Blogging The Hardest Way Possible

In honor of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, in this post I’m going to talk about “how” I blog for Endgame Viable. That is, the actual process. I don’t recommend doing it this way. :)

First, I play some games. Usually they are MMORPGs. This typically happens on weeknights and weekends.

After I’m done playing games, the next morning I often go to a place where I can’t play any games, which is a place that rhymes with the surname of a famous Star Trek captain. There, if I have time, I read some blogs and tweets about what else is going on in the gaming world.

By this time I have some ideas of things I want to write about. I might want to make an observation or vent about something that happened in my last play session. I might want to report about something new I did. I might have an opinion about something I read on the Internets. Most of the time, these are not particularly earth-shaking thoughts, and quite possibly not in any way unique or unusual.

I open a plain text editor window and resize it to be fairly small. It usually stays open throughout the day. (At this time, I’m using WriteMonkey, but it doesn’t really matter.) I prefer writing in plain text like this because it’s unobtrusive on the screen and I’m a software developer by trade, so I’m very comfortable using text editors.

I start writing with some topic in mind, possibly with some point I want to make. Most of the time I write a little bit, then I stop and do other things, then write a little bit more, then stop again. Sometimes this happens over the course of a whole day. Sometimes I write a lot more than I need to, and I ramble and get side-tracked on unrelated topics. I try to write in a casual tone that is easy to read, possibly even understandable to people who aren’t gamers, and I usually try to inject some dry humor. I imagine that I’m talking to an audience, and anticipate what kinds of questions that audience might ask about what I’m saying, and answer them in the text. (This whole post is an answer to a completely fabricated question about my blogging process.)

At some point I will stop writing about the topic. Then I’ll read over it a number of times and try to make it better with some editing. This is where most of the grammatical changes happen. There’s usually a fair number of typos and … what’s the word for thinking one word but writing a different one from muscle memory? Interposing? Juxtaposing? Anyway, it’s when I write “you” when I meant “your,” or “the” instead of “then.” I’m also very bad about putting in too many fluff words, so I edit out tons of pointless modifiers like “really” and “kind of” and “sort of” and “mostly” which sometimes work in verbal sentences but don’t translate to writing. (Example: “The gameplay is really kind of awkward.”)

At this point I decide if the post is finished or not. Sometimes I run out of time to write, so the decision is forced upon me. To me, a finished post not only has a completed subject, but also has at least three or four moderate-sized paragraphs. I would say a minimum of around 250 words, but rarely as long as 1000 words unless I have a lot to say. I prefer to have a good ending sentence, but sometimes I just stop as if the post has a cliffhanger.

If I feel like the post is finished, I will then add in some WordPress post-by-email shortcodes for title, category, tags, excerpt, and delay. That last one is the most important: I add a [delay +10 days] tag so that it’s not posted immediately. I then copy and paste the text from WriteMonkey into Google Mail and send it to my WordPress Post-by-email address. The post will then be scheduled to publish ten days later and go into my Posts list. The important thing is that it isn’t posted right away.

If what I’ve written isn’t finished, then I copy and paste it into an email and send it to myself. Most of the time I never look at it again, but occasionally I resurrect them. (This very post was resurrected more than once.)

Once the text is emailed, I delete the text out of the editor document and start again. Sometimes I write one post a day, sometimes I write three or four a day, sometimes I don’t write anything. I usually write more on Mondays and Fridays, because I had more gaming experiences over the weekend, and Fridays are usually very quiet and boring.

As I said above, when I’m writing these drafts, they are 100% plain text with some Markdown formatting. I use the WordPress Jetpack module for Markdown to translate into HTML, but it is finicky and sometimes does weird things. I have major problems with links, for example. The typical Markdown syntax for linking randomly does not work, so sometimes I just paste the link into the text directly, with the intention of going back later and editing the post to fix it up the way it’s supposed to be. This is one reason my posts rarely have many links in them. (Another reason is that it’s too time-consuming to look up web references.)

Sometimes I remember that I took a screenshot to illustrate something I’m writing about. (Screenshots or game visuals will sometimes inspire a post, but not often, because at the time I take the screenshot, I am not thinking about writing.) In that case I put a little note in the text that creatively says “(insert screenshot showing the thing here).” Because I don’t have access to any screenshots at the time I’m writing post drafts, and I’m quite sure that I wouldn’t be able to insert them correctly with Markdown syntax anyway.

After writing many posts and scheduling them by email, I end up with a decent-sized list of future posts collected on WordPress. Back at home on my MacBook Air, or sometimes on my smart phone with the god-awful WordPress app for Android, I look over that list and decide the order to publish them in, and set them all up for weekdays at 11:00. I try to move time-sensitive things like launches up so they publish sooner, and push general “have you ever noticed” posts farther away. I also read over them and do another editing pass. (A lot of times this is when I notice text that is “too volatile” and try to tone it down.) Sometimes I decide that a post is terrible or irrelevent or incomplete and remove it from the schedule entirely. Those posts tend to sit in Draft status forever.

I mentioned that I usually write and edit posts on a MacBook Air. This makes it somewhat inconvenient to add screenshots. If a post needs a screenshot, first I move the image from my gaming PC to a folder on Dropbox. Sometimes I have to convert the screenshot to JPEG before I can use it (I’m looking at you, BMP-saving ESO). Then I move over to the MacBook. I use the Add Media feature and select the screenshot from the Dropbox folder to upload and insert it. I find this process dreadfully awful and time-consuming, so I don’t do it very often. I wish it was easier, though, because I know I should attach some kind of image to every post. Plus I find it amusing to put funny captions on screenshots.

By the way, if I didn’t have Big Brother watching me all day, I would probably look for something like Windows Live Writer to use on the Mac, and it would simplify this process considerably. (It’s not so much that anyone would care about me writing blog posts, it’s that I don’t particularly want anyone to know I’m writing about gaming.)

That, in a nutshell, is my blogging process. It sounds horrifyingly complex, but for some reason it has a rhythm that I find relatively easy to keep up with. Much easier than trying to sit down and write a new post every morning, or something like that.

10 thoughts on “Blogging The Hardest Way Possible”

  1. and I’m quite sure that I wouldn’t be able to insert them correctly with Markdown syntax anyway.

    Is that for the same reason as links, i.e. that Jetpack doesn’t work, or because you find the syntax hard to remember? If it helps, just think of it as being the same as the link syntax, except with a ! at the beginning.

    link text for something
    vs

  2. Oh cool I thought I was the only one crazy enough to do anything like this. :)

    Yeah I think I turned on a Markdown comments setting somewhere. Discussion settings probably.

  3. I was talking about the Markdown link syntax which I think is [link title](url) – I thought there was syntax to insert images too but I might be wrong about that.

  4. Yeah the Markdown image syntax is the same as that but with a ! before it, i.e. (and this might get eaten by the comments formatter) ![alt text](url)

  5. Good post, it mimics some of my blogging efforts, especially the sending it to yourself and using an text editor.

    I haven’t looked into the post by email for sometime.
    Do you find sending from Gmail required the email to be in plain text, if I recall I had some trouble with it not formatting correctly so that wordpress would fail.

  6. I haven’t had any trouble with Gmail but my emails are all plain text anyway. I can’t remember if I’ve ever tried to put formatting in the email itself.

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