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The Best Bloggers Edit

In Writing Words vs. Writing Software of Signal vs. Noise, contributor Matt writes about the things he learned by studying writing and how they apply to software. He found some excellent points on writing, rewriting, and editing I felt were worth sharing:

I was reading some quotes the other day about the importance of rewriting…

“First drafts are for learning what your novel or story is about.”
-Bernard Malamud

“There is no great writing, only great rewriting.”
-Louis Brandeis

“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”
-Michael Crichton

…and it occurred to me how much these ideas apply to writing software too.

Whether we’re authoring software or prose, rewriting is key. Rewriting is when you turn good into great. It’s true for books, blog posts, marketing copy, interfaces, code, etc. For all of them, we grind it out. We get something down, share it, get feedback, revise, and then do it over again. We get where we’re going via lots of wrong turns.

Sometimes we even throw everything away and start over from scratch. Yeah, that can be frustrating. But if you never throw anything away, you’re holding on to your worst ideas.

He includes some other worthwhile quotes for you to consider:

“Remember this: Don’t spend too much time visiting writing groups. You are not writing then. You are writing when you are WRITING.”
Crayne – Writing Your First Novel

“Editing is the most difficult phase of writing — and it is also the most crucial.”
Absolute Write – Great Novels Aren’t Written

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”
William Strunk, Jr.

Writing off the top of your head and publishing does not make you a blogger. I think that if we are to give weight to the title “blogger” that it should come with the expectation that you work at what you do and you do it well because you understand that blogging is work.

Blogging is about writing, and good writing comes with good editing and rewriting.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

7 Comments

  1. Posted August 29, 2006 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    Lorelle, the last quote attributed to “Fiction Press” is actually William Strunk’s THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE. That’s clear on the article you link to, but should be made clear in the citation.

    Or, you know, just tell me to go to hell since this is your blog and not mine. :)

    So, what do you think editing means in the world of blogging, when everything moves a mile a minute? I think that editing still exists, and that the best bloggers do it; it’s just more compressed than it is in the print world.

  2. Posted August 29, 2006 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    Typos and rambling and ranting shows character that is otherwise lost entirely, in my opinion.

  3. Posted August 29, 2006 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Jay. Even the best bloggers boo boo. ;-) I’d fixed it on a draft but a glitch in the electricity and my online connection here on the Gulf Coast where Katrina still rules and two copies were saved of this post and the borked one got released. I deleted the “draft” thinking it was the bad copy. ARGH.

    So much for editing when other strikes are against you. Thanks for catching this for me.

  4. Posted August 29, 2006 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    It reminds me of an anecdote about Winston Churchill that my brother was quoting (I have to take his word for it, for I could not find a reference to this fact on the web): one day a young civil servant comes and delivers a 100-page report about an urgent strategic matter. The next day, Churchill hands the report back saying: ‘It is a fine report; still, probably too cluttered and confuse — can you make it any clearer and more concise ?’ The young lad goes back to work and comes back with a 50-page rewritten report. Again, Churchill hands it back the next day: ‘It was really clearer; yet, I cannot help thinking it would benefit from being even shorter and to the point’. Again, the author goes back to rewrite. Until a moment when Churchill hands back the ten-page nth version of the document, and at the word of ‘however’, the poor lad breaks into tears, confessing he has worked so much there is really nothing more he can do.

    Then Churchill answers: ‘Thank you — I can start reading it then.’

  5. Posted August 29, 2006 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    The blogger *and* writing teacher in me say, “Go Lorelle!” Blogging is a very slow process for me because I do take revision seriously. I read my post aloud (several times), take out words, find typos, rephrase, and revise. All other things being equal, revision is the difference between good writing and excellent writing. The fact that we are blogging doesn’t mean that good writing doesn’t matter, and it’s no excuse for typos. There’s a site I visit pretty regularly that offers free services to bloggers, and almost every time I visit, I see typos in posts from the creators of the service (sometimes in the first sentence!). For me, this makes we wary of their advice on blogging. Spellcheck takes little time (I use the Spellbound Development extension in Firefox–I think you recommended it) and will catch most typos. I would also suggest that a failure to revise and proofread shows a lack of respect for our readers; taking the time to make my writing the best that it can be hopefully communicates that I care about the reader’s experience and want it to be pleasant and trouble-free. Any of us will make a mistake from time to time, but our blogs should not be characterized by such.

  6. Posted August 29, 2006 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree. Which is why my office was just filled with screams of agony when Jay caught that, for all intent and purposes, minor boo boo which was the result of a technical glitch, not the intent of the time I spent spell checking and making sure that this said what I wanted it to say, without saying too much or too little. I usually don’t publish posts that mostly blockquote others. But the points were made in the quotes, so this one required a little more attention.

    My husband said, “Honey, it’s a little thing. Don’t stress it.” But I do. As you said, I fuss over my words. I grill every word and letter through the torture test of my own editing. Sure I make mistakes, that’s just part of the process, and I fix them when I find them, but I want to make sure that they are the best they can be when I hit the publish button.

    As with my photography and any work I do, the writing I do on my blogs is a reflection of me, my values, and my standards. It is my resume. As Phil said, want to know how good I am as a person, read me. ;-)

  7. Posted July 12, 2010 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Oh wow! Why did I not discover your website earlier! I felt like a kid in a toy store when I discovered all these wonderful gems.

    But perhaps I wasn’t ready yet. I’ve only been amateur blogging now, on and off, for about 6 months, and only now that I have learnt the basics the hard way do I really appreciate the depth and reach of some of the articles.

    What led me to this article was my gut-wrenching worry that I spend too much time writing a post. Sometimes I go back and edit it over and over again to get it like I want it, and I was worried that I overdo it. Now that I see I’m not alone I feel much better. Thank you!


9 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] I have started to edit my posts (it is not sufficient a lot of times), and started giving just a little more to it. [...]

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  5. [...] The Best Bloggers Edit [...]

  6. [...] publicly that we shouldn’t say, but a good blogger gets their head screwed on straight and edits their work to ensure they are making the point they want to make and there are no paper bags or pinks laying [...]

  7. [...] made recently about how often most bloggers preview their post before publishing, a lot more bloggers edit their work than most people assume, taking care that the writing is good, grammar solid, and spelling the best [...]

  8. [...] The Best Bloggers Edit [...]

  9. [...] The Best Bloggers Edit [...]

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