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A blogger who writes first, second and third drafts


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November 17, 2005

A blogger who writes first, second and third drafts

Stephen Baker

I got an e-mail from a most meticulous blogger. In response to my post asking if I should blog my first draft, Hedge Fund blogger responded:..."absolutely not unless the blogger has that rarest ability to extemporaneously download and convert their thoughts into a few perfect paragraphs."

Perfect paragraphs in blogs? This was a startling concept for me, but this blogger wasn't kidding.

This biggest issue bloggers face is producing quality posts; everything else - readership, traffic, links, ad-clicks, whatever their purpose - follows....Any serious blogger needs to draft several times. In my case maybe the fifth draft at the minimum gets online and many don't ever make the self-imposed cut.

This goes diametrically against my thinking. I look at blogs as a way to try out ideas, and get them out there fast. I don't dwell much on the writing. (Speaking of writing, that rewrite I told you about a couple days ago is eating away my days and messing with my sleep.) Is Hedge Fund right? Should we hone and polish our posts through numerous drafts?

11:28 AM

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What's considered serious? Popularity? Back in school I wouldn't go through five drafts for a paper (about something I have no interest in) let alone for something that is my industry and experience. Perhaps writing just comes more naturally to some people.

Posted by: Jon Gales at November 17, 2005 12:26 PM

Steve, I'm with you on this. The fluidity of the medium allows the luxury, the *reality* of a much more naturual style of communication.

If you and I are having a face-to-face conversation, we put an idea out, we get the response, we adjust, we modify, we sand off the rough edges. It allows all parties to rapidly evolve their thinking.

What Hedge Fund is saying is diametrically opposed to that. It's a point of view that is shared by those who feel that anything that goes "out the door" is immutable and perpetual. It assumes that once you publish something, it must be able to stand alone in perpetuity. That's no longer the case.

Hedge Fund...when you go to a dinner party with friends, do you save all your comments until the end of the evening, and deliver them in one fell swoop in one perfectly-enunciated elocution as you put on your coat and hat to leave?

Posted by: Christopher Carfi at November 17, 2005 12:34 PM

I agree with you - with my blog's content, I really don't have the luxury of waiting to compose beautiful prose or something. Everything becomes old news too quickly.

Correct grammar, spelling, etc - sure. Make sure it makes sense - yah.

I guess it depends on just what your blog is all about content-wise.

Posted by: The Cavalier at November 17, 2005 12:35 PM

Blogs can be a great developmental tool for some writers. Here's a link to some ways it can help: http://roughdraft.typepad.com/mominthemirror/2005/05/blogging_for_wr.html

Posted by: Julie at November 17, 2005 01:46 PM

Steve,

I have wrestled with this issue in my mind quite a bit.

One thing I know, first impressions are hard to break.

I am certainly not an accomplished writer. However, I am an accomplished Mortgage Planner. The Blog medium has given me a way to begin to share my experience and thoughts.

For now my hope is that I can bring the message in such a way that my intermediate shortcomings in the written word may be overlooked.

However, I am on the hunt for a good internet course to brush up on my writing skills. (Do you know of one?)

The way I look at it is kind of like showing up to a business meeting with a very nice new suit and scruffy shoes.

People will notice the scruffy shoes, make judgments, and then give you a chance to overcome that judgment with your personality, etc.

The key is to go buy some shoeshine, so that next time your shoes look better.

Here's to learning the art of the spit shine!

David Porter

Posted by: David Porter at November 17, 2005 03:05 PM

Yes, blogs are a way to "try out ideas and get them out there fast."

But, you still have to communicate what you want to convey.

Maybe I'm looking at your post too closely, but blogs should use proper grammer, spellling, etc., else bloggers may get distrakted. (I don't usually see this as a problem on blogs, particularly industry- or cause-focused ones.)

If you are trying out ideas, you want to make sure there is no misunderstanding in what you want to try out. Since we are writing and not speaking, we don't have the benefit of tone, body language, etc., to help convey our message(s). So, our writing should be as clear -- even jargon-free? -- as it can.

If that takes one draft. Great. If some want to be careful and go through multiple drafts, great.

When I blog, I'll type my post, then even print it off to edit and revise it to ensure it's what I want it to say, that it doesn't ramble, spelling is correct, grammar is correct, etc.

So, first draft blogging? I wouldn't think we'd get your best work. (Else, why is there a "Preview" button next to the "Post" button for comments?)

-- Mike

www.mikespoints.com

Posted by: Mike Driehorst at November 17, 2005 03:57 PM

I also type in what I call my raw draft. Then immediately revise it - rearranging paragraphs, checking spelling, adding links, making sure the concepts flow transitionally, etc. But that's like a first draft quality still.

I don't know about magazine writing; but for say novels, short stories, essays one typically puts the first draft aside for 4-6 weeks before the second draft. Then it's easier to "kill your darlings" and have a fresh sense of perspective because the work almost feels like someone else's.

I don't have the luxury of even a day or two lag to do the revision. If I did, it'd be closer to second draft quality.

Posted by: Evelyn Rodriguez at November 18, 2005 11:58 AM

Hi Steve-

Blogs as a form of conversation is a useful metaphor with limitations. Writing is fundamentally different from speaking. But, there is the immediacy of blogs. A good halfway point might be to type your thoughts, then read them back for consistency, clarity, and meaning, then let them go. The blogger must be observant and expressive. The reader gets it right now in exchange for surrendering a certain amount of journalistic practice. There's a reward for the blogger than can capture without needing the practice. That blogger is more likely to get it out there first.

Pete Zievers

Posted by: Pete Zievers at November 18, 2005 06:51 PM

The more I revise, the less it sounds like me. Last time I checked, my blog was supposed to sound like me.

So I don't revise. But then I'm no Evelyn :)

Posted by: Mike Stopforth at November 19, 2005 05:49 AM


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