The other day when I told a friend I had to revise a blog post, he sounded surprised. “You mean you edit those posts?” he asked. “But they always seem so effortless--as if you just tossed them off.”
Clear writing should always appear effortless. Unfortunately for writers, however, the smoother writing appears, the more work it usually takes to produce. This is particularly true for short pieces of writing--like blog posts--where every word counts.
I asked the authors of two very different well-known blogs how much they revise. Here is what these successful bloggers told me.
Josh Fruhlinger is the creator of The Comics Curmudgeon, a funny and insightful look at the daily comics. Josh’s legion of followers leave comments by the hundreds each day.
Josh admits that he doesn’t always have time to do enough re-reading to catch every typo, but:
I do edit my posts, though of course "editing" can span a lot of territory. The way I usually work is that I write my posts in a text editor and then cut and paste into the WordPress interface, then read it over in preview mode and make corrections and rewrites as I do so. That's the process that I consider editing, though obviously I do also go back and look at what I've already written at various points during the initial writing process.
I've been doing this for almost eight years now and I have it down to something of a science. A typical post (which could range from 250 words to 750) takes me somewhere between one and two hours to do, from beginning (reading the day's comics) to end.
Michelle Rafter, an author and editor, produces WordCount: Freelancing in the Digital Age, which covers the business of the writing business for freelancers, entrepreneurial journalists and bloggers. (See below for more information.)
Here is her take on revision:
I always edit my posts, some a little, some a lot. Sometimes I see or read something that inspires me and I write a post in a white heat. I save it in Draft mode and schedule it for the date and time I want it to run. Then when I have time allotted to working on the blog, I go in and rework it into a final draft, add an image, category, tags, etc., and either publish or put it in the queue.
Other times I start and finish a post in one sitting. When I do this, I edit as I go, checking a paragraph or two as I finish them to see how they read.
Either way, I always, always, always use WordPress' Preview mode to see what a finished post will look like published. I check spelling, grammar, and sentences that run on too long -- I usually write too much, so I'm constantly whittling down the word count.
Both Josh’s and Michelle’s revision processes are good models for any piece of writing, long or short. Among the things they have In common is that they are well-organized and self-aware as writers. They both know that “Less is More” when it comes to good writing.
But how, you may wonder, do you become self-aware as a writer? How can you even begin to edit your own work? In the next post, we’ll take a look at this difficult but necessary task.
Note: WordCount, Michelle Rafter’s blog, covers topics including writing and blogging basics, tech tools for writers and media industry news. Rafter also hosts the #wclw writer chat the last Wednesday of the month @ 10 am Pacific, and the annual WordCount Blogathon, a community blogging challenge to post every day in May. WordCount is part of the BlogHer Publishing Network. See it at http://www.michellerafter.com.