To be a writer you have to write…a lot. Much of your writing won’t see the light of day, but it’s critical to keep writing daily. That said, making time to write isn’t always easy. Sometimes your computer systems decide to make life difficult; other times “life” keeps you busy enough; and still other times you need to take a break from work and stimulate some Vitamin D production on the nearest tropical beach with an umbrella-based beverage.
But I digress. This post is about creating an editorial calendar. If you’re like me you have a million WIPs (works-in-progress) all running at once, so it’s critical to keep them moving and meet any requisite deadlines. My current projects, for example, include the manuscript for a book on Thomas Edison (submitted last week to the publisher), an e-book on connections between Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla (to be out on Amazon next week), a long article for the Lincolnian (an Abraham Lincoln newsletter), and my usual suite of blogs. Add to these at least two book proposals and tons of research time for future projects. Juggling so many balls in the air can be tiring.
An editorial calendar is what it sounds like – a calendar on which you schedule your writing commitments. You can combine it with your “to-do” and “event” calendars if you wish, but it’s important to keep track of everything you need to write and when it is due.
In addition to the ongoing book projects, I provide content for several blogs. My main author site has a blog called Science Traveler. This post is on my creative writing and memoir site Hot White Snow. I also contribute to The Dake Page (science communication), the Lincoln Group of DC Facebook page and blog, and will shortly start my own Lincoln blog as part of my outreach for the new Lincoln book. I have to write for each of these. You may also have articles for magazines, editing sessions, and a variety of other writing assignments.
An editorial calendar can be as simple or complicated as you need it to be, though I suggest starting simple and expanding only when it’s obvious you have to. My calendar is relatively simple; essentially a spreadsheet with my blogs listed and the letter “P” entered on the day(s) of the week where I have committed to post an article. This beats the previous schedule, which was, “write whenever I feel inspired and/or feel guilty that I haven’t posted in a long time.”
It’s important to be honest with yourself. My original idea was that I would post a lot – every day if I could. That wasn’t realistic. I had learned that posting once a week on The Dake Page would allow me to provide valuable content consistently, so I ditched the old idea of posting daily/randomly and have kept a perfect schedule for more than a-year-and-a-half posting once a week, on Thursday. During that time the number of views has increased, as have the number of followers on the related Twitter account.
Now the other blogs also have schedules. Hot White Snow gets a post every Tuesday, with a future goal of making that twice a week. Science Traveler (my main author site) gets new posts Monday and Friday, plus a cross-post from one of the other blogs on Wednesday. The Lincoln Group of DC blog will get a post every Tuesday, and my new Lincoln & Science blog will get a post every Wednesday (these two will likely also cross-post between them).
Each day also gets at least one ongoing project. For example, today I will finish the final draft and add one more photo to my Lincoln and Tesla Connections e-book. I also will finish a draft of the Lincolnian article, which is due to the editor by this weekend. Time for reading is allowed every day.
The bottom line is that all writers should have an editorial calendar. Plot out your commitments – blogs, WIPs, research, etc. – and schedule a date they need to go public. You can always write Wednesday’s blog post on Tuesday and schedule it. Advance scheduling (which most blog platforms offer) are a necessity for consistency. If you’ll be on vacation rafting down the Colorado River next week, write those posts now and set them to go live on their scheduled day. No one cares that you were busy the day your posts were supposed to occur; write them beforehand.
If you want to get more detailed feel free to expand your daily calendar to an hourly one. Instead of simply putting “P” on post day, carve out “10am – 12pm” as your “write blog post” time. Not surprisingly, a cottage industry has arisen with editorial calendar templates. WordPress even has an editorial calendar plug-in.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Work, work, work, is the main thing.” The equivalent for writers is “Write, write, write.” Write a lot. And keep an editorial calendar to make that happen.
David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, due out in late July 2017. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.