How to use WordPress’ drafts feature to your advantage

In 1994, I was a rookie columnist for my college newspaper. My predecessor, Judd Slivka, had stepped aside to become sports editor. Judd asked me one day how my new gig was going, and I observed that ideas were coming to me faster than I could write them. “Write them down,” he urged me. “You’ll need them later.” And he was right. It took about a month for me to learn that  ideas come in waves and droughts, and survival as a weekly columnist depends on stretching those waves far enough to cover the droughts.

And bloggers face exactly the same challenge. Otherwise, they run out of ideas and become people who post something only occasionally, and, eventually, not at all.

This is where WordPress’ drafts feature is absolutely invaluable. When you have an idea, but you don’t have time to write it in full just then, or you’re not sure it’s a really good one, or it’s something you just don’t feel like writing at the moment, you can write a title, jot down some notes, hit the “save draft” button, and save it for later.

And then you can do at least two different things with them. Over time, you can flesh out the idea a few paragraphs at a time, finally hitting the publish button when it’s ready to go. Or on those days when you feel the need to post something and you just can’t think of anything at all, you can go into your drafts, look at those old ideas, pick whichever one suits you the best at the moment, and finish it.

And of course you can combine approaches however you want. Maybe you don’t really feel like working on any of them, but if you just pick one and force yourself to grind out a few paragraphs, or pick two or three and force yourself to grind out a paragraph or two in each of them, you can find a groove and manage to finish one.

And while I certainly prefer to just sit down and bang out 600-1,000 words in a session and polish it up a little before publishing it for good, it sure seems like a larger percentage of those ideas that I jot down as drafts and work on slowly over the course of a few weeks or even months end up being entries that get traffic day in and day out, over and over again.

The strategy works nicely for those times when it’s hard to get a decent-sized block of time. Even if you only have 10 minutes, that’s long enough to write a couple of paragraphs. I find when I write 10 minutes at a time I end up repeating myself more than I should and I probably waste a session or two’s worth of words, but that’s better than not writing at all. A follow-on editing session one evening can clean it up and make it suitable for consumption.

Professional freelance writers do something like this as a matter of course, keeping a file of manuscripts, some finished, some unfinished, and some barely started, and they call this their well. When they need to write something and can’t write something new from scratch due to either lack of time or ideas, they draw on the well.

Certainly, from a standpoint of attracting traffic from search engines, it doesn’t matter when you post. To a search engine, it’s just a bank of content. But if you want regular readers, you don’t want to overwhelm them by posting seven entries one day and then disappearing for a week. And you’re going to produce better quality content by writing and posting at a more measured, consistent pace. The drafts feature lets you do that, and do it somewhere that’s one click away from publication.

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2 thoughts on “How to use WordPress’ drafts feature to your advantage

  • July 10, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Just to add to this — you can also use the “Schedule” feature to your advantage. If you find yourself on a writing roll, after saving your drafts you can schedule them to appear as posts in the future. I do this a LOT, scheduling new content to appear each morning.

    This also comes in handy if you work on your blog during business hours. I know no one does that, but if they did, theoretically you could finish up your blog entry during the day and then schedule it to appear later that evening, after business hours.

    • July 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      I’ve had trouble with the schedule feature not working. That was a known issue with older versions, supposedly fixed with version 3.0 or so. I did find a plugin that looks for failed scheduled posts with dates in the past and posts them, so I’ll see if that works. I would love to write at night and schedule it to appear automatically between 6 and 7 am.

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