Non-Fiction Blook Mechanics Part 2: Organizing Posts into Manuscripts

writer at workIn an earlier post (“Non-fiction Blook Mechanics Part 1: Blook by Design“), we discussed several ways to structure a blog to resemble the structure of a book.  For example, using category labels that could double as a table of contents.  Taking content from blog posts and turning it into a readable manuscript can be a challenging task.  Especially when you have a large inventory of blog posts from which to draw.  In this post, I want to propose two tools – the post outline and post sequencing – that can help you organize your posts into a manuscript in a logical manner, without massive rewriting.

Post Outline

First, use your manuscript outline as a tool for cataloging your posts.  An outline is good writing practice.  But it can also help you organize your blog posts.  Here’s one approach.  Use a numbering scheme for each levvel of your outline.  (Most word processor or other outlining software does this for you automatically.  The top most level correspond to chapters.  Lower levels correspond to sections of chapters and content within sections.  The outline forms the basis for a numbering schema to identify the part of the outline to which your posts will be associated. 

Let’s say you are writing a bog about raising dogs.  Part of your outline might look like:

1.  Dog breeds
1.1  Hounds
1.2  Terriers
1.3  Herding dogs

2.  Dog grooming
2.1  Coat
2.2  Teeth
2.3  Musculoskeletal

3.  Dog nutrition
3.1  Diets for puppies
3.2  Diets for adult dogs
3.3  Diets for older dogs
3.4  Organic dogfood

Post Sequencing

Next, use tags to indicate the specific intended location of a post within the manuscript outline.  One approach to doing this is to use the sequence numbers from the outline.  For example, using the outline above, if you had a post about talking about the different types of organic dogfood, it would appear in the category “Dog Nutrition” and might be tagged as “organic-dogfood-3-3-4.”  Sequence numbers would be as long as the number of levels in the outline.  Blogging platforms accomplish tagging differently, but it is a fairly universal feature.  Such sequence tagging allows you to later use the post search tools of your blog to find and organize posts corresponding to each part of your outline. 

library-catalog-cardOf course, outlines are subject to change.  Chapters can be added, inserted or deleted and this can cause problems with post sequencing based on outline numbering.  An alternative approach might be to code tags with names that correspond to the outline labels.  Then, if the outline changes, the tags are still valid.  Again, using our dog manuscript oultine above, let’s say your organic dogfood post was about feeding your hound chicken flavored tofu .  Using this scheme, you might code the post as “nutrition, organic, tofu chicken” where the tags are arranged in the descending order of the outline.  If you had multiple tags about chicken flavored tofu for your dog, you could assign a sequence number as the final tag, or find a label that distinguishes them further. 

The advantage of this approach to tagging is that should you decide to move dog nutrition to some other part of the outline, your post sequences remain valid.  If you make dog nutrition part of a chapter on dog health, you can simply add a tag “dog health” to the head of all your tag lists for dog nutrition. 

Creating an outline and using one of the post sequencing techniques above can greatly simplify the task of organizing your blog content into a manuscript.  Good organization is only the first step.  There are other editorial processes that must be applied to get a manuscript that doesn’t feel chopped up, but we shall save those for later posts. 

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