Changing the Approach to Writing Posts

Changing the Approach to Writing Posts

I alluded to making this post in my June Journal entry. About how I run things here. Specifically for this post — how I run through the act of constructing a post. I feel that there are some improvements I can make in this area, and I hoped to also get some input on this from you all.

How I do it at the Moment

Getting Started…

What does this have to do with the post? Nothing. I just really like itAlli did an awesome job. :D

Ideas can come from anywhere. Random thoughts. News pieces. Game happenings. Other bloggers, via conversation or their blog posts I’d like to comment on or otherwise respond to at length.

When I can, I’ll construct a draft post — generally containing just a title to prompt memory of the idea later. Very rarely I might include some bullet points of things I want to cover in the post.

Sometime after the initial ideation, magic happens. But — and this is important — the magic can only happen while I’m not at a computer. While driving, say. The post will fully form, crystalise even, in my mind — a near masterwork of engaging writing and compelling argument.

Later, back at the computer with time to write the post — I’ll start tapping away, hacking together a far lesser version of itself. Not the best post in the world, merely a tribute. ;)

Putting the Post Together

During the process of failing to translate what once seemed a perfectly clear and constructed post in my mind to actual written word, I’m prone to distractions in all forms. I don’t think that’s the cause of the translation issue, but it certainly doesn’t help either.

The main distraction comes in the form of working on the post layout while writing the first draft. By which I mean I will insert images, format them, and if I need to jump into a game to get the screenshot I want — I’ll even do that.

I’ll eventually wind up with a completed post, which I’ve put together piecemeal. Editing as I go. A final review (often far more cursory than it probably should be) and then an instant publish.

I’m not very good with being patient and scheduling posts. Once done — it needs to go right then!

The Next Experiment

What I feel I should do instead — and will be experimenting with — is getting out a full, complete draft before doing any of that. Consider that first go in the same vein as a NaNoWriMo writing sprint. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a NaNo writing sprint — basically you write at speed for a set period of time. You completely shut down the inner-editor for the duration. Corrections of anything beyond a typo should be considered forbidden.

After the sprint is over you may consider your review process. Be that a rewrite or some intensive editing.

At first I thought my success metric was around time taken to write a post. This experiment was initially about reducing context switching between writing and formatting.

I actually don’t know that this approach is going to save me any time but perhaps it’ll result in a better quality of post with a rewrite/intensive edit phase put in. A harder metric to track meaningfully perhaps, so I’ll have to use my own satisfaction with a post when ‘done’ as a proxy.

But already I can tell making this change is going to take some very sustained and conscious effort. Cos uh… I’ll start with the next post? I did this one my ‘normal’ way. Hmm.

Anywho — as I said at the start, super curious how other bloggers out there go about constructing their own posts, and if there are any things that seem to work for you, or anything that you might consider changing. :)

Share this Post:

Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on tumblr
Tumblr
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

10 thoughts on “Changing the Approach to Writing Posts”

  1. Due to my lack of consistency for anything writing related I guess I shouldn’t be the one sharing my methods but ah, what the hell? XD

    I am pretty random in terms of topics, just choosing it and then basically writing it on my head. Maybe even thinking of some screenshots that might go well with it if I already have them on hand or remember a cutscene that would turn into a good screenshot.

    Then once I sit to write I just go the NaNoWriMo way: write a draft without worrying too much about editing or changing things. Preferably I try to do it one day before but some times due to screwing things up and wanting to make a post in particular day I just write that day. These latter tend to be the worst as I don’t end up editing them….

    Speaking of editing, this is something I end up doing the next day. This way it is easier for me to read it without my inner editor going full Hulk and calling me the worst writer ever. I then correct any typos, clunky phrasing and other mistakes. This is the point where I try to get screenshots to add to the post too.

    Once it is done I just press the Publish button and link in the usual places.

    That is about it. I like your idea of constructing a draft with just the title to prompt memories of the idea later and writing bullet points of what you want to talk about. I am going to see if I can do the same as it would help me in those dry periods where I want to write but can’t think of anything. :)

    • I like the idea of seperating the original writing and editing time out by even a day. To date I’ve been waaaay too impatient to do it. Must post and publish now, now, now. xD

      Making the editing process when you’re also ‘constructing’ it, in terms of images etc sounds a good idea too.

      So thanks Rakuno! Some things to try out there for sure. :D

  2. I post a regular post every Friday on Narratess with two reviews on Tuesdays in a month. Those days are set, so I know what to expect, and when.

    The reviews are just my thoughts on a book and I try to cover writing style, characters, and one thing I really loved or hated that influenced my rating.

    For my regular post, I sometimes have a topic already, but often I have to make one up one or two days before my deadline. I don’t get the time to think about it very much and I just vomit words on the page, add a few pictures if needed, and fix the SEO.

    I don’t try to spend a lot of time on it which is visible in the length and quality of my posts, but that’s okay. I write and edit all day long, and my blog is still something I should enjoy in the end.

    That said, my posts on Princessinacastle.com are just brain farts. They’re random, irregular, and can cover just about anything. I usually write those and publish immediately, no rewrite.

    • I’m curious to what extent you ‘fix SEO’ on your posts. Do you use a plugin like Yoast to assist with this?

      For a while I was trying to get green lights across the board from Yoast, but I found I didn’t much like the output when chasing them. I have no doubt that more skilled practitioners could achieve green and still like the output, but I decided to put it aside — at least for the time — while I was getting comfortable writing again fullstop.

  3. I write almost all my posts in a single sitting, usually somewhere between two and four hours in length. More often than not I have the basic concept in mind – today, for example, I knnew I was going to write a first impressions kind of piece on Secondhand Lands – but the post that I end up publishing is often very different from what I expected.

    Using today’s post as an example, I discovered the game on Monday, played it and knew immediately I wanted to post about it. I took some screenshots with that in mind as I was playing. On Monday night, however, I saw the PR release for EQ and EQ2’s Summer Spectacular. Since I’ve established a habit of mentioning those events and I’ve had some feedback from regular readers suggesting it’s been helpful, I wanted to get somethign out about it. I considered doing it right away but it was late so I left it for the next day.

    Tuesday, which was when I would have posted about Secondhand Lands, I wrote about EQ/EQ2 instead, which took a lot longer than I expected and involved me logging into both games for screenshots, then re-writing a whole section when I realised I was talking complete nonsense (factual errors I fortunately spotted at the last minute).

    That’s an example of something else I do a lot of – fact checking. I try to check everything I state as “fact” with a reliable source and I link to it if possible and appropriate. If I can’t find corroborative evidence or can’t be bothered to look (if I’m pushed for time) I phrase everything with “seems” or “apparently” – to show I’m not 100% sure of my ground. You’ll notice I use that a lot.

    This morning I got back to the post I meant to write about Secondhand Lands but in the process of doing some of that fact-checking I discovered a whole lot more about the game that I hadn’t known, which meant I was not only adding to the post but writing a completely different post to the one I planned. That happens ALL THE TIME! Again I had to fire the game up and take some more screenshots (and make new characters).

    Once the first draft is finished (I bang it out and edit on the fly as paert of the same process) I add the illustrations. That can take longer than the writing because I do a lot of cropping, trimming, tinting etc. If I’m using captions, which I did today, I make those up as I add each picture. Then I think of a title, which often takes a while and involves me searching song and lyric databases and watching video on YouTube to be sure I want to associate myself with the song or artist in question.

    When all of that is done I hit “Preview” in Blogger and do the final edit. That doesn’t usually take too long but often I find I have to completely re-write the first couple of paragraphs. I find that when I bang stuff out NaNoWriMo style it;s the begining that’s always very weak. Bear in mind that often I don’t know when I start how the post will end up because it evolves, which is why the opening is often out of kilter with the rest. Also it seems I take two to three paras to warm up!

    When I’m finally satisfied I hit publish. Then I often read it again, becuase for some reason the only time I see typos and spelling errors is when the thing is actually live and out there. After that I generally leave well alone. If anyone points out I’ve made a gross factual error I’ll correct that but otherwise I’m done.

    On to the next!
    Bhagpuss recently posted…Today Was A Fairytale: Secondhand LandsMy Profile

    • So much of this I relate to. But none more than a post-publish read highlighting typos and other errors that were all but invisible in the ‘preview’.

      If I had to guess, I would say ~4 hours is about what I would spend on the average post too. … well, that is how long from when I sit down and start it to when I actually hit publish at least. There are many distractions and interruptions in the form of browsing on the other screen while I ponder a paragraph or where I want to go next. Starting another YouTube clip. Taking said clip back 20 seconds because I heard something interesting but missed the context and now want to see it, etc.

      I would guess that if I removed that and went about it in a more proper NaNo style I could shave at least 2 hours off the initial draft time.

      After that, I’m now considering in light of Rakuno’s comment experimenting with writing a draft and only coming back to edit/review the following day. Currently though — like you — I’m editing on the fly.

      What I find sometimes happens there, though, is that I’ve changed my mind on how to frame or phrase something, and do about 98% of the required edit — but then miss something, possibly minor in and of itself, but that throws the grammar, or flow or worst of all, actual meaning, off from what was intended.

  4. My consistency has plummeted in the last couple years, so I am probably the last person qualified to expound on this. Mostly it is an invested time issue, as mentioned above, writing takes time. Once I started raiding twice weekly and playing three time consuming MMOlikes, blog writing time just nosedived.

    I tend to just write posts in the WordPress editor. Now and then I have tried drafting posts in a separate text editor, usually while one isn’t at one’s desktop, but I find a fully constructed one ends up overly polished and lacking a certain freshness or rawness that I’m looking for. Sculpting a few praragraphs and phrases to be transcribed into the blog editor can work, as long I sandwich some fresh new writing before and after.

    Nice to read about what works for others, I’ve been casting about for ideas and tips lately. If I had the time, one thing I would want to try is to keep freewriting more and searching for something new, different or insightful amidst all the everyday dross to then build on.

    Alas, what usually happens these days is that I end up chasing one “have-to-do-today” daily in one game or another, or going after “this seasonal stuff is ending in X days, I need to do this first!” and frittering the time away. I guess the various devs have hit upon an effective mechanic for game engagement…
    Jeromai recently posted…GW2: Plenty of Problems, But This Ain’t One of ‘EmMy Profile

    • Interesting that you quite like and appreciate the rawness that comes with not pre-writing too much. I guess the loss of this is something I’ll need to look at and weigh up while experimenting with new approaches to writing blog posts here.

      I hear you on the timesinks that come up while actively playing MMOs though. Back when I was blogging and also actively raiding in WoW, it was all I could do to maintain one a week. Sometimes even just one a fortnight. Keeping up with dailies, gold for consumables, alt runs, etc etc.

      Right now I’m not as worried about consistency per say though, but rather an improvement (hopefully) in quality of posts and maybe a reduction in the time it takes to put them together. Maybe consider the initial draft of a post more akin to writing a comment, where it seems for me at least, to flow much easier with far less in the way of distraction.

  5. I often have a staggered writing process on posts with a main chunk of time where I take an idea that I’ve at least mentally thought out and write the basic post. Only once all the paragraphs are in place do I go back to edit, insert pictures and links.
    Sometimes I’d have a short session 0 for a post where I have a core idea but then flesh out a paragraph outline (a phrase or sentence to show what each paragraph will hold) – I usually do this on public transport to fill commuting time.

    Finding pictures for posts always takes a lot more time than I’d like, it’s just not that easy to remember what screenshots I have or when they were taken. Time wise I’ve never really tracked it, but I’d say I usually take up to 30 minutes on a post, I simply can’t afford more time than that. I do normally read through my posts before scheduling them but often miss typos because I’m just not that good at editing my own work – having a husband who is willing to read them helps here – a second pair of eyes is always good!
    Telwyn recently posted…Looking for work in the Pact Worlds #StarfinderRPGMy Profile

    • You sound to be quite a bit more structured in you writing in general than I typically am. I like the concept of having a plan in place before starting to write something — but I typically find out what where I’m going and what I’m doing through the act of writing it out.

      Although for blog posts it’s a bit stranger than even that — like I mentioned in the post though, often before I get to writing I have what seems to be quite a clear plan for a post. There is a picture of it in my mind, but the translation from there to final product is… Very shaky.

      With you on the screenshots taking way too long though. Hah. I’m hoping that leaving it all until done with the writing of a post will help though, at least in terms of keeping track of what I’m writing if not actually saving any time overall.

Leave a comment

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: