Why you love your writing
Do you think the same of your writing?
I am not arrogant or delusional, and you aren't either. However, we are thinking wrong.
I even try to consciously avoid this love affair.
Admit it. You think everything you write is brilliant too.
This is natural, and love for your words is actually positive. If you thought all your writing sounded stupid, you would lose confidence and quit writing.
Don't let that happen.
Falling in love is a defense mechanism in the case of writing. You avoid crushing your self confidence, essential for an author.
You fall in love with your blog posts because you are a brilliant person, and you should embrace this self identity. Your confidence helps your words to sparkle and motivates productivity.
In reality, however, first drafts suck. Yes, all of them.
They lack precision, cohesion, unity, and brevity. This is normal because when drafting, you put your ideas on the page as quickly as possible, staying in the writing zone, focused.
But speed compromises quality in writing.
There is no great writing, only great rewriting.
Your first drafts suck, so what should you do?
First, recognize that all writers experience the love affair. Mediocre and poor writers go no further. They click the publish button and forget about it.
Second, realize that excellent writers spend a huge amount of time rewriting. This is true of almost every great writer (few exceptions).
Third, remind yourself that you are an excellent writer, and so you will spend much of your time revising your work, and you won't be satisfied until you have slaughtered the post and rebuilt it to perfection. This is the art of great writers.
More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn't say I have a talent that's special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.
Tough love tactics to save your writing
Lots of methods exist, but bear in mind that they all require hard work: equal to or more difficult than drafting.
Solid steps to improve and perfect your stinky first drafts include:
- Create some distance. After you write the first draft, you are too close to the post, and you can't view the words you objectively. Set it aside, at least for a couple of hours. A few days works even better, but most of us don't have that luxury. Time improves objectivity.
- Come back to the draft with critical, objective glasses on. Pretend that you are wearing editing glasses, and you are viewing someone's work that needs some help. Playing this role helps break up the love affair.
- Read the post out loud to someone, and have a different person read the post back to you. You can learn so much by reading aloud to an audience. You become self-conscious, a little nervous, and more critical. When you watch and listen to someone else read your post, you can detect interest level, confusion, problems, and questions.
- Revise your opening for power, creating irresistible titles, headings, sentences, and paragraphs. Remember that you have maybe five seconds to draw the reader in, so the first words you use are most important. Cut all unnecessary words and phrases. Make use of your best power words.
- Commit yourself to cutting down the draft considerably. Much revision work requires cutting out fluff, the words and sentences that aren't powerful. Most writing coaches tell you to cut a draft by at least a third. Writing usually sucks because it is wordy and lacks precision.
- Focus on replacing weak words with power words, especially verbs. Your verbs control the action of the post, and if they are weak, your writing will be. Look out especially for my nemesis: forms of the verb "to be." I don't mean that you can't use them, but do so sparingly.
- Detect organizational problems. Focus on each sentence and paragraph to ensure that you have a logical flow and stay on topic.
- Make your post simple to read. This rule is especially true for blog posts because online readers prefer short words, sentences, and paragraphs. Use a conversational tone so that the readers feel you are talking directly to them. Use first and second person words like "I" and "you."
- Use stories, images, and description to engage readers and draw them into the post. Keep the stories brief and to the point.
- Remind yourself that awesome formatting is essential to blog posts. Choose images carefully. They should attract the reader's attention, add to your message, and encourage reading. Pay attention to your fonts: type, size, style, and color. Use bold and color sparingly to emphasize important posts. Avoid using more than two font types or colors in a post. Use headings for good SEO and to help guide your readers.
- Support weak areas with research and links. Readers appreciate links if they are essential, and research helps support and develop your thinking. Use credible sites with high page rank.
- Make the content of the post is actionable. In closing, be sure to let your readers know what to do with the information. What should their next action be? This might be your call to action or a motivation to leave a comment.
- Judge each word and idea to ensure that it is essential. If not, cut it. Cut ruthlessly. When in doubt cut.
- Clarify areas of confusion. Read critically to see if ideas connect and make sense. If you confuse your reader at any point, you have lost her. Make difficult concepts easy to understand and complex ideas simple.
- The last thing you should do is edit and proofread the post closely. This means you clean up the slop: grammar and usage errors, punctuation problems, spelling mistakes, and formatting errors.
Obviously, you could use many other strategies and this list is not complete or perfect. However, the remedies should give you a place to start in breaking up the love affair with your post.
These techniques are challenging, but the more you practice, the easier and more natural they become. You will be surprised to see how much your writing improves.
I would sure appreciate any revision tips you have. I am always adding to my list. In a comment below, would you please share your strategies and successes? How do you revise? If you have any questions, ask them, and I promise to answer.
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- Blogging in 2014: Mindful resolutions bloggers need for success