04 August 2014

A Peek Inside My Blog Writing Process

I launched "Journey to the Past" about four and a half years ago. During this time I have done a lot of organizing, planning, designing, writing, re-writing, editing, publishing and more as I try to make my blog a better one for my readers.  I even redecorated my office space to make it genealogy friendly.

This summer I decided to analyze my blog.  I asked myself, "How can I make my blog better?"  I asked my daughter, Kirsten, for some help.  Kirsten, a social media strategist in Chicago, created a social media plan and I have incorporated many of her ideas already.

Next, I took a look at "How I Blog".  I jotted down a few notes about my blog process and decided to share it:

I can't blog without ideas. Ideas come to me in many ways. I might be watching television, reading a book or magazine, watching a webinar, attending a seminar, reading another blog, participating in blog prompts, trying to go to sleep, driving in the car, etc. The key for me is to keep track of all these ideas.  I have a couple of different ways that I do that.

First, if I am at home when the idea comes to me, I write it down.  I have an inexpensive spiral bound notebook that I have organized into sections.  I have a section for surnames, ancestor biographies, my "Where in the World" posts, civil war pension, Last Day Local, places, and miscellaneous. If I am not at home or near pen and paper, I use the Evernote app on my cell phone to create a note with ideas.

I Heart Organization.  I have mentioned before how I like to be organized and when I sit down to write I like an organized space. I make sure my desk area is free from clutter before I sit down to write. I try to keep my work space cleaned up so this doesn't take more than a few minutes.  My genealogy resource books are to the left of the desk. One shelf of a three tiered shelf holds my blogging notebook and other blogging related folders.

Creating a blogging calendar.  I like to work a month at a time and schedule posts on a calendar. Recently, I have started using google calendar.  I had been using paper and pencil before.  I think whatever people are comfortable with, use it.  The image to the right is my calendar for August.  I try to schedule three posts a week.  I may end up adding to it if something timely needs to be written about. Once my blogging calendar is filled out, I go into blogger, create titles, and save them in draft. Sometimes, I write notes to myself about the idea in the writing area.  I don't worry too much about the title, because I usually change it after I write the post.  I have 40 posts saved in draft now.  Some are for August posts, some for the future, and some are just ideas that may or may not get written. Eventually, I can see my drafts becoming the only way to write down ideas.

Just Write!  I was so concerned about my writing when I first started blogging.  I didn't want the grammar police on my case.  Now, I just write.  I can proof it and edit it before publishing.  Most of my blog posts can be written in 15-20 minutes.  Detailed posts with records and sources take longer.  I know of bloggers who have a writing schedule, like four hours every morning.  I don't have one.  I write when I feel like it.  I try to write one to two weeks ahead of schedule, that way I don't feel pressured to write if something unexpected comes up.  I have a tendency to write shorter posts.  I don't like to read long, drawn out posts. I lose interest before I get to the end of them.  My longer posts are saved for Ancestor Biographies, description of research places, tips on researching, and this one!  I like to write in quiet, no music or television in the background.  I try to add pictures to every post.  I think it makes the post more interesting.  I add links when needed.

Final Touches This is where I go back and proof my writing.  I preview it to make sure the format looks nice on my blog.  I make sure I have added the links I wanted to, double check the title and make changes, add labels, schedule it, and hit publish.

Tell Others About It. No one wants to spend time writing a blog post and not have anyone read it. I use Hoot Suite to help with promotion.  Hoot Suite is a social media management tool.  Currently, I use Hoot Suite to schedule posts to Twitter and Facebook. I have been trying to improve in this area.

Interact with Readers.  Your blog post isn't done the minute you hit publish.  In my opinion, a good blogger is one who interacts with their readers.  I try to reply to every comment and email I receive from a reader.  I appreciate each and every person who reads my blog, and the few minutes it takes to respond to a comment or email makes my blog better.  Plus, it irritates me if I take the time to post a comment on a blog and get no response.  Most readers are using a blog reader and I know it takes extra time to click on the blog to leave a comment and go through the hoops to have it posted.

This is how I blog.  If I was more creative, I would do a blog process map, but I just have the written words above. It has been a work in progress over the past four and a half years.  I am evolving as a writer and a blogger. I make changes to make Journey to the Past better for you, my readers.

Do you blog? I would enjoy reading about your process.   


  1. An interesting post, Brenda, and timely as I am reviewing my own blog. I am at a crossroads in that I have almost exhausted my own family history material & photographs and must look more widely for post topics. I use my Drafts folder to jot down ideas for future posts - it might just be a title, a photograph or a theme to develop at a later date and this seems to work for me. I am impressed by your schedule of 3 posts per week. I was managing that at one stage, but now post only once weekly. - and it certainly takes me longer than 20 minutes to write. Initially I aimed for a short post, but find many blogger' contributions now are quite lengthy and if I am posting about research e.g on a particular ancestor, I find mine get that way too. Re comments - I do tend to regard the success of a post by the number of comments received. I try to reply, even if it is a general thank you. I do have a problem in keeping track of comments I make and then returning to the post to see if there has been any response. I tend just to do this for key sites on my reading list. - do you keep a checklist of posts you comment on, to make this task easier? In encouraging readers, I admit I am put off by black backgrounds to a blog - even though the content could be good - I aim for a clean, uncluttered simple look which I hope appeals. I look forward to reading what other bloggers think.

  2. I was interested to read about your approach. Nowadays other commitments mean that I have very little time for writing blogs, but I use my email programme (Eudora) to jot down ideas for topics. A rough title in the subject line, brief notes in the message body, transfer the email to a 'Blog-Ideas' mailbox, and it's filed for future reference. Like you, I am not keen on long blog posts, and I now regret letting myself get carried away with 10 Tips for Wills, Intestacies and Probate! As for ScotSue's comment about 'keeping track of comments I make and then returning to the post to see if there has been any response' - for blogs that are on Blogger, I tick 'Notify me' under the 'Post a Comment' box, and later comments are emailed to me.

  3. Many thanks, Judy - for the "Notify Me" tip.

  4. Dear Sue, I, too, use the Notify Me option, if there isn't one I jot a note down to check back later. I don't know if it because my mother came from a very large family and my Dad's ancestry can be traced to Colonial America, but I haven't run out of ideas yet. I use to rely on the success by comment posting, but I have noticed that others do not comment as much. I have read about this on other blogs too. I think the use of a blog reader has cut down on this. That is why I appreciate it when someone takes the time to reply to a comment. You are very good about that.

  5. Judy, I think 'getting carried away" with a blog post is great every now and then, if the subject warrants it and Wills and Probates can be a lengthy topic. I use the notify me feature too. It just makes it so much easier to know when I have commented.

  6. Brenda, the GooglePlus issue has also reduced the number of blog comments: 'Are You Getting Fewer Blog Comments?.

  7. That's right, I forgot about that, Judy. I guess we just have to hope our blogs are getting read. I write more to keep the stories and research alive and hope it is around for generations to enjoy.

  8. That's right, I forgot about that, Judy. I guess we just have to hope our blogs are getting read. I write more to keep the stories and research alive and hope it is around for generations to enjoy.

  9. Yes, and there is a good chance that people will find them with Google searches - and if the metadata for our blog posts include keywords and good descriptions, other search engines may find them too.

  10. yeah right i forgot about judy and i guess we just have to hope our blogs are getting read.It just make so easier when i get know i comment