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Marinating Ideas into Blog Posts – My Posting Workflow

Posted By Darren Rowse 24th of August 2006 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

MarinateGlen has posted a nice post at LifeDev titled Let Your Blog Posts Marinate (4 Steps to Forming Great Ideas) which uses the great image of marinating your ideas for a while before posting them.

Below I’ll share 10 steps on how I let ideas marinate and become posts – but first….

I love the marinating image for two reasons:

Great Marinades Take Time

Firstly – the best marinades that I’ve ever made have been when I’ve thought ahead and begun the process of putting the meat into the marinade well ahead of the time that I cook it (even the day before). I like this image because it reminds me that often ideas need time to grow and mature.

In my opinion many bloggers post their thoughts too quickly and don’t allow their ideas to develop to a point where they are unique and useful enough to reach their potential

Great Marinades Combine Ingredients to Create New Flavors

Secondly – the image of marinating conjures up images of combining different sauces, spices, herbs and ingredients into one dish to allow them to mix and combine in a way that brings out the flavor in the meat you’re marinating. Another problem that I see some bloggers falling into is posting one dimensional (or shallow) posts that are good ideas but that could be GREAT ideas if they were worked on a little more.

It’s like putting your meat in a marinate of just one sauce – something that can improve it, but not as much as if you added some herbs and spices and perhaps a second complimentary sauce that would add an extra level of complexity and richness to the dish (I’ll explain below what I mean by this).

The process Glen outlines for marinating ideas into blog posts is:

  1. Jot it Down
  2. Review it
  3. Let it Develop
  4. Post

My Post Workflow (idea Marinating Process)

I really love the imagery of marinating ideas as I actually use a very similar process to what Glen outlines – although over the years have added a few of steps. Here’s my 10 Step Process (not that I work through it as neatly as it will look here):

note – this is not what I do for every post – just the larger ‘pillar posts‘.

1. Jot it Down

Similarly to Glen I tend to job down a lot of ideas in my ‘Dream Notes’. I use a Moleskine notebook and Text Files on my desktop (it’s a little chaotic). In my notes I have hundreds of post ideas, half finished thoughts, ideas for series of posts, possible case studies etc. A lot of it wouldn’t make sense to anyone else but it’s where many good ideas emerge from.

2. Review it

Periodically I get my musings and dream notes out to see what might emerge from them. Sometimes I directly take an idea and develop it from the notes I’ve taken (many of my list posts come almost directly from my dream notes which I’ve written down as a list of headings.

3. MashUp

What I especially like about this chaotic little collection of ideas is the points of intersection between ideas. Often an idea by itself is weak but when I combine it with someone else I’ve dreamed up it takes shape and becomes a much stronger and more useable idea (like the herbs and sauces that come together to make a great marinade).

4. First Draft

This is where I begin to write. Sometimes it flows naturally and other times this first draft can be a real grind and the ideas in my notes need some serious work and development. I like to write a first draft in a single sitting if I can as I find I lose a lot of momentum and often don’t come back to it if I leave it half finished.

5. Look at What Others have Written

I know some people like to do research and see what others have said on a topic before they begin to write – but generally I like to get all my own ideas and thoughts out first as I find I can be limited by what others have written. Often we’ll come up with similar things but quite often the looking at what others have said reveals ideas I’d not considered before which I’ll incorporate (with acknowledgment). Once again – its in this process that the flavors of the idea that is marinating away become more tasty.

6. Bounce it Around

In a similar way on some posts I go out of my way to run my post (or at least the ideas behind it) by another blogger or two (or sometimes even my wife or a non blogging friend). Over the last three years of blogging I’ve met some wonderful bloggers who I resonate with strongly and whose opinion I respect a lot. If I’m writing a major post I’ll quite often given them a look at my draft and ask for their opinion and ideas. It’s quite often out of doing this that new depth is added or that I’m given helpful suggestions that can make the post a real hit.

7. Write Final Draft

Out of the above process I then write my final post. This can be as simple as tweaking the first draft or can at times mean major changes (and even a rewrite). At times in this process I sometimes realize that what I’ve been working on is actually not a single post but a series of posts and I’ll shape it into numerous posts that flow together.

8. Post

This a moment which is often filled with a mixture of relief (if it’s a big post that I’ve been struggling with) and anticipation (if it’s a post that might get a reaction or that I’m particularly proud of). It’s also a moment when the marination ends on one level but begins on another.

9. Feedback

When I hit ‘publish’ in the past I would see it as an end point in of the process of developing my idea. However over time I’ve come to see it as the idea entering into a new phase – one of collaboration with those who read it. This to me is where the marination of my idea really kicks into gear as readers taste what I’ve come up with and then add to it by leaving comments or even taking up the topic on their own blog. This is where blogging comes into it’s own and goes beyond most other forms of communication that I’ve come across. It’s in the comments and posts that others add to the marinade that the idea grows, dies, changes and finds it’s true potential.

10. Update

Some blogging purists don’t like the idea of updating posts but I am coming to see the updating or refining process as essential in many of my posts. My reasoning for this is that as proud as I might be of my posts – they are never ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’. As a result of the feedback process and my own continued experiences the marinating continues in my mind and not updating the post with the new ideas I have would be doing a disservice to it. Updating can range from tweaks to extra paragraphs (I usually indicate any updates beyond a tweak with an ‘update’ heading) to even writing new posts that refer to the old one and take the ideas expressed in it in a new direction.

This pretty much sums up the workflow that I use on many of my posts (as I say it’s what I do on my longer non ‘newsy’ posts. I know it probably differs to what others do (and in fact over the years my own workflow has evolved as a result of circumstances). I’d love to hear about your own posting workflow.

Do you marinade your posts? How do you take ideas from the light bulb in your mind moment to the moment that you hit publish (and beyond)?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Another excellent post Darren.

    What I’d be interested to know is how you work these highly planned posts into your daily ‘bread and butter’ report/news postings, that I presume make up a lot of your content and take most of your time, particularly on your gadget/news sites.

    Do you set aside specific time each day to develop these ‘marinaded’ posts? Do you have your notebook with you constantly to jot ideas down as you’re doing the more regular reporting work? Do you have a particular ratio or quota of ‘marinaded’ posts versus standard posts that you plan to do each week, or do you just let your inspiration do its own thing?

    These might be hard questions to answer precisely, but I’m interested in any observations you’d make. Obviously, these types of posts take a lot longer to plan and publish, but they potentially reap much bigger rewards in terms of readership, reputation, and uniqueness. Then again, do too many and it can either take away from your daily quota of reporting (quantity is important as is quality) or leave you working extremely long hours (which I know you do anyway)

    Does that make sense? Be interested to know – maybe in a followup post – if it’s possible to answer. It’s something I’m looking into as I seek getting a good balance in my blogging.

  2. In my opinion this is your best series ever. I can’t untill you’ve published the whole thing so I can go back and read them all again.

    I hava a 1/2 hour drive to work every morning and I’ve thought of a lot of topics and even entire posts while I drive. I wish I had a recorder in the car so I didn’t lose so many on the walk into my office. (smile)

    Actually, I love that marinating imagry because I think that’s what those ideas are doing. I just didn’t know it until now. And that reminds me . . .

  3. I just cook my post and when I remember the marinate later on, I will add it.

    My problem with marinating posts is that they seldom end up on the wok, so I gotta just go ahead and cook them first. Thats why my posts don’t taste as good as Darren’s. It’s like burger vs sushi! :)

  4. Andy – it differs from month to month depending upon what other commitments I have going on in my life at the time.

    At the moment I tend to put significant time aside each week (usually a full 4-5 hours in a row) where I just write these types of posts. I generally do this away from the internet (in a cafe with no wifi – just me and my notebook) where i have no distractions. I can pump out 5-7 decent posts in that time which I then tweak and work up to a point where they can be posted.

    In terms of taking my notebook everywhere – yep – I tend to have my little moleskine with me most days.

    I don’t have any ratio of posts between newsy/pillar posts. I do like to post at least one ‘pillar’ type post to ProBlogger each day (each weekday) and have similar goals on my other blogs. The newsy type posts tend to come at the rate that news breaks (if that makes sense).

    I’m a pretty impulsive guy so there is an element of going with the flow in the midst of it all (no hard and fast rules for me).

    Yeah – the longer posts take considerable time to write. For instance, this weeks’ series on persuasive blogging has taken at least two hours per post (probably more on some of them like the next one on ‘desire’) but I guess they are worth it on a couple of fronts – firstly personal satisfaction, secondly they do tend to get linked up to, thirdly they add to the quality of my archives and fourthly I guess they help with reputation.

    Not sure if all that answers your questions – bit of a jumbled response that I should probably marinate a little :-)

  5. Thanks for the elaboration, Darren. I’ve been carrying a journal with me lately (I keep it open on my desk at work) and I’ve found that to be a handy tool for keeping track of ideas and developing them in the odd moment. I haven’t gone off with it for extended periods of time though. That sounds like a good idea.

  6. That’s brilliant thanks Darren.

  7. Wow Darren, great article. I’m glad you find the marinating ideas metaphor helpful. Thanks for the link ;)

    Also, I’m glad you expanded on the post as well. I’ve learned a few things that I can add to my posting processs. I especially found 9 and 10 your article helpful. Many times bloggers think that once you hit publish, the post is finished. I’ve found it’s hardly ever true, especially the good posts. People will comment on the good posts, and a dialogue is one of the most important parts. You’ve hit the nail on the head.

    Thanks again!

  8. […] ProBlogger: Marinating Ideas into Blog Posts – My Posting Workflow […]

  9. This are really pearls of wisdom for a newbie blogger like me. Thanks a lot for your posts Darren.

  10. Good post!!

  11. “I generally do this away from the internet (in a cafe with no wifi – just me and my notebook) where i have no distractions.”

    Good one…getting away from the Internet [ironically] is the biggest productivity booster for me lately.

  12. waterfallprincess says: 08/25/2006 at 7:11 am

    All excellent advice. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read because you have outlined my own process. But when I read 9 and 10 I realized why I wasn’t posting as often as I felt I should/could; I was “afraid” that I would post and then think of something later that I should have added in, but the post was done and published so there was no changing it,right? heh, wrong! You’re exactly correct in pointing out why that’s not true and now I know how to deal with something that was blocking me. Thanks! :o)

  13. […] Por otro lado, Darren Rowse, habla de otros puntos a añadir en el proceso como: […]

  14. Very nice post,
    maybe by combining yours and Glen’s ideas I will manage to start some serious work on my first blog.
    I thought that you write your posts on a laptop, and here is a surprise an old fashioned moleskin notebook :), have to try that.

    And a question, Darren, do you use any kind of mind mapping (on paper, or a software like FreeMind) ?
    I am just giving a try to the FreeMind, I’ll see if it works for me.

  15. […] I just read a post on ProBlogger about marinating ideas for posts. What the article talks about is a workflow plan for writing posts that includes action items such as jotting down ideas on paper, creating a first draft, reading and re-reading what you have written and then creating a final draft. It even goes so far as to say that letting someone else read your articles for some constructive criticism is a good idea. […]

  16. […] Glen at LifeDev has a great post on letting ideas marinate for blog posts, which ProBlogger Darren follows up with his Marinating Ideas into Blog Posts – My Posting Workflow. Aside from creative endeavors like writing, letting an idea marinate can have other benefits, especially in relieving FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. […]

  17. […] If you don’t have a method for formulating ideas you should read the post on marinating blog post ideas at problogger, it has really good information on brainstorming and perfecting your posts. After all that they still want to know how to create compelling content. For this I go back to my days managing the production staff at the University of Houston newspaper. Even though I wasn’t a writer at the time I got the opportunity to interact with a lot of the writers. Here are some of the tips I remember about creating a compelling story that I learned. […]

  18. […] Practice – With time and repetition at blogging I’ve gotten reasonably quick at blogging. I guess I’ve developed a rhythm of posting that works reasonably well for me. Standard ‘newsy’ type posts take me as little as a few minutes to put up and longer posts (like this one) have a workflow that has emerged over time (I talked about some of it here). I guess practice makes perfect (or at least speeds things up). […]

  19. […] I like to keep lists of possible topics and make notes about them when I can. I’ll bookmark any web page that seems like something I may one day want to write about and jot down random thoughts as they occur. Many won’t ever find their way into a post, but many will. Three pages I bookmark may end up as the research for a post. Random thoughts combine into something coherent and become a post. Not all post ideas come full blown. Sometimes you need to let an idea simmer for awhile before you can write it. Sometimes you need to marinate ideas into blog posts. […]

  20. […] Another side-effect of spending more time on the site mechanics the last couple of months is that I have just tons of topics that I’m wanting to post about. I look forward to sharing my thoughts again on a more regular basis. In the meantime, I’ll just marinate my posts for awhile until they make their way to the site.     Related Posts: […]

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  24. Nothing wrong in updating posts by adding to might not be good to delete parts or change paragraphs.

  25. Very useful tips and tacts. Updating is a very good idea. as it shows even the aged posts, at the start of blogging is also updated with current experience, knowledge and trend

    I have to have a glimpse of my posts at my blog and make update if required


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