Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blog Writing 101: How to self-edit

Yesterday I posted a poorly written item. I screwed up an interesting interview with an NFL player-turned-winemaker by refusing to self-edit.

I had two different stories, and should have written it that way. Instead, I threw everything together.

Today I'm posting this meta-post to show others the error of my ways, hopefully so you can avoid the same mistakes.

Here are three links:
Original post: The meandering brain dump
Rewrite #1: The question story
Rewrite #2: The winemaker profile

Now, how did I get from the lousy original post to the rewrites?

It didn't take long -- less than 15 minutes (not counting time needed to write this). I added almost no copy; it's all subtraction.

If you're taking Writing for Social Media or a similar course, and want to delve into it, look at some of the things I took out.

I took out redundancies. Why say the same thing twice? Or again and again?

I took out my pretended fear at the interview subject hitting me. In real life, if an ex-NFL player hit me, I would get back up on my knees and thank God for securing my financial future before shopping around for a lawyer.

Moreover, it undermines my online persona. Am I a coward? Maybe in real life, but I don't usually play one on the Internet.

I wrote a bad lead to the original post; the story is not about Buddy Ryan. Terry Hoage worships him, so he's worth including, but I probably lost half my readers with the first sentence.

I took out NFL minutiae, such as the years Hoage played for each different team. It's visually distracting, particularly that early in the story. And this is not an NFL blog.

One thing I did add was a link to Hoage's website. That should be de rigueur; I just forgot.

Hoage's question was the whole reason I wrote the post, but I took forever to get to it. And then, while I'm happy enough with my own answer to it, I didn't give my readers a real chance to answer it. Ending away from the question is a conversation killer on a post that was supposed to be a conversation starter.

If I had it to do over again, I could run just the question post -- that's the stronger post about wine, and this is a wine blog. I could also run both posts on separate days.

For me, though, the best solution would have been to cross-pollinate on multiple online platforms. I could have offered an expanded football player-turned-winemaker post to Wine Review Online or Palate Press, and used the shorter question post on my own blog as a way to plug the other site.

So I blew a good posting opportunity. At least I've created a teaching opportunity.

Did anyone learn anything from this?


Anonymous said...

We are very new to the blogging game so learning from the mistakes from others saves us having to learn the hard way.

I find being aware of the persona you have is interesting. It is something to keep an eye on. Social media and blogging can be a lot more casual than other forms of marketing but they all have to fit together.

Thank you for the lesson.

Anonymous said...

Have friends coming over I'll be back tomorrow to check the drill out;)

W. Blake Gray said...

Mountford: I won't say that my online persona is not me, but it is only a certain aspect. Two big differences between the real me and the online me are politeness and projected confidence.

Since we're talking about writing, here's a free tip: Don't weaken your point like you would in person. Just edit out all those "maybes" and "IMHOs." Your written opinion should be what you believe, but a blog is not an academic paper or an AP story; you don't have to represent both sides.

Tim Hanni MW said...

Blake - thanks for being so frank and transparent! I suffer from a near-terminal form of selfedititis. I learned something - mostly that I am not alone! So easy to get a 'great idea' and puke it out on my blog. Thanks and I will take more time and be more thorough as a result of reading this!

Jeff said...

Good post, Blake. Thanks for the breakdown. I think for all would-be writers, practicing the craft without experienced coaching and editing is difficult.

Personally speaking, there are dozens of do-overs I wish I had on a kernel of a good idea that got too long, too obfuscated or too something.

helpful for me to see the source and then the revised.

Good stuff,


Anonymous said...

I like rewrite 1 and when I have a chance I'll try Terry Wines. The greatest game I ever saw 49ers vs Eagles 9/24/88. I'm a 9er fan sorry Terry.