In my last post, I talked about how to find writing ideas using your web analytics package. Here’s a simple technique I used in Firefox, with the Performancing for Firefox extension, to set up several posts and increase my productivity.
Step 1: In your blog’s web analytics reports, find the one that shows the top search terms used to come to your site.
Step 2: Open up the PFF pane and make sure you don’t have a draft open.
Step 3: Highlight an interesting search word or phrase and drag it with your mouse into the “Title” field of PFF.
Step 4: Save the “stub” either by using CTRL-S or the “Save as Note” button.
Step 5: Now “Clear Content” and repeat steps 1-4 for the next search term that interests you.
I used this technique the last three days to drive up my productivity level – to as high as 14 posts (yesterday), over 4-6 blogs. What happens is that by building a collection of post stubs with suitable titles, you prep the background processes of your mind. You tell it that you are planning to write these articles, and your subconcious takes over for your conscious mind.
If you use this technique often enough, and are clear on what you are writing about, it organizes your thoughts. Sometimes, you might even see an article in your head. Articles may appear to you immediately, or they may take a few days.
It has worked for me. I used this technique (without the PFF of course 🙂 about 4 years ago to produce ideas for 100 short stories, and 40 or 50 completed stories, in about a month, as well 900 pages of content for a computer programming book in 3 months, including editing.
It works, when I remember to use it. And with PFF, I’ve successfully used it for blogging. Provided you have a web analytics package, this is an effective way to drive up your blogging productivity while actually maintaining writing quality.
Harryc, there’s nothing wrong with what you said. I do that myself, too. Actually, the one thing I forgot to mention is that your draft content should be as close to the final file format as possible for the method I outlined to work.
For example, when I used to use MS-Word as my final format for stories, my drafts were also in that format. When I started “pumping up the volume” on (HTML-based) blog content, I found Zoundry.com’s BlogWriter perfect for that. The PFF extension just goes one step above because it’s integrated right into the browser.
Thanks for the link, btw. I’ll check it out. Zinsser has two fantastic books that I recommend to anyone who wants to be a good writer. One, as I mentioned above, is “On Writing Well”. The other is “Writing to Learn”.
I like the idea of assembling stories independent of linear time. I’ve abandoned many efforts because I’d hit a temporal sort of roadblock (like, what happens next?) and get frustrated. Using your “chunks” method, I would have put it aside and written something later in the story and then joined everything when the muse was in a good mood.
I haven’t seen Zinsser’s book. Here’s a site that has some excellent nuts and bolts writing techniques.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to share your MO.
Harry, thanks. What I did was to give myself a bit of structure but not too much to intimidate myself, a common problem for some writers :< For tools, at first, I used a custom software program that I wrote for writing productivity. But my laptops got left behind in Atlanta, Georgia. (A long story I don't want to go into.) So I switched over to using Microsoft word. For the short stories, I would start by producing a (small) list of titles using Microsoft Word. Then, whenever some story idea struck my fancy, I'd scour my list of titles and try to get a match. (Sometimes I'd change things later.) Under the selected title, I'd make a few notes about the story characters and the general plot. If fragments of dialogue came to mind, I'd record those under a dated subheading. I used paper sometimes, but this method worked best, for me, in a word processor. I never forced myself to work on a particular story, but I did force myself to write every day. I'd start in a general "sketches" section of my daily writing journal. It might be pure nonsense some days. Other days, dialogue would appear in my head, and I'd find the story it "belonged" to and record it there before I forgot it. (Very important!! Use paper if you have to, if you can't get to a computer.) For the programming book, my contract agreement was that I come up with the table of contents. So by doing so, I primed my mind for a bunch of topics. It's not that different than with the short stories: I have a list of ideas, and when my muse blessed me with the actual text, I'd record it. However, because I made it a practice to write daily, it made the whole writing process much easier. I owe my ability to "tap the flow" of writing from when I used to publish a monthly print mag and often ended up writing many of the reviews when contributors were late. I'd listen to dozens of music CDs weekly and read several novels per month. I'd then force myself to write as succinctly as possible, as I was also trying to do a Master's degree and working full-time for my thesis supervisor. Through this process, I learned how to refine my writing techniques to produce better quality. (However, that doesn't mean I always manage quality; just that I'm more aware of the chaff.) Over all, I liken the process to playing a musical instrument. For example, if you take up the flute, you'll probably get a headache the first few times you try it. You'll try too hard and get the notes wrong. As you learn to relax and play as if you already know how (posture-wise), it'll actually get easier, and you'll be open to learning from your mistakes. I see writing the same way. The trick, I think, is to not set up too many pieces of writing. Otherwise the list of ideas becomes intimidating and ends up being neglected. A great reference is William Zinsser's "On Writing Well". Hope this helps.
Great tips, Raj. Tell me, how did you manage this technique before PFF? As in:
Did you have another device to help your organize your thoughts and ideas?