|Creating an Editorial Calendar: The What, Why, and How|
One of the biggest questions folks asked me in 2012 was “How do you have the time to do this (blogging, hosting events, etc.)?” The honest answer? I don’t. Honestly, I don’t “have the time” to do half the things folks see me doing online! Blogging, tweeting, challenging, commenting, otherwise filling spaces with words … it could’ve been a nightmare! But here’s another secret: It wasn’t. If you’ve pictured me sitting in front of the computer screen all day and night writing stuff, you’ve got the wrong picture in your head. Instead, picture this: A total of maybe eight to ten hours a week resulting in all the things you see.
That’s a prettier picture, isn’t it?
Time management can be a pain in the buns. But there’s one little tool that could be the key to success when it comes to managing the time you spend making your blog or website what you want it to be: An editorial calendar.
What is an editorial calendar?
Essentially, an editorial calendar is a schedule for your blog. It’s a glorified “to-do list.” It’s a written commitment to what and when you will blog, set in advance, providing you with a plan before you’re stuck having to put that plan in motion. For some an editorial calendar might simply be creating a list of topics you’d like to cover on certain days of the week. For others, a more specific list might be helpful, including topics, post titles, and notes.
Why use an editorial calendar?
There are several gifts an editorial calendar provides:
- Structure. Rather than going day-to-day wondering “What comes next?” you have at least a general idea of not only what, but when and how, your will be writing.
- Comfort. How many of you have ever had a great idea, only to lose it because it wasn’t written down? An editorial calendar helps keep track of your ideas as far in advance as you remember to put them down, so that when the time comes you’re not left hanging.
- Flexibility. Let’s say you’ve written down an idea for next Monday but you find you have something else you want to write when the time comes. You haven’t lost an idea: you’ve multiplied them. An editorial calendar lets you shift days and ideas pretty much at your leisure.
- Goals. An editorial calendar helps you set goals and give yourself deadlines, which can also help ensure better quality in your content.
- TIME! This is a biggie. An editorial calendar helps you get a sense of where you’re going before you have to get there, giving you more time to do other things (i.e. chatting on Twitter, sending off potential publications, getting lost in an hour of Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook …)!
Creating an editorial calendar is easy:
- Ponder your purpose. What is the purpose of your blog? Sharing advice, new writing, or tutorials? Whatever your purpose, make sure the things you put on your calendar fit that purpose.
- Designate the days. How often will you post? Once a week is a good place to start. Five times a week might be too much, or just enough. Figure out what kind of content you want to produce on the days you designate to posting.
- Think about themes. An editorial calendar doesn’t have to have themes. But they might be helpful to give your blog or website a little more structure. If you say Mondays are dedicated to Craft Tips, you won’t surprise your readers with a Monday post about your dog Tilly.
- Inscribe your ideas. You probably have some things in mind right now you’d like to write about on your site. The key is to write them down before you forget them.
- Follow a foundation of flexibility. I’m killing myself with the alliteration at this point, but seriously: Be flexible! The goal is regularity, not rigidity.
So what does my editorial calendar look like for 2013? Outside of challenge months, it looks a little something like this (get ready for some more alliteration, with my apologies):
- Mondays: “Métier Monday” – Craft tips, prompts, etc. to help writers hone their art and pursue writing as a vocation
- Wednesdays: “Wednesday Write-Ups” – Providing tips, tools, and more for the writing life
- Fridays: “Fridays With Friends” – Interviews, resources, opportunities, reviews, etc. from beyond the borders of the Jungle
Your task is simple: If you haven’t already, create your own editorial calendar. What will you write, and when? This doesn’t mean you have to plan full months. If the idea of planning freaks you out, just generate some general topics or themes. If you’re a meticulous planner, you might create an actual calendar for the upcoming month or two that includes weekly themes, daily topics, and notes on what each posting will entail. Remember: plan, but with flexibility. I all but guarantee you’ll be happy you did!
Feel free to share your own editorial calendar (or links to your calendar on your own site), and thoughts on the usefulness of editorial calendars (or lack thereof), in the comments below!
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