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Gini Dietrich

Seven Tools for Writing Blog Posts

By: Gini Dietrich | June 18, 2013 | 
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Seven Tools for Writing Blog Posts“You can’t catch a fish if you don’t put the bug in the water.”Brad Farris, CEO of Anchor Advisors and founder of Enmast

On Saturday, I went out for an early morning bike ride so I could get in the miles on the lakefront without fighting foot traffic later in the day.

At the turnaround spot, I decided to go away from my usual Pandora station and listen to a podcast. I turned on Jason Konopinski’s Riffing on Writing. His latest episode was with my friend and former advisor, Brad Farris.

First, to the two them: I CAN HEAR YOU!

Now on to everyone else.

Word vs. WordPress

As Jason is wont to do, he led Brad down a path about content creation. While Brad doesn’t write for a living, nor does he enjoy it all that much, he does create quite a bit of content for Enmast, a community for small business owners, its blog, and a newsletter.

During the conversation, they ridiculed me because I can open WordPress, type a blog post, and publish it…all within an hour (which is precisely what I’m doing right now).

It turns out, that’s not so common.

But the conversation went from there to tools they both use (you’ll have to listen to learn what they are) and how to get content created when it doesn’t come so naturally.

Brad said something really interesting about content creation in Word. He said (and I’m paraphrasing) he uses Word to create strategy documents for clients, which tend to be very left-brained and logical.

So when he opens Word, he has a hard time turning off that side of his brain to be creative and write something people will want to read if they’re not paying him to write it.

It made me wonder if that’s not the case for a lot of people.

I love writing in WordPress because I can add links, optimize, categorize, add images, and tag the post all at once. I’ve always looked at writing it somewhere else and moving it into WordPress as an extra step.

But what if you hate the interface (which Jason and Brad both said they did) for writing?

Tools for Writing Blog Posts

Following are several tools for writing blog posts.

  1. Scrivener. I love Scrivener. It’s how I’m writing Spin Sucks (the book) and how I’ll write any longer form content that is soon to come. I don’t know how it would work for shorter form content, but I say it’s worth a shot.
  2. Google Docs. I still haven’t caught the Google Docs fever, but I know lots of people prefer it. You can write directly in there, have an editor review it without sending attachments back and forth, and then finalize before transferring it.
  3. Movable Type. This one is particularly good if you have multiple authors. While it’s a little more advanced because you can actually build your website on it and then use the platform for publishing, it does give you the option to only write blog posts with it.
  4. Pen and paper. I know it sounds silly, but it works for many people. Brad said he uses an app on his phone to keep his blog post ideas. I actually keep mine in a hardbound journal with a bicycle on the front (seen above). I carry it with me everywhere I go because when I have an idea, I want to be sure I track it in the same spot as all the other ones.
  5. WriteApp. I like this one for those of you who get distracted easily. It will shut down all of your distractions and not let you back at them until the time you’ve predetermined is up.
  6. WordPress. We’ve covered this, so I won’t say anything more than it’s how I write my blog posts.
  7. MarsEdit. When Geoff Livingston and I were traveling nonstop together last year, I watched him create many a blog post in MarsEdit. I never really got the hang of using it (it felt easier to use WordPress), but he swears by it. You can publish to your blog directly from there so it’s not a two-step process like many of these others.

But the most important tool for writing blog posts? Write every day. Even if you don’t publish every day, you can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write every, single day.

It’s the only way to get better and it’s the only way to find your voice.

Because, as Brad said at the end of the podcast, “You can’t catch a fish if you don’t put the bug in the water.”

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

147 comments
juliaprior
juliaprior

I have a hard time finishing blog posts, personally. I'll get a great start and then just lose interest or get distracted working on something else. Because of that, I've started to use www.writtenkitten.com to write my posts, and then I put them into WordPress. What better motivation to actually finish a post when every 100 words, the page shows you a new picture of an adorable kitten?!

And I love your point about writing every day. The ability to write isn't only a talent, it's also a muscle. I can't expect to become a better runner if I don't go out and run on a regular basis, and I can't expect to become a better writer if I don't sit down and write - something - every day. Sometimes it's not a blog post, sometimes it's an email to a friend, a press release for work, or even some tweets - it doesn't matter because I'm still writing.

AllisonP
AllisonP

Thank you for this article.  

I believe that because writing is such a personal thing, nobody can 'tell you how' to do it.  I still use pen and paper most of the time, so I don't think it is silly at all.  I use photographs as notes for the bulk of my blog entries.  Some days I write my blog posts directly in Wordpress, but other days I choose to draft it in a Word document.  I think it depends on my day or my week...did I lose my keys this week?  Well, then maybe I'm feeling wary that I might lose all of my words on my Wordpress page today.  Did I have crappy service at a restaurant and want to write about it RIGHT NOW?  Well, then maybe I'll skip the word document today.   I like to go by feel.  

Colleen Sharen
Colleen Sharen

Might want to check the terms of service on google docs. The retain the right to use any material posted there in any way they wish. This might create some intellectual property issues if you wish to publish your posts later.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

I'll add Evernote to this list; much like Google docs I can collab and share from that app as well. And much like you I find it just as easy to do it all in WP - except that 1-hour thing. Takes me so much longer to edit, to find the links, to add images, etc. Once in a while I can crank one out that writes itself, but coding/linking itself.. whole other thing. FWIW.

Andrea T.H.W.
Andrea T.H.W.

All good tools but paper and pen are well above the others. In this age of technology at all costs which will bring us probably to become a kind of cyborgs permanently surrounded by unhealthy electromagnetic waves due to all those things we carry around everyday going back to stone age technology can really make a difference. That's for a simple reason: using paper and pen activates our brain in a different, more creative way; it's an active use of our brain while simply pushing keys is a much more passive thing.


There is a reason if in China they still make computations using abacus first and then checking the results with a calculator: it keeps the brain alive and sharp.


As regards productivity the other six tools surely win but taking into account our brain and creativity paper and pen win without competitors. And we are our brain, so to say, not our tablet, or smartphone, or whatever. :)

SavvyCopywriter
SavvyCopywriter

This is a great post! I just got Scrievner and am playing around with it for some of my longer form content too, although I haven't quite got the hang of it yet (and admittedly haven't spent enough time playing around with it). I recently found the 'Focus' setting in Word for Mac which is a life saver when writing longer form content too. Much like WriteApp, it blacks out the entire screen so that all you see is your document. 

Chris_Read
Chris_Read

I've only been at this for just over a year but my typical strategy is that I have a pad of paper next to me while I am at work. As the day goes on, I write everything that pops into my head on the pad and bring it home with me. Once the kids are asleep, I take out that day's sheet of paper, open up my Wordpress, and start expanding on my handwritten notes. It's what works for me and I am totally with Gini on the crafting in Wordpress thing, for all the same reasons she listed. (Sorry, I can't tag from work because we are in the stoneages here)

Unmana
Unmana

"Write every day. Even if you don’t publish every day, you can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write every, single day."

Thanks for the reminder, Gini! I know this, but it's so very hard to practice!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Blog posts take me more than an hour. How do you do that? But my art works have taken sometimes years (but usually take weeks)  so blogs are lightning quick.


Thanks for the tips Lady!

Latest blog post: Email Marketing is not Dead

photo chris
photo chris

ohhh- I LITERALLY just learned the first steps of wordpress today- the blog is coming any day now! It's pretty intuitive thus far but I will say that I worked on the articles first in word, then copied them over. However, that was because it's not "live" yet. How interesting and freeing that I could eliminate that step!

blfarris
blfarris

Gini;

Everything said in that podcast was out of MAD respect -- know that!

The gap between your skills and experiences and mine are VAST -- I need remedial help. That's why I use these nerdy writing tools. (See list here: http://www.enmast.com/2013/02/nerdy-writing-tools-work/)

There is something about WORD that triggers my left brain, I have to have it all figured out tendancies -- but plain text tools like Markdown also help me get stuff onto the web easily. Evernote, Word and Google docs famously mangle the HTML and add a lot of friction to getting the writing onto the web.

I wish I could just write in the Wordpress interface -- maybe I'll get there some day.

susancellura
susancellura

I've noticed I trend towards the "pen and paper" model. Perhaps it's because I grew up writing in a diary, because there were only typewriters, and rotary phones? It doesn't mean I can't write in WordPress, because I do so at times, but I just have a flow that happens from my mind through my fingers to the paper. I'll change my mind and draw arrows to change things around to make a point and then sometimes see a whole new point developing - new paragraph!!

With that said, I have friends who love Evernote but I have not played with it too much just yet. Cheers!

Patrick McNease
Patrick McNease

I actually use Blogger to write blog posts. I also use Catch Notes when I am mobile blogging (I even utilize code when I am mobile blogging and I email the text to my account). I haven't tried Scrivener yet. I think I will check it out. Thank you for sharing this information. 

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

When I used to blog, I wrote in Wordpress for many of the same reasons you mention. I've also used Tumblr. It worked well for my jazz blog, which was more about audio, video, and quotes and less about words, although it worked fine for that, too. I'm currently using Apple's Pages to write my book, but I may look deeper into Scrivener. I like what I see so far. Thanks for the tip.

lizreusswig
lizreusswig

This is a very interesting post!  I'm awed by those of you who write every day - I must get in that habit as I don't write nearly as much as I'd like.  When I do I'm like @lauraclick - draft it in Word (doesn't seem to tweak out on me  - maybe due to Mac?) and then I copy it to WP & finish off the formatting & links.  For blog ideas, I haven't found the ideal solution for me yet - have tried a bunch of apps, but still mostly use pen & paper.  Found my old handheld voice recorder the other day...might try carrying that around!

giesencreative
giesencreative

I write directly in WordPress as well, although I have to admit that I've lost a few minutes of typing here and there. It happens occasionally due to computer malfunction.

I hear you on the pen and paper. I use a weird mix of Evernote, Twitter favourites, notebooks and whiteboard notes to get my thoughts straight.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@juliaprior Julia, I realize I am six months late, but I just saw your comment on writing blog posts. I am so sorry I missed it originally!


I love writtenkitten.com. That's hilarious!

Latest blog post: #FollowFriday: Kate Nolan

IpjRobson
IpjRobson

@Howie Goldfarb I'm in the same boat. I tend to write a bit stop. Then come back to it and see how I can improve it. 

It can take a couple hours. It really depends on how detailed I want to get. 

I still edit it via reading out loud. It seems to work best for me.

Having said all that, I think I am better on video. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@blfarris I really, really loved it when you said it's hard for you to write content in Word because you use it for strategic (I can't remember the word you used, but I got "boring" out of it) documents for clients. I thought that was REALLY interesting.

photo chris
photo chris

@susancellura "draws arrows to things..." LOVE IT! Why is there not a "LOVE IT" button? My editing notes consist of arrows, circled numbers with arrows and paragraphs of tiny font. NOT 100 yet, ALMOST 39, almost.

photo chris
photo chris

@ginidietrich @photo chris LOL- It was supposed to be Friday- HOWEVER...I begged my boss to not go live on a day that I was SHOOTING a wedding, good grief! So it is delayed until tomorrow. We'll see if the formatting problems with the more advanced theme have shaken out by then! I was also asked, for "SEO Sake" to be sure to include a list of keywords in the posts. Um, I thought  that was what developing great content was about. How is this NOT keyword stuffing? 

blfarris
blfarris

@ginidietrich Gini,  Yes, WORD triggers all the parts of my brain that want to make a PERFECT thing. For me, blog writing is not about making a perfect thing -- it's about writing a crappy first draft and then honing that into something that others would want to read.
It's a trick, but staying away from Word is part of that trick for me.

photo chris
photo chris

@ginidietrich @blfarris old habits and muscle memory die hard. When I get REALLY stuck I take a pen and paper, throw on something hideous like sweats and comfy socks, put my hair in a pony tail and turn on LOUD music- it shorts out my brain from everything else trying to get it's attention, and sit somewhere not desk-like. A couch in one of our consult rooms- the patch of grass outside our studio, the sky chair in my yard...and then I free write until I work it out.

susancellura
susancellura

LOL! Well, I will be 44 in August. I did have a dot matrix printer in college, and we did have cordless phones at home. Oh, and we did cable when it came out...we had what I call the'slide" channel changer! First video on MTV? "video killed the radio star". :)

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

@ginidietrich @lizreusswig Voldemort died a few years ago, you don't have to pledge allegiance to Mr. Turtleneck wearing CEO monster anymore.

In fact you can pay less and obtain a very fine piece of equipment that works quite well for daily writing, no Kool-Aid required. ;)

giesencreative
giesencreative

I have a glass desk that I painted the underside of white. It serves the same function, though I have to keep my desk clean to use it!

photo chris
photo chris

@ginidietrich @photo chris oh, I know. I asked, how is that not keyword stuffing? To which I received an answer, "What is Keyword stuffing? I've never heard of it.  Where did you even hear of it? The purpose of the blog is to maximize SEO People have to be able to find us when they search." I was a bit harried in my answer,honestly. I pointed to you, to Target Marketing, to Coppyblogger. Brief abatement to, "use a few of these words in posts as you are able." Currently no word list received. Me, hitting my head against things. 

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