article)
- Date Published (the date the article was published somewhere)
- Link (a link to where the article is published)
You can add more fields if needed. I’ve considered moving this info to a database, but the simple spreadsheet works for me for now.
So, what is my actual process for writing an article or post?
Generate an Idea
Sometimes the client will provide the idea. Other times I come up with it myself. There are whole books devoted to coming up with writing ideas. However to me the most important thing is to have a way to record the idea before you lose it.
Research the Idea
Sometimes I already know enough about a subject that I can go straight to creating an outline. Other times, depending on the length and complexity of the subject I will do research. I usually use OneNote to track my research. I like that you can put almost anything into OneNote, from lists to web links. I’m sure others have different systems, including plain old paper notes and index cards.
I almost always create an outline before I start writing. Don’t overthink this. For smaller articles a simple list of topics you want to include within the article will suffice. My outline is usually the start of my word processing doc, and I use the same doc to write the draft.
Quick and Dirty Draft
The outline allows me to write the first quick and dirty draft, usually in one sitting. Depending on how “quick and dirty” this draft is, sometimes I move it immediately to the Draft folder. It’s me, but if the first draft is too “dirty” I don’t feel I can really call it a draft as it’s really still a work in progress. But that’s me and you may feel differently.
Draft with Basic Editing
When I actually sit down and seriously edit the article I keep it in the Drafts folder until I’m happy with it. At this point it’s basically “done” and I move it to the Ready folder.
Ready Status and Publication
The article sits in Ready status until it gets published somewhere. I’ll do one final edit check before publication but it’s a red flag if I spot anything more than very minor errors.
So, this is the way I organize my posts and articles. And I’ve also outlined my basic writing process. I’m sure there may be better systems out there but this one works for me for now!