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Blog Exercises: Timey Whimey Tangents

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.As I was saying yesterday…was it yesterday? No, it was the day before. I was at the college yesterday. I have no life on college days. It’s all college all the day. So it must have been the day before. It was sunny and hot. I don’t like heat. Don’t have the system for it. I come from strong Pacific Northwest stock. Webs between my toes and moss on my back. Hate heat.

What was I talking about? I was trying to make a point…

We’re all guilty of this when we speak, especially in informal situations with friends. That’s how conversations go. When it comes to hitting the publish button, all this dribble must go.

Example of exercise in web writing - underlining the key points in a story - Lorelle VanFossen.Pick a post from the last month and examine it closely.

Print it out. Take a highlighter or red pen and carefully circle the point where you got to the point.

Draw a line under the point until you stop making your point.

Lift the pen and drop it down when you get back on track again.

Keeping doing this through the article until the end.

What do you see.

This technique is the reverse of traditional red pen editing. Red ink across the page is a sign of corrections, things that need to be fixed. This exercise is the reverse. If you mostly see red, you did fantastic. The underlined areas are the things to keep. If you see only a little red ink, you are in trouble and have more tangents than points.

It is often a shock to see the red not bleeding all over the page. As a professional writer, I think I’m an excellent writer. I believe that I have a way with words, not a perfect way, but a talent and skill all the same. When I see a page with four spots of red against 800 words, I realize that I lost my way along the story.

This doesn’t mean that everything that isn’t underlined must go. It is an exercise in concise editing, focusing on the words and phrases within your article that are required essential to the story you are telling. If the words not highlighted in red don’t count, toss them. If they support the point you are trying to make, underline them.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to do the above assignment. What do you see?

Do you see solid red, or only a little red?

When doing this exercise with a group of students, one young man let slip, “I sound like my grandfather.”

He wasn’t disparaging the elderly. His father was just beginning to experience dementia. A conversation with him could go through time and space as well as relativity in a single paragraph. In 30 minutes, he would tell the same story five times thinking it was the first time, experiencing events much like those who encountered The Silence in Doctor Who, forgetting what happened a moment ago and repeating themselves.

To quote from another Doctor Who episode, The Name of the Doctor, the Doctor describes the twisting paths of light represents his life and death:

Time travel is damage. It’s like a tear in the fabric of reality. That is the scar tissue of my journey through the universe. My path through time and space. From Gallifrey to Trenzalore.

Tangents can make or break a story being told. Time traveling tangents, moving the reader or listener on a bouncing ride through time and your story usually leads to motion sickness unless presented in the hands of an expert.

Tangents may support the spine of the story, adding to the breadth and color of the tale. Or they are scars, tears in the fabric of reality that confuses others because they don’t need the whole story, every gritty unrelated detail, to get the point.

If you would like to discuss this, you may do so here in the comments, or blog about the lesson you learned and link here to create a trackback.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.


  1. Posted July 18, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Very good article. Sometimes tangents will lead to discovery of relevant information, similar to jazz musicians or abstract artists. Perhaps being willing to explore tangents could be equated with willingness to utilize our creativity. I think you are talking about eliminating those tangents which are not fruitful with regard to the essence of the article and that is appreciated.
    Thank you,

    • Posted July 18, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      It is the tangents that need to go before you hit the publish button. Yes. Tangents are the leading cause of brilliance and genius, so never kill off those. 😀


  2. Posted July 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Some people write in a way like kids write ‘Dear Diary,…”, and everything springs to mind is written down, normally boredom, anger, sadness, happiness, mental issues and loneliness. I’ve seen some popular bloggers writing in this manner without much editing, being ‘honest’ (in their own words), and they write a blog as it’s their sounding board. Their purpose of writing is not about the use of language, manner of expression or controlled writing. They want their writing to be totally expressive and ‘free’, to show their raw emotions, and to express their state of mind of a particular moment. Hence is the dribble. Surprisingly, WordPress seems to be touched by this kind of writing too (what genre would you call it?), and if you get your raw emotion out, you may get Freshly Pressed having only written 2 posts in your whole life.

    Some people indulge in this type of conversational writing, as in your first paragraph. But, most people who write like this tend to use a lot more commas to string sentences than full stops. People ‘just write. I don’t really care.’ I’m not sure if I should call it their streams of consciousness, like Proust. Some people may ask: why should I refine my language? I just say what I want to say. I’m just so honest. I’m that kind of person. I don’t care whether you like it or not.

    • Posted July 18, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      “Sounding board writing” is fine, if that is the purpose of the site. Unfortunately (or fortunately) few people write well enough to get away with that. When they do, it’s a beautiful thing. The rest of us need to clean up our timey whimey, “that sentence got away from me” writing.

      That time of writing is called “personal blogging” or “diary” or “journal” writing. While it could be called “conversational writing,” it isn’t really a conversation. It often does not invite dialog, just a one sided perspective of their world.

      I’m talking about professional writing/blogging, writing to serve customer and specific demographics. If your demographics is served by that, go for it. If it isn’t, don’t do it. Know thy audience, and write for them.

      The point of the exercise is to start these kinds of discussions. Open your mind up to the way you write, the way others write, and thinking about who you are writing for and to. Excellent points on that! Thanks!

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  1. […] Blog Exercises: Timey Whimey Tangents […]

  2. […] exercises. By clearly identifying your site’s purpose, it helps you to stay on track and not run off on tangents as you […]

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