All of my blogs are run in WordPress, and that’s been my blogging platform of choice since switching to it in 2006. WordPress offers fairly extensive writing and editing tools right within your site’s admin area. Over the years, I’ve written many of my blog posts directly in WordPress using these tools.
That was probably a mistake.
In my last post I mentioned that I now use Scrivener for blogging. But you can write in any word processor or text editor and transfer posts into WordPress. The question you might have is “why should you?”
Let’s look at five reasons it can be a good idea to write your blog posts outside of WordPress rather than drafting articles directly from your blog’s admin area.
It’s always a good idea to back up your WordPress database on a regular basis. You can even set up plugins to automate this for you.
These backups will be incredibly helpful if you ever need to restore all of your posts to your site. But a database backup isn’t something you can quickly open up to find and review an old post (especially for bloggers not yet used to working with databases).
Having a local copy of your post can be a preferable option if you want a more accessible backup, or if you simply want to protect yourself with multiple types of backups.
Writing in a word processor or similar writing software first will give you that backup automatically when you save your document before transferring it to WordPress. Don’t want to store your backups locally? You can also quickly copy them to online services like Dropbox or use Google Drive for both writing and saving your posts.
If you write directly in WordPress, you would have to manually copy and paste your posts (plus all meta data which can be spread throughout multiple fields) into your local copies. In my experience that can take longer than moving posts into WordPress from other sources. But that will depend on which software you use. Your experience with that might be different.
2. Revision Overload
One thing WordPress has going for it is automatic saving. As you write or edit a post, WordPress will periodically save copies in its existing state. These show up in your revisions list.
Where it differs from some programs is in the way it saves each revision as a past snapshot rather than saving over itself (like Microsoft Word does when it autosaves your file for you).
This can be a good thing. It allows you to restore a previous version if you make edits you’re unhappy with or if you accidentally delete something.
But this can also be a bad thing. These revisions can accumulate quickly, especially if you manually save the draft or preview your post frequently.
This might not be a big deal for a new blog. But for established blogs this can lead to thousands of extra posts being stored in your database. And that can slow your blog down.
This can be an especially big problem now that more bloggers are focusing on writing longer posts. That means you spend more time on the post edit screen, and potentially save more revisions.
You can get around this with changes to your configuration file (to limit the number of revisions that will be saved) or with plugins that can clear revisions or limit them. But limiting or deleting revisions could mean losing the versions you want to restore from.
Writing in external software like Word or Scrivener allows you to save copies in as many states as you want. But more importantly you’ll have that full backup to restore a single post from if anything ever goes wrong. And you won’t have to weigh down your database to do it.
3. Writing vs Formatting
One of the big reasons I switched from writing in WordPress (and Word) to Scrivener is the fact that formatting while you write slows you down. If, like me, you want to focus on writing and keeping your fingers moving on your keyboard, simplified software is ideal.
Sure, in WordPress you could write in plain text and format later. But the tools are always there — even in their “distraction-free” writing mode. And that means you’ll always have temptation staring you in the face.
This is more a case for choosing a very simple writing tool than simply not writing in WordPress. Most word processors have the same temptation with their visual editors.
A plain text editor would be one option. But this is one of those areas where Scrivener shines thanks to its MultiMarkdown-to-HTML compile option where it can turn simplified posts with markdown into clean HTML to paste into WordPress.
4. Offline Access
Offline backups are great. But what’s even better is having offline access to work on post drafts whenever you want.
Maybe you’re traveling and your connection is spotty. Perhaps you’re experiencing a wave of bad weather where you lose power and your Internet connection (but you’d like still like to milk your laptop or tablet’s battery life to squeeze some writing in).
Having access to your files from any device because it’s stored online is great. Go ahead and use Google Drive for something like that; it doesn’t have to be in WordPress. But that’s only a benefit if you never lose Internet connection. And I can’t say I’ve met many bloggers who have never had that problem.
5. Content Organization
Here’s one more reason to consider drafting blog posts outside of WordPress. I never even thought about this until I started using Scrivener.
Do you want to write an e-book at any point in the future? If so, and if your blog content could be incorporated into one in some way, WordPress is not a great organizational tool for finding and grouping together posts for other projects.
With something like Scrivener you can easily drag and drop posts into any groupings you want. You can even copy them into another project file for your new e-book, report, or whatever you’d like to create and work with them there without ever touching your original saved drafts. I don’t know about you, but that’s going to come in extremely handy for me.
None of these things alone will probably sway you from writing in WordPress if that’s what you’re comfortable with and you aren’t one of the many bloggers who have lost content that way over the years. But they’re good reasons to consider all of your options. It’s up to you to pick the best blogging process for your situation.
Now tell me, what do you consider the best tool for writing and editing your blog posts? Why?