Help Readers Find the Good Stuff: Organize Posts with Shortcodes

Helping visitors quickly find what interests them is key. The faster you can guide a new reader to content that…

I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.

— Truman Capote

Last month, we hosted Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit, a write-every-day course over twenty days. Writing 101 focused on building a daily habit, experimenting with different kinds of writing, and engaging with others in the Commons. A finished product — a published post — wasn’t necessarily the ultimate goal, but more the result of working and thinking through the challenges we shared each day.

As we noticed in Writing 101, all of you have stories to tell. But sometimes it’s a challenge translating our life experiences into stories. We don’t spend enough time reflecting and rewriting, especially in our digital age where social media and other technologies push us daily to react, keep up, and keep moving.

A course on rewriting and editing

Roald Dahl once said that “good writing is essentially rewriting,” and here at The Daily Post, we agree. Writing 201: Finding Your Story is a self-directed course on the art of revision: four weeks dedicated to self-editing and rewriting, looking at our work with a magnifying glass, and improving it.

Are there prerequisites for Writing 201?

No, there are no official prerequisites, and you don’t have to be a previous Writing 101 participant to enroll. But if you have existing material you’d like to improve — drafts to free-writes to even published posts you’d like to revisit — you’ll get much more out of the experience. You should also be comfortable participating in a largely self-directed course in which you’ll move at your own pace each week.

Can you offer details about the course content?

Writing 201 is all about rewriting, (re)shaping a story, and focusing on the right details. In our workshops, we’ll explore how to find your unique angle on a topic you’re writing about, craft a more engaging introduction for a post, find the key moment or true heart of your story, and expand your material into scenes.

Ultimately, the goal of the course is to learn how to self-edit and read your writing with an editor’s eye, and to improve one or multiple posts in your archives.

What is the course structure of Writing 201?

The structure and pace of Writing 201 is much different from Writing 101. Over four weeks, we’ll present four different workshops, each published on a Monday. You’re free to read each workshop at your own pace — absorb it all in one day, or tackle parts of it throughout the week.

While there is no assignment at the end of each workshop, we’ll present a series of questions and discussions to reflect on. In your own time, you’ll experiment with these techniques in the specific pieces you’re working on. You’ll decide how much time and effort you’d like to spend each day.

Is there an emphasis on daily posting on our blogs?

Given the focus on revision, there are no daily assignments, and publishing is not the focus of the course. Each week, you’ll practice and rewrite on your own time. If you’d like to publish something on your own blog, we certainly won’t stop you! You could publish a work-in-progress in the middle of the week, a revised or new post on Friday, or even commentary on the rewriting process at any time. What you actually publish, and how much, is up to you.

Will there be a private Commons area?

Yes, you’ll be invited to join the Commons for Writing 201. Given the emphasis on editing, the Commons is a key component of this course: it will be the space to workshop your material. Workshopping is all about collaborative brainstorming: you’ll offer specific, constructive feedback to others, and they’ll do the same for you.

In Writing 201, we’ll encourage you to share short excerpts from pieces you’re working on, ask focused questions, and provide specific input to others. The writing workshop format might be new to some of you — the process involves much more than simply dropping a link to a post in the Commons — so we’ll be on hand to help.

Before the course starts, we’ll post a tutorial that models how to present your work for critique and how to give great feedback, too.

The nuts and bolts

  • Writing 201 begins on Monday, July 21, on The Daily Post.
  • Over four weeks, we’ll publish a new workshop at 12:00 AM GMT on Mondays (or 8:00 PM EST on Sundays). To convert this time for your location, use a tool like World Time Buddy. Type “GMT” in the search field and add it to the list, then add your current location, and you’ll be able to figure out the time from the list. You can also follow The Daily Post to receive notifications.
  • There are no publishing requirements; the emphasis is on rewriting and workshopping your material.
  • Participants will have a private community site, the Commons, for workshopping, chatting, and connecting with others. Daily Post staff and happiness engineers will be on hand to answer questions and offer guidance.

Want to join? Fill out the form below to register. You’ll receive an email before the course begins with instructions on how to access the Commons. Thanks for joining us!


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  1. I am only seeing a list of ten posts using the category tag. Is there something I need to add to show more than 10? I have at least 100 in the category.

    1. @joe, the max a shortcode will return is 100, so if you’re not specifying a lower number, you should see 100. If you link to the page, I can take a peek.

  2. Michelle, I believe you are reading my mind! This is the second day that I’ve thought about adding a feature to my site and what do I find this morning? Of course – a post on how to use shortcodes.

    Thanks for all your help.


    1. Similar, yes, but with a little more versatility, since you can add all kinds of parameters for what/how things display. And since you can have other things on the page, you’re not just limited to a list of posts. But for lots of folks, adding categories to a menu will be just fine.

  3. Hi Michelle, I’ve been using shortcodes since I discovered them in Zero To Hero. (Thanks for that.) I did have a question I haven’t been able to answer for myself: If I create a page to display posts in a certain category, does the display list update itself when I add new posts to that category, or do I have to manually edit the post in order to update the list?

    1. Well, sure, when I returned to my blog – the pages had the posts listed in the category, but no thumbnail…does it just take time?

  4. Didn’ there used to be a way to do this by creating a page just for a category without touching code? For example, the menus on my blog all direct to category pages. I know I never touched code for these.