How to Create a Writing Schedule


Content today is about so much more than just having a blog on your website. A successful content marketing strategy involves a lot of work. From devising the strategy itself to measuring the success of your content. Content creation is one of the most important steps you’ll have to consider in your strategy and this is what we’ll be covering in this article.

According to a report by the Content Marketing Institute, 77% of B2C marketers will be producing even more content in 2016. More content means we need to start thinking how to improve our writing schedules and optimising the way we work. A writing schedule is a process you need to develop if you want to keep up with your competitors. It should help you write consistently and effectively, in conjunction with your content calendar.

Here is the step-by-step guide on how to create and manage a writing schedule.

Step 1: Research

Research is the first step of any writing process. This is a good time to brainstorm, write ideas as they come to you and compile a list of keywords you want to target in your content. Sometimes you might start your research with an idea. For example, “I want to write an eBook about polar bears”, in which case you’ll have to research what people want to know about polar bears. Furthermore, what’s currently written about them on the web. Do you have something new to offer? Can you write about polar bears from a new angle?

research-writing-scheduleStart research with brainstorming for ideas

Within this step, you’ll need to determine what will make a good blog post vs. what will make a good eBook. If you find that you have a lot of information that is not out there on the web, an eBook might be the best way to go.

What to consider:

  • What keywords or topics will you be working with?
  • Who are you writing for?
  • What are you writing about?
  • How much detail will you go into?
  • What does your audience want to know?
  • What is already out there?
  • How can you make yourself stand out?

Step 2: Organise Your Research

Once you have a large list of topic ideas, categorise them into themes. Some examples of themes are news, humour, lifestyle, technology, and careers. You can organise your research into a spreadsheet, and I find this works best. Have a column for topic idea/working title, a column for the goal of the content, how many words, and whether it will be a large content piece that can be made into smaller blog posts later. There are plenty of templates available online that you can use as a guide to help you organise your content.

categorising-writing-scheduleIt’s good to categorise your topics into themes

What to consider:

  • Does all the content align with your strategy?
  • Does each piece of content have a clear and defined audience and purpose?

Step 3: Begin Your First Draft

A draft is an important step in the writing process. A first draft can begin with a list of bullet points or working sub headings that will address what you aim to cover in the piece. This step will allow you to think about the content in a more practical way than the research phase. Because now you’re thinking about the value you’re providing. As you flesh out your first draft, don’t just think about the points you’re making, but also how you address them and how much detail you will go into.

What to consider:

  • What message do you want to convey?
  • What are the key points?
  • What value do you want to provide that your competitors don’t?

Step 4: Have a Break

The creative process can often be draining, and once you have completed your first draft it’s a good idea to let it sit for a while before you go in and edit it. A short half an hour break can reset your brain and keep you productive in the longer term.

Step 5: Start Your Second Draft

I recommend this step only for larger content pieces. Usually blog posts between 500-1500 words don’t need a second draft because the first can be fleshed out and edited. But if you’re working on a large piece of content a second draft will really improve on what you’ve already written.

What to consider:

  • What can I salvage from my first draft?
  • Don’t be afraid to cut out chunks of information and replace with new information
  • Are there any new sources or experts I can use that will strengthen the piece?
  • Is it too technical or not technical enough?

Step 6: Get to Editing

Editing requires great attention to detail and the ability to omit irrelevant information. You might be quite attached to your ideas, but if they don’t quite fit in the content piece you’re working on, consider using them for something else. The editing process can take anywhere from an hour to several hours depending on how lengthy it is. A 40-page eBook is likely going to take a while to review and you will need several sets of eyes to look over it.

What to consider:

  • Is this piece of content the right length for its purpose?
  • Is it proportioned correctly; is the introduction short and to the point, or too lengthy to be effective?
  • Can anything be omitted that doesn’t quite fit?
  • Does it have a consistent tone?
  • Does it align with the brand?
  • Are the paragraphs too long; can I break them up more?

Step 7: Structuring the Piece

When you’re writing for the web, it’s a good idea to have a clear beginning, middle and end. As a general rule the introduction should make the reader want to continue. The middle should be spaced out with plenty of paragraphs and points. The end should either effectively summarise the article or offer a call to action. The structure depends on what the content piece is. An eDM for example, isn’t going to need a lengthy conclusion, but rather a short and snappy call to action.

In this step you also want to consider your title. At this stage you probably have a few ideas for a working title. But now that you have all your content laid out in front of you it should be easier to come up with something punchy and creative.

What to consider:

  • Do my points flow easily to the next?
  • Does my title entice people to read the piece?
  • When I read the entire article, does it make sense chronologically?
  • Am I being too vague in my writing?

Step 8: Final Overview

The final overview allows you to do any touch ups and small fixes, it is the final stage of the editing process. Read the content aloud to yourself or to someone else to hear how it flows.

What to consider:

  • Are the sentences well structured?
  • Does the finished work seem polished?
  • Is it free of any typing or grammatical errors?

How to Stay on Schedule

Keeping a schedule is the best way to have an efficient process, but when you get started it can be hard to stay on track. Here are a few tips to help keep you on schedule.

1. Don’t Get Discouraged

You might find yourself going back and forth between steps, and this is totally normal. Particularly if you’re working on a large content piece. It’s up to you how much time you allocate to each of the above steps. You might be a whiz at editing but research could be a painstaking process in which case you’re going to spend longer doing it.

2. Utilise Productivity Apps

Set up a timer if you work better that way, or aim for a certain number of words if a word count goal motivates you. There are many productivity apps out there that might be useful.

toggl-writing-scheduleToggl is a app for tracking the time you spend on doing something

3. Look Through Old Content

If you have useful documents or white papers that are sitting unopened in your file folder, consider re-purposing it and re-writing it for an online audience. Sometimes the best content is right under your nose and you don’t have to spend a long time searching for ideas. Likewise if you have a blog that is several years old, look through your archives for old content that can be updated with new information.

4. Use a Daily Planner or Calendar

This is one of the best ways to stay organised because it creates a timeline for you to work with. You can quickly become overwhelmed if you don’t organise your time well.

5. Read as Much as You Can

As a writer, it’s very important to read every day. Read a variety of things, from books related to your industry, to blog articles and even novels. When you read, you boost your creative output which definitely helps in each of the steps we’ve covered. It’s also a great way to expand your vocabulary and approach topics from a different angle.

How do you manage your writing schedules? Do you have any useful tips for staying on track? Let us know in the comments!

BIO: Emily Gorsky is a writer for Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading online education providers. She has 5 years of experience in digital marketing and content strategy. Emily is also a proud Associate Member of the Australian Society of Authors.

Photo Credit: Visual Hunt

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