Reader Q&A: The Blogging Process

Ron asks:

“Bryan, you’re one of those writers that seems to be able to put an interesting twist on just about anything, and I thought you might blog about your writing process. How far in advance do you write your posts? What’s the process by which you get your post ready? (type it and hit “publish” versus a “write it, revise it, sleep on it, revise it, publish it” approach) Where do the more creative ideas come from? (like sending kids out in the snow barefoot or trying to sneak ingredients into your wife’s cooking). I guess that list of questions could go on and on, but basically I’m curious about your writing process, and I think it’d make for some interesting reading.”

First off Ron, flattery will get you everywhere. But being a Yankees fan completely nullifies the nice things you said. So, the pinstripes cancel out the compliments and you’re back to even.

Let’s tackle this one question at a time.

“How far in advance do you write your posts?” – Not far. Usually over the weekend I will get 2-3 ideas, and on Monday I’ll write out a schedule for the week on a post-it note. Then as I get ideas throughout the week, I can slot them in and try to post twice a day. Sometimes nothing is scheduled and I’ll just post an idea when I think of it, but this usually leads to posts that aren’t as good as they could be. which leads to the next question.

“What’s the process by which you get your post ready?” – Ideally, I write a majority of the post on one day, and don’t post it until a day or two later. I think most writers will tell you that “writing” and “editing” are two distinct modes they can get in. I know it works that way for me. So if I write a post, then switch to edit mode and try to clean it up moments later, it’s often not my best effort. Even if it seems great at the time, the next day I’ll usually catch an instance where a different word would have been a better fit or I’ll see an obvious joke I missed.

The one thing I ALWAYS do before I post something is to use the WordPress “Preview This Post” button. That way I can see the post as the reader will see it, and oftentimes it’s there that I will catch typos, missing words, bad sentence timing, and all sorts of other garbage.

“Where do the more creative ideas come from?” – The scary recesses of my brain, I guess. I think most of us get random thoughts in our heads from time to time, maybe I get more than normal…or maybe not, I don’t know. But looking back, for the past 10 years I’ve always had a creative outlet for the silly things I think of that make me laugh. I’d either bounce them off Erica, share them with a friend, or post them on a message board. These days, the blog serves as that outlet for a majority of what I’m thinking about.

I think a huge component of blogging is momentum. If you are in the habit of posting on a daily basis, then you are always on the lookout for blog-worthy things. Sometimes they smack you right in the face, other times you need to create them. Having my kids go out in the snow was totally random. I just put the camera on hoping they would say something funny. You can hear the genuine surprise in my voice when they said they would actually go outside. As for the Jason Bourne thing, that is something I do ALL the time. (Yesterday i put 3 straws into her coffee cup when her back was turned…just because I could). I thought a video of me trying to be sneaky might be a fun watch…and thankfully it turned out pretty good. If it hadn’t, you would have never seen it.

When I’m putting together a blog post, these are the 3 things I consider:

1. Is it interesting to me? There’s no way I can write about something in an engaging or entertaining manner if I’m bored. If I am interested by it, then I will probably be able to make it interesting to you. (Hopefully). This takes discretion, of course. I care about my fantasy baseball team a whole lot, but I know none of you do, so you’ll rarely read anything about it. Unless I win the championship, in which case I might post about it, but only if I can make it somewhat interesting.

2. How is this going to come across? My goal for my blog is that every post either entertains, encourages, inspires, or informs. If it does 1 of those 4 things, then I can usually find a place for it. Also, I try to pay attention to what my previous posts have been. If the last two posts have been informational, I’ll probably try to get an entertaining one up next so the blog doesn’t start to taste like you’re chewing a mouthful of stale saltines. In addition, I try to be consistent with my writing voice. I want to make sure I am coming across as genuinely as possible. If the post sounds too arrogant or whiny or negative, then I need to rewrite it because I don’t want to come across with that attitude.

3. Does the post have a proper intro/outtro? With blogging, you don’t always have time to create an engaging hook in your first sentence or a brilliant last line to make people laugh. But that’s the goal, I guess. I want to make it engaging from the start, and I want the last line to make you think, make you laugh, or make you want to leave a comment.

Thanks for the question Ron, I hope that helps you out as you create content for your blog. And hopefully other folks found that somewhat interesting as well.

I’d love to hear tips, tricks, and tactics for blogging from other bloggers out there. How do y’all do what you do?

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in Reader Q&A, please email it to me at bryanallain(at)gmail with the subject “Reader Q&A”. I’ll take serious questions or dumb questions. I much prefer dumb ones though.