I've been doing a lot of writing recently, ever since NaNoWriMo 2018. I dived in and added 50k words to a story of mine that already had around 30k. It was great and I loved it even when things got a little stressful. After that, I knew I needed a break from my fiction writing and I turned to my blog. For about six weeks, I blogged whatever came to my mind. It was mostly little book reviews and the occasional completely random thing. That fell off, until NaNoWriMo 2019. I wrote 50k words towards the second part of my story and afterward felt the need to blog again.
This is that "afterward."
I'm doing a lot better at keeping up with the posts, having finally found a niche that I may or may not call home. (Tech posts!) This post in particular, however, is a dip back into the "random"... Kind of.
This week, I want to go over the tech I use to write my blog posts! (And my NaNoWriMo stories, too. Honestly, anything really.)
It all starts in Notion nowadays. I have been converted and I am not looking back. I'm going to do my best to summarize Notion without referring to any definition that Thomas Frank has given.
For me, Notion is this all-in-one digital organizer and notetaker. Previously, I've shoved everything in a Google Doc folder (or just one file on occasion) and tried to find a way to go between my notes and the actual file I was writing in. And storing complex notes in a Google Doc isn't the best experience. I had made some progress in that set up when Google added apps to the right side of most of their products. This allowed me to have Google Keep up with notes while my Google Doc was there, ready for tapping away. Though, most of my problem remained: complex notes in a Google product hasn't really worked out for me yet.
I wish I could remember how I stumbled upon it, but I know I had it in time for NaNoWriMo 2019, as I had actually (attempted) to complete an outline for my story. And along with an outline, I had a database of all my characters, with their stats and any additional notes and pictures, and plenty of ways to sort and view them. I have sections with screenshots of scenery, my outline is broken down by [beats](link to that book, perhaps?), I've got a little daily journal (that I fail miserably at keeping), a list of websites I'm saving to view later, another list of things I want to buy, ANOTHER list to keep track of movies I want to see and reminders on each of them, a section for my blog containing other pages with Kanban boards of post ideas and their progress, ... I can go on and on. Notion has SO MUCH VALUE.
If you want to give Notion a spin, use my referral link and you'll get a $10 credit on your account. I'm currently using up my free credits to pay for a premium membership because I finally filled up my free tier storage.
After I decide what post to write, if the post will have sample code, I head on over to StackEdit. It's a completely free Markdown editor that provides cloud syncing, all bundled up in a PWA. I can start working on my desktop, switch to my Pixelbook, and add a few touches at work or on my phone.
I've discovered that writing my sample code first helps a bit. It normally doesn't account for all instances, but it's a good start and helps me formulate how the post will go. If I find I need another chunk of code while I'm writing, I'll switch to StackEdit and write it out, then put placeholder text in my document.
Speaking of writing out the posts...
Grammarly is actually where I'm typing this post right now! I was introduced to Grammarly sometime around NaNoWriMo. I had previously written everything in Google Drive and it definitely sufficed in the years prior for all the purposes I needed. But then Grammarly came along and said, "Hey, shouldn't you change that? That riiiiiight there." And I look back and say, "Oh. Yeah."
There's a score that comes up on the right-hand side showing how well you've aligned with your Goals, which you can set per document to help you make sure you get your tone right.
Just like everything else on this list, it all syncs in the cloud and available on any device I use. Grammarly doesn't have an app for mobile, but in its place, they offer a keyboard to help you better write anywhere. I do most of my Grammarly writing on their website, however. I wish I could view this editor on my phone, but maybe that's coming soon.
Honorable Mention: Google Drive
I still use it for practically everything else, so I'm just gonna shout out Google Drive for the hell of it.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Once it's all the code is done and saved in StackEdit, and the post is finished with Grammarly, I create another file in StackEdit and copy the post from Grammarly over there. Then, I copy and paste the code in the placeholders I left behind and make sure all my links and MarkDown formatting looks good.
Once that's done, I copy the Markdown and paste it in Ghost's Admin portal. Ghost does a great job taking this pasted work and I can insert any gifs or other images at this stage, replacing any other placeholders I left for those.
I sit and stare over all of this for normally at least a day, coming back later with new eyes to preview the page and make sure everything looks good.
Then, we set up the publish date and let it go.
Anyone else tried Ghost before? I just moved my entire blog over from Jekyll (even wrote a post about setting up SSL, which I then had to redo like two weeks later, lol). Jekyll was nice but a little too much work. I'd definitely use it again in the future for truly-static sites, like maybe an online resume.