Once you have thought about how you are going to organize your content, it is time to turn your attention to creating the content. As I mentioned in my post Your Brain on XML, knowing, in advance, if you are going to be reusing content as part of your ecosystem really helps dictate the way you think about the development process.

If you are reusing content, before you write anything, you’ll need to see if something already exists that you can reuse. You’ll have to know how to interact with your CMS system, how to search for applicable content, and so on. Once you start creating chunks of content, you need to keep in mind that your chunk may be reused and repurposed. Writing for reuse is a different series of decisions than writing from page one to the end for a single, stand-alone document.

I am not going to use this post as a primer on how to write. There are tons of “how to’s” on the Internet and even lists of where to get a Master’s Degree in technical writing, if you so desire.

In addition to writing, the development process also includes locating and/or creating illustrations, videos, and other non-word materials that you will use in your content. All of the various pieces of your “document” (whether it is online, .pdf, print, media, whatever) need to be developed. And lots of thought needs to go into developing each piece.

Some people create illustrations as they write. Others do all of the copy writing and then identify places for pictures, video, audio, and so on. There is no right or wrong way to do this. In my career as a writer and course developer, I used a combination of methods to get the best results.

And then there is editing. I’m often asked why a “senior writer” would need an editor. As any writer will tell you, it is one thing to create original copy. It is another to perfect it from the standpoint of developmental, substantive, and copy editing. All good writers love working with editors. I’ve learned so much from mine over time. My editor makes me a better writer (and I wish I had one for my blog entries!).

Last, but finally not least, is the review process. Content reviews most often happen at specified intervals in the development cycle. For example, alpha draft, beta draft, final draft. Or, they can happen only at the end of the development cycle. Or, they can happen informally throughout the creation of the content. Again, there is no right or wrong way to have your material reviewed.

My personal choice is to start with lots of informal, iterative reviews focusing on small amounts of content at a time. For example, I might interview someone, go back and write up our discussion, and then ask that person if I have captured their points, and so on. Then, I also have periodic large reviews of the entire document – usually two reviews if there is enough time.

The content creation part of the content ecosystem would appear to be the meat and potatoes of the process. However, it is really just one significant chunk of the entire work flow. Organizing how the content will be stored, access, and used, along with determining a strategy for reuse are important tasks to conquer before your virtual pen hits the virtual page. And after the content is created, it is surely not “finished”. There are more pieces of the ecosystem to navigate.

Val Swisher
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