How I write

I thought it might be useful to offer a sneaky-peak into my processes for writing this blog. After all, given that I am trying to encourage others to do the same, it’s probably only fair that I let people know how I do it.

Obviously, it’s worth pointing out here that this works for me, and it might not for you. Also, there are probably better ways of going about it. But since I started blogging back in 2004, I’ve got into the habit of working this way, and it seems to produce a fairly steady flow of content for me.

Standing on the shoulders…

For inspiration, I spend a bit of time in Google Reader, checking out what other people are saying, Likewise with Twitter, and Delicious. I’m not necessarily hunting for things to write about, but generally imbibing information and ideas and squaring them with whatever I’m thinking about at the time. Be catholic with your reading habits – don’t just limit yourself to reading blogs in and around your own sector, but find out what people are saying elsewhere. Consider how what they write about can be applied to your interests.

Type first, think later

I spend quite a bit of time writing posts that will never see the light of day. There’s no editing at the ideas stage. Sometimes I only have a sentence, or a whiff of a concept for a post, but I make sure it’s recorded somewhere. My preference is for these to be draft posts within WordPress, but sometimes that isn’t possible, so I’ll use another tool like Evernote, or even just a text editor. I’ll usually aim to get those posts into WordPress ASAP though.

The point is that I very, very rarely sit down and write a post from beginning to end, without having a good think about it first.

So, I usually have up to ten draft posts in WordPress at any one time. I spend quite a bit of time just staring at them, then I read other things, see related content online and how I can work that into the post. Sometimes this changes what the post is about, and the original theme is lost entirely, or reduced to a footnote. What often happens is that I’ll combine two or three of the posts I have in draft to try and produce something a bit more meaty.

Go ugly early

I’ll often hit publish on posts when I’m not entirely happy with them, when the thinking is half-baked or I have a sneaking suspicion I’ve got something totally wrong. I usually get corrected in the comments, or people add stuff to help me make what I’m saying make sense. I must admit, though, that it takes a bit more nerve that usual to do this as it risks exposing me as the fraud I really am.

Your tips

So that’s a quick run through of my writing process. What tips do you have for any budding bloggers?

6 thoughts on “How I write”

  1. I’ve been using Windows Live Writer recently as it allows editing offline and better image handling than WordPress.

    I also have what I call the 48 hour rule. If a post hangs around as a draft for more than 48 hours, it will almost certainly never see the light of day because I’ll have forgotten the point I was trying to make. Often if I’m not sure a post is 100% I’ll schedule it for future publication giving me another day or two to polish it off if I have time or think of something else to so, otherwise it goes live as it is.

    Sometimes I’ll plan out a series of posts rather than trying to cram everything into a single one and this can be quite effective for keeping the points you’re trying to make simple as well as giving you a steadier flow of posts. Martin Belam does this very effectively.

    Your post about UKgov blogging is interesting as well – I’ve been thinking for a while about HigherEd web blogging and it still hasn’t improved significantly.

  2. Fraud indeed!

    I find myself ‘thinking’ all the time, even when drifting into sleep (I do occassionally) and when waking. I remember a former Director telling me he always kept a notebook at the side of the bed – noting down the thoughts keeping him awake, helped him to eventually get to sleep. I wouldn’t advocate that (paper?) but you could use your iPhone or PDA (as long as the back light doesn’t disturb your loved one)!

    I do keep notes of ideas and one liners but to be honest, often struggle to find the time to work them up into fully fledged posts. Envious of my online firends who are more efficient and productive than I.

    Agree we should be prepared to publish less than perfect posts though. We should all be accepting of that and be prepared to join in and offer our thoughts and considered opinions (constructively)! Surely that’s what this is all about?

    I like the idea of user generated online content being ‘raw’ and real time. That’s often what makes it so engaging and, of itself, thought provoking. I’d take that over fully polished, verbose and out of date content anytime!

  3. Thanks for sharing your tips, for me ‘Go Ugly Early’ is the best tip and one I tend to use this myself. Blogging is a rather grandiose term for what I do which is to post my opinions to either Posterous or Tumblr sometimes both. My listening is mostly Twitter and many times I have just written up some text on Notes on my Iphone. E-mail in to Posterous which auto tweets it out. So my title is on many occassions my Tweet.

    The more I think about writing the ‘blog’ the more anxious I get, so for example if I write a blog about a film I need to do it quickly when I know exactly what my raw reaction is to the film. Time is a killer of straight this is what I think opinion.

  4. Hi Dave,

    great advice – as I write reviews like Shane and yes straight after event is best. My tip is that I always keep to a 100 word limit if I cannot say something briefing taking up more words will not help. Its not meant to be serious just to keep up with the tools.

    My challenge is to take a picture on an Iphone of an exhibition to put on my blog without getting caught. Perhaps I should ask for a press pass?


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