You have a Blog or Comic. What is your workflow?
March 6, 2014 3:21 PM   Subscribe

I have two webcomics and a few assorted other sites, so I am interested in hearing from anyone who regularly updates a site they own/run. Tell me how often you update. Tell me how you file away ideas, develop ideas, whatever. Tell me what kind of site it is. Etc. What works for you?

I have managed to (mostly)redevelop the aforementioned sites and then, ultimately, moved them all from WordPress to BlogSpot. I have spent the last two months or so moving them. Yesterday, the last domain name was repointed. So I am finally done with all that. It is now time to finally focus on content generation for now.

In addition to personal anecdotes about your workflow, I am also open to links to articles or other suggestions you think might help. For example, I have previously read through the entire Questionable Content archive, focused specifically on reading the footnotes with it, to follow its business development process. I am just trying to jumpstart getting more organized here and hoping some group feedback will help with that.

I do have an Evernote account and started a list yesterday to try to get more organized. I know some people use Evernote to good effect. I welcome feedback/tutorials on using it better to help me stay organized.

Short term goals:

Get to the point of updating my two comics every day (or at least 5 days/week).
Come up with a schedule for three or four other sites, possibly twice a week, and figure out how to allocate my time to divide between the various sites so none of them is overly neglected.

posted by Michele in California to Work & Money (8 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I utilize Evernote for all my blogging needs including making a To-Do list, Brainstorming Ideas, Website Information (Domain Renewal Dates, Hosting Information) and for clipping web data that I would want to blog about at a later time.

I also utilize Siri on my iOS devices to set reminders and have it schedule time to blog, brainstorm and to work on anything blog related.
posted by randomthoughts at 3:55 PM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've recently started to spend a bit more time focusing on writing for my blog, so workflow is in it's infancy and I dont have a set schedule (yet), but one thing I have done which I've found useful is to set up a gmail filter where "from: me" "subject: New Post Idea "automatically gets labelled as such. Since I always tend to have gmail open while I'm browsing the web, if I come across an interesting topic I'll simply write a quick email to myself with the subject line "New post idea: How to Foo a Bar" and include the relevant links or attachments in the email. When I'm ready to write I can just scan that label for stuff I want to write about.

I'll probably expand on that with sub-labels for different categories in the future, although I imagine Evernote can be used for the same purpose.

posted by TwoWordReview at 5:34 PM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a couple of Google docs always running- one for vague ideas and story arcs for my webcomic, and one where those vague notes get turned into scripts. Every few months I prune the docs back when they get too unwieldy. It's not a perfect system, but it works for me.

Overall workflow:
0. write down any idea I have the second I have it, at any point in the process
1. Take one of those ideas and write a script, starting with dialog and then working that into panels
2. Do a quick thumbnail drawing of how those panels would lay out
3. Use a see-through ruler to lay out the panels on bristol board
(digression: I do my drawing and inking on paper because that way it's easy to take my comics-makin' tools with me wherever I go, and work on the strip during the margins of my life. Much easier to, say, do a little work over lunch than it would be if I had to lug my laptop and Wacom around)
4. Draw out the action in rough fashion in red pencil, building up from stick figures
5. Tighten up the drawings from step 4 in regular pencil
6. Ink the tightened-up pencils using a Pentel brush pen and other pens
7. Scan the inked art
8. Do a boring series of digital production steps in Photoshop (I'd be happy to go into them in great detail if it'd help, but I'll hold off for now) that leaves me with a multilayered, colored comic
9. Letter the result of step 8 in Manga Studio, because I like MS's lettering tools better
10. Export and upload

I work really slow, and often have a million fiddly musical instruments to draw in panels (goddamned drum sets take forever) and I've got grad school class eating up a bunch of time, so I generally post a strip a week (or two if things are crazy). If this was all I was doing, though, I think I could be kicking out 3 strips a week without much trouble.
posted by COBRA! at 6:14 PM on March 6, 2014

Best answer: Full disclosure here: I'm only making progress on this issue recently myself. I have a site that I've kept up for several years. When I've been really into it, I've posted nearly every day for months; at the other extreme, I've abandoned it for months and months at a time, posted an apology, then left it alone for several more months. A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to post something regularly, and I've posted something once a week now for about a month and a half. That's a victory for me! I'd rather do that than post every day for a month and a half, because the first is sustainable and the second is not. But perhaps my advice will be worth more once I've done this for a year.

The first question that I had to answer was: What is stopping me from posting regularly?

1) A lack of free time
2) Not thinking of what I want to post about until the last minute
3) A habit of being very interested in something, then suddenly getting bored with it and switching my attention to something else
4) A fear of success
5) A feeling of stressed whenever I have a lot that I need to do

Some of these are things I can plan for by setting my expectations and making a procedure for myself, and some of them are my issues, rather than problems I can plan away, but I include them to round out my example.

Then, I made a plan for myself...

- I don't have tons of free time (2-year olds do that to you), but how much free time *do* I have? With that time, what's an ideal posting schedule and what's a conservative posting schedule? For me, I might be able to do two posts a week if I push myself and don't mind missing some, but I will definitely be able to do one post a week. I went with the conservative schedule, because at this point I would rather be perfectly on time every week than produce more and miss posts. I also decided when a good day to post would be, and which day would be best to consider my "deadline" day. For me, I post on Friday, because that gives me the weekend to start the next one or, if I'm feeling burnt out, treat it as an actual weekend. My "deadline" day is Wednesday, and I try to get my drawing, post and associated tasks such as scheduling my message to my e-mail list done by then. If for some reason I don't have all that done by Wednesday, that still gives me Thursday to work, when I have more free time than usual. This still feels unnatural to me, because when I finish something I want to share it right that minute and make people happy. But it's a pretty awesome feeling when things go smoothly.

- I decide what I want to post about well ahead of time. I have a large list of possible subjects that I keep on a mind map. (Here's an image of what I'm talking about. It's SimpleMap+ on my iPad). That works better for me than a plain old list because I find it easier to organize and add new things to it when I can see it and zoom around. If I'm not near my iPad and I have an idea, I write it down however I can and put it in later.

- At the beginning of each month, I choose what I want to post for the next month and I put it on a calendar so I can see it all at once. (Here's an example, personal stuff removed. I use the iOS calendar, because I'm already using it.) I add three things for each post: the day I will start, the day I want to be done with it and the day I want to post it. I usually put the more complicated things at the end of the month, so I have extra time to think about them.

- For me, the key is being able to see everything at once, and having it all rolling around in my head weeks before I'll need to actually do anything about it. If I know I'm going to be doing a particular drawing in two weeks, I might sketch it out far ahead of time, then refine the sketch a few days later. I might write out part of a post in my head, or even write it down. By the time I have to get to work, a lot of the work is already done.

- I use a to-do list app (Remember the Milk for my iPhone), and I spent some time making it show me everything I need to do in a day. For example, tomorrow it's going to tell me what I need to do to check that my post went right, in short, easy to do steps. When I check something off, it often automatically repeats - for example, "Check post rollout" repeats every Friday. This works best when it reminds me of a short list of small, important things I can get done quickly, and it works badly when I add too many large things, put them off, then don't open the app for a few days.

- Part of dealing with my habit of getting obsessed with something else and neglecting my site is adjusting my attitude, which is beyond the scope of this question, but the other part is, again, preparation. Someone who runs a similar blog to mine told me that she doesn't start a new series of drawings until she has a month's worth of posts already. That's more disciplined than I can hope for, but I can at least put aside time to work on extra posts that I can pull out when I'm sick, on vacation or somehow unable to motivate myself at all.

- I make a public commitment to my next post. "Come back next Friday and you will see this." After spending years messing around and losing fans because of my own inconsistency, my resolution for my site going forward is that when I say I'll do something, it'll happen.

For your situation, I would first think about what a reasonable schedule is, since you're envisioning regular work on five different projects. Are they all of equal importance to you? I feel like the expected advice would be to pick out one or two and put the other two aside, but if they're all important to you, they're all important to you. How far in advance can you plan? Like, for your webcomics, can you plan out a month worth of plot day by day, then when it comes time to draw the day's comic, you have an idea of what you need to do? What's your ideal posting schedule, and what's a conservative one? Do you need to see it all on a calendar, or does a list of posting dates work for you? Which of your projects take a lot of time to prepare for? How much time do you have, and how flexible is it? What issues may come up that would prevent you from posting regularly? I think that thinking about these things will make your projects easier to work on. Good luck, I hope they go well!
posted by shirobara at 8:23 PM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just in hopes of lubricating the conversation:

My first website grew out of my involvement in an email list where my advice seemed popular. Someone wanted to post something I wrote on the web (on their site) and I said "sure" and then it kind of grew from there and it was later gifted to me as a thing for me to take over myself. After speaking to a particular thing on the email list often enough, I would start feeling like I was reinventing the wheel. I was putting a lot of time and effort in and it wasn't paid or whatever. So when I hit that point where I felt like I had said this 50 times already on this list, I would dig through my emails and try to turn some of the better things into a general webpage on the subject so I could post a link with a few custom comments the next time the issue came up on list. It was intended to leverage my time so more people could get access to the info.

I ended up feeling burned because people were literally giving out my email address as "here, go talk to this woman. She can help you with your Really Hard Problem that all the experts can't fix" and people would write me and I would talk with them. Their lives got better but I was not being paid and everyone seemed to think I should give all my time away for free out of the goodness of my heart. It ended up feeling abusive to me. I felt I should be able to get something in exchange.

I did not want to charge a consulting fee (I still don't -- I think I am right about that detail) but I felt that if what I knew was so very valuable, there should be some way for me to make money on it. I ultimately left the list where I felt I was being treated badly. But this left me with no email discussion to inspire content and my sites languished (that's like a super short version, honest).

So, fast forward a zillion years, I recently spent 3 years posting on a personal blog about whatever the heck interested me. My primary goals were 1) try to post every single day and 2) learn to balance "post SOMETHING!" with editing for typos, grammar, worthwhile content, etc. In the past two months, I dismantled that blog and divided the posts up to various other projects that have some kind of subject focus. So some of my sites have some existing content and some seed content (mostly in draft form) to draw on for inspiration.

I spent the last year and a half figuring out what I need to do "different" or whatever and the last two months moving stuff and reorganizing stuff and some of my sites are seeing traffic and, with it, a bit of money. This is mostly not new content. It's mostly repackaged existing content with a smidgeon of editing, so I am extremely encouraged at seeing some "early" success when I feel I am not "really working yet".

But, the reality is that I have a serious health issue and December included a watershed positive health event for me. Since then, I have been able to be productive 1-4 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week most weeks, which is a huge leap forward for me. So, with that change in my life, I suspect that I can and will figure out how to develop several sites at once. I have a really, really long history of being The Poster Child For Excessive Long-windedness on various forums. I am trying to just channel that chattiness into my websites instead of pissing away so much of my time on email lists, forums, and chat (yeah, I still do some of those things but I have tried to reign it in).

Years ago, I used to email myself stuff to try to keep track of links, ideas, etc. That system fell apart because my main gmail account is drowning in mail. For a time, I had a posterous account to file away links and stuff. It also got overwhelmed and then posterous was eventually shut down. I currently have several gmail accounts and have emailed my smaller accounts associated with specific blogs some things and that has been useful but not great. I have also tweeted links so I could keep track and that has been useful but not great. So I am hoping some central thing, like Evernote will be a better way to try to track stuff for several different sites and be a bit more organized. In the spirit of that, I made a list of my sites in Evernote recently. Then, yesterday, Evernote was not working properly when I logged in. Bah, humbug.

Some of these sites and/or site ideas go back quite a number of years. So I have hashed out the space mentally for a long time. I have two comics because one started as "filler" for the other to get me unstuck when I was badly stuck and then took on a life of its own. My intent to do a comic goes back 5 years or more but I only started drawing last year. I had near zero traffic so I was mostly okay with spending last year figuring out what the heck to do and having long dry spells. Doing the comic was a lot harder than I expected. So my desire at this point is to do the same thing with my comics that I did with my personal blog for a time: Just throw something up daily, if possible. Try to hash out that balance between "Just post SOMETHING!" and trying to also meet some kind of minimal quality standard. (Because I actually have discussed plot and world development and blah blah blah a whole lot with some folks and there is a lot in my head to draw on but I am still getting tripped up on, you know, drawing the freaking comic.)

Anyway, thanks for the replies so far. I look forward to hearing more.
posted by Michele in California at 10:35 AM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: I update my webcomic twice a week.

One of the best things I've done for making sure I have ideas is to always always always have my little black sketch book with me. If I think of anything even vaguely interesting, funny, or useful I write it downbor draw it. This book has been the single most valuable contribution to how I've been updating this comic regularly for 4 years.

I make sure that I have planned time to sit in front of my computer each week and draw. Any content is better than no content. I flip through my sketch book and find an idea and try to make something from it. If I have more than one idea and some free time I try to make a few comics in advance so i have reserves for when I have a shitty week. It's really nice to have at least a weeks worth of material in the pipe.
posted by robot-hugs at 11:54 AM on March 7, 2014

Response by poster: A couple of things that have helped my workflow:

I am much more likely to do both comics in one day if I do the "hard" on first. If I start with the easy one, I may not have enough time, mental focus, energy, or whatever left to do the hard one. If I do the hard one first, I can slap together the one I find easier to write in the time remaining, with the mental focus and energy I have left.

I often start by putting dialog on a blank slate. I sometimes do the drawing first but I have done a lot of writing over the years and I just find writing a lot easier than drawing. If I am trying to force the drawing, sometimes I get nowhere for hours. If I am stuck like that, I just start writing dialog and then try to draw later. Sometimes this means editing the dialog to make room for the drawing but it gives me some momentum that I sometimes can't get if I just stick with trying to make myself draw.

Thanks for the support and feedback. I am currently doing well with my goal of doing both comics every day (with the exception of a recent three day period where my life was temporarily derailed by events which will not repeat themselves). I am also getting some work done on other projects and I am pleased with that but, for the moment, just doing the two comics consistently is the single biggest thing I am trying to stay on top of. Other stuff can fall into place later.
posted by Michele in California at 2:24 PM on March 19, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who replied. I have had a few things come up where, here and there, I failed to comic every day. But I most days, I did meet my goal. I am currently dealing with something else and when that is resolved, I plan to get back on this project.

I am marking this resolved but don't hesitate to reply if you have something to share.

Thank you!
posted by Michele in California at 1:10 PM on April 6, 2014

« Older Least corrupt part of a metro area in or near...   |   "Blue" Albums Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.