How to Create a Working Editorial Calendar for Your Blog
Blogging is fun. I love writing my blog. But it is more than that. It’s a commitment to my readers and my industry. It’s a commitment I take seriously.
Writing a blog takes discipline. You owe your readers consistently good content that can be found on a regular basis. As a working writer, it’s not always easy to honor that commitment. Life gets in the way, which is why discipline matters. It helps to be organized too.
At this point, most articles about blogging bring up the editorial calendar. It can be a live saver, but it doesn’t work great for everyone. I am one of those people who likes structure, but only if it doesn’t feel restrictive. An editorial calendar is a bit too confined for me, so I created a hybrid system to keep me on track. My best advice is to figure out what will work for you, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to share how I do it.
I start by creating a place for ideas. Typically I use a notebook, Siri, and computer folder in the cloud for this. This helps me capture ideas no matter where I am when inspiration hits. But I tend to lose things so I transfer all of my ideas to the computer as soon as possible. My notebook is darn helpful, but not a great long-term solution for me. The same is true for those random pieces of paper I tend to gather with scribbled ideas. I’ve also been known to send myself emails or have Siri take a note if I’m driving. I do not rely on my memory when it comes to my writing. It’s too easy to forget.
My blog ideas folder houses everything, no matter how random. Whenever I get an idea, I create a new document that includes a working title and a brief description of my take on the idea. I add as many details as I can because it is too easy to lose the essence of the idea and be left staring at a title with no clue what I wanted to say about that topic. Whenever possible, I go ahead and outline the idea. I have found the more I flesh out the idea at the moment of inspiration, the better the blog will be when I write it. If I can’t do that, or if the idea requires research to develop it, I add as much as I can, including research questions that need answering. This helps me retain the idea in its original form.
Ideally, I would write the actual blog when I get the idea, but that’s not always possible, so I do the next best thing and create a brain dump version of an idea page. Then I save the document in either the “Need to be Researched” file or the “WIP” file within the Blog folder. Then I log it on my master log. More on this in a moment.
When I get around to writing the blog, I start by reworking my notes into a blog structure and then start writing around my notes or beneath them. I don’t save the page as a blog until it is written. That’s when I save it to my “Completed” file and check it off on the master log as complete. Even then, I do not post until I do a final edit on the blog. I typically do this just before posting. After I post, I update my log.
My master log is how I stay organized and sane. It is a combination of an editorial calendar and a spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet is broken down into various columns that include the blog title followed by places to check when the blog has been researched, outlined, written, edited, and posted or scheduled. Sometimes I schedule blogs ahead when I know I am going to be busy with client work or on vacation, but I keep the schedule pretty flexible so I can push things if I get a great idea I want to post immediately.
My log has an ongoing list of ideas, but they are not assigned to a specific date until they are ready to go. This helps me know what blogs are ready to use if I run out of time to write a new one. Typically, I have a couple dozen ideas outlined and at least a dozen completed blogs at any given time. I also have a list for ideas that came to me without detail. Those are ideas I typically develop through research when I have time.
I split my spreadsheet into years so I can go back and see what I posted this time last year or the year before. I’ve also found that putting my post dates in ahead of time keeps me on schedule. I have the dates marked from now through all of 2018. It’s how I know I have enough ideas to carry me through March of 2018, not that I won’t come up with a lot more between now and then, but it makes me feel good to know I’m covered if life gets insane.
I add to the master list as I go and re-order depending on my mood. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing the blog I have listed, so I swap it with another idea scheduled later in the year. As long as there are ideas on the log, I feel on top of things.
It pays to be organized when you need to keep a schedule. There’s nothing worse than having to page through ideas to see if you have written something similar in the past or scrambling to come up with an idea the day you need to post.
My last trick to keep the blog fresh is to treat each Tuesday as a deadline no matter whether or not I have a blog ready to go. It keeps me plugging away at my blog even when I am ahead of schedule. There is no such thing as being too prepared, in my opinion. Then again, there is nothing like the crush of a deadline to get the words flowing.
Good luck setting up your blog system. It is a rewarding way to keep writing no matter what else is happening.