Momcomm Monday is my weekly series to help you become a better writer, blogger and social media geek. If you missed last week’s post, catch up on 9 Things to Tweet About.
Besides the crazy love/hate part, writing is a journey… of learning along the way, refining your writing style and improving bit by bit. A few years ago I subscribed to a fabulous newsletter from Daphne Gray-Grant, aka The Publication Coach. She offers quick, practical tips to improve your writing.
One day a tip arrived in my inbox that became the single biggest piece of advice I’ve learned as a writer. It’s a tip I had learned before but never put to use with any consistency. It’s a tip that’s simple in philosophy but hard in practice. What is it?
Well, it can be summed up in three words:
Write then edit.
How We Typically Write
You may say, well YEAH, I already do write then edit. ::fist pump::
But do you really? I’m sure you look over your posts before you hit “publish.” But I bet you also edit WHILE you’re writing, whether you noticed or not. Even after years of not doing this, I still fall into the trap at times!
Maybe you spend 15 minutes racking your brain for the perfect word?
Maybe you just stare off into la-la land, not going any further until you find the right words for that one part of your post?
Maybe you say “oh that sentence works better there” or “let me move this over here”?
I’m sure some of your blog posts don’t take as much thought as others. But the posts that are the most important to you are the hardest to write. You want to do your subject justice. You want people to see it as vividly as you do. You want your post to ooze personality. And that’s when that editing thing creeps in and tarnishes your writing.
Why You Should Write Then Edit
Daphne the Publication Coach says that trying to write and edit at the same time is like trying to wash the dishes before you’re done with eating dinner. Genius analogy right?
When you write without stopping to change a sentence here or look up a better word there, an amazing thing happens…
You stop second-guessing yourself and JUST WRITE.
Editing while you write interrupts your brain from writing what you really want to say. When you start censoring your thoughts, your writing mojo circles the drain and goes bye bye. (Remember you can edit later all the weird, over-the-top, what-was-I-thinking stuff later.)
When you allow yourself to just write, it stirs up all sorts of wordy goodness. The words that pop to your head that you would have questioned (is it funny enough? thoughtful enough? relevant to my story?) vanish and they come out anyway. Honestly, I find the pieces of my writing I would have questioned the most end up being the strongest parts of my posts.
How to Write then Edit
It’s okay to jump around.
I do this ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, you may know exactly how you’re going to end a post, but no idea how to start it. Sometimes I have no motivation to write so all I can do is write down the facts and then go back and start fleshing each piece out. And sometimes, I bounce back and forth from one part to another like a game of Pong.
Similarly, if you get TOO stuck that jumping around doesn’t help, then step away and come back to it later. I rarely have a chunk of time large enough to write an entire blog post so I do this a lot.
Don’t go overboard.
It’s okay to use the backspace if your stroke of genius occurs 5 seconds after you just typed something rather boring. It’s okay to stop and think. And if you misspelled something, I’m not saying to leave it until the editing process (as an official Grammar Bitch, knowing I misspelled something and couldn’t fix it right away would drain all my nerdy grammar mojo). But just remember the overall tip – write then edit. No shuffling paragraphs around or rearranging sentences until you’ve written for a while.
Use placeholders (for now)
Sometimes I know I want to say more about something but I’m not sure what. I’ll do something like [write more here] or [sentence about that]. This lets me continue with the stuff I DO know I want to say before those thoughts escape my brain forever.
Find your own system
Figure out some tricks that get you used to writing then editing. For me, it’s a timer. I’ll set it for 15 minutes or so and just GO FOR IT. If I really want to torture myself, I’ll use a genius (and free!) tool called Write or Die by Dr. Wicked. You tell it how many words or how much time you want to write. Then, set the consequences and grace period (you’ll see what I mean on the site) and hit “Write!” When you slow down, the screen will start changing from white to red and will then start flashing boldly to wake your butt up to KEEP WRITING. It’s hilarious and motivational at the same time.
Another thing I do is that since I hardly ever have time to write an entire post at once, I’ll pick back up by editing what I’d previously written and then writing some more. I still keep the process separate but I do it a chunk of writing at a time.
What do you think? Do you write then edit now? Do you think you could train yourself to do it?
By the way, I encourage you to subscribe to the Daphne’s newsletter. It’s a weekly newsletter that only take a few minutes to read but I guarantee her tips will improve your writing (plus she’ll email you an awesome guide about mind mapping).