How I (don’t) write (well)

I started the 30 days writing challenge last week. I wrote this post to share my experience. Some original ideas but mostly real life experience that could bring some insights for your own practice.

How is it going so far?

  • In 9 days, I published 7 posts including this one.
  • One post on Kneaver was started for Wednesday and I didn’t complete it. I didn’t even start the next one (on Kneaver also). I resumed the challenge on Friday.
  • I have been systematically late to publish, at best I posted at 2 AM instead of 1 PM (13h late), twice a day later.
  • From inception to promoting it took me from 3 hours to 10 hours of real work.
  • It impacts seriously my work and my week plans.

What I knew

  • Writing must be planned with a calendar. Breaking topics in 7 series is a good start. I hated the idea of a content calendar, but I’m now ready to adopt one.
  • Edits are easier sometime after writing. I should write more in advance to accommodate a day between writing and editing. I’m editing this post a day after and removing a lot of details.

Writing is really done in 4 stages separated by time

  1. Have an idea. Collect supporting related ideas. Do some research. Find links and pictures. Build a plan. I learned that many people block here,
  2. Actual writing (the visible part of the iceberg is in the middle here). It’s accepted that it takes most of the time, not true for me.
  3. Editing. It’s long and boring but a positive mindset may help. It could go as far as removing what you just wrote. It could go as far as rethinking the post. However some writers acknowledge that the quality of good writing like adjusting rhythm and readability is often done at that stage.
  4. Promoting. We live in a time with a competition to get attention. Having the post published via RSS or a mailing list don’t assure readership. It’s better to add a few tweets, promote the post in conversations and encourage some people to amplify your message. It requires time, dedication, networking, and some generosity.

What I learned by doing, where I block

  • I was often procrastinating the decision between different topics but now with my 7 channels it’s like placing racing lanes in a swimming pool.
  • My ideas are not so good. I have ideas that interest me but most of what I write is too complex and too long. It doesn’t fit into the time my audience allocates for a single post from me. There is a mismatch between the way I share and my target audience interests and.point of view  I learned that a good post is not only about the ideas but about a connection between a topic, an interest of the audience, a mean to convey it and of course having enough original knowledge to add value.
  • Lack of plan.  typically I block half-way. I’m putting a lot of energy to get started (not very smart but very me). Once I’m started, ideas are pouring in, so I write a lot but I lose momentum. Often after indulging in details, having diverged, I am unable to reach the conclusion. I’m back to high school where it was already my problem. Again and again I do this error of thinking that I can do without a plan. Again and again I realize half way I can’t reach the end with what I’m left of time and words. The plan is an occasion to run backward from the end to the audience knowledge and tune the progression. The goal is to make one’s point in a digestible quantity of words.
  • I have too many ideas, I add too many details. It results in long posts (2500 words),very long to edit afterward. Eventually I have to remove ⅔ of it during edit. I’m sometimes obliged to restructure the piece. Pruning is long and heartbreaking. I’m resisting to removing all this text because it implies letting go of ideas I found and wanted to share.
  • Writing directly on WordPress caused the worst experience and results.

What surprises me is that the subjects I know well are the hardest to write about

  • Writing about writing like now, or about meditation is easy. I’m not an expert, I just share an opinion, a story, some views.
  • Writing on experiences I do, on an on-going work like for #WOL or #PKMChat is rather easy.

Writing on something I work on or did research is another piece of cake

  • I’m procrastinating more because I wish to bring the best value. Yet I have the impression it will be easy and can be done in a single effort with extra thinking. There is more apprehension of failing to be well understood.
  • It’s harder to be easy to read. New words must be chosen, less jargon used, One should not introduce more concepts than necessary or prerequisite knowledge. It must be precise, correct but not complicated. The post on xAPI took me 10 hours with several change of the plan. The post on a Kneaver feature took me 5 hours before derailing. Because of the daily writing challenge, I can’t stay forever on a post. There is a cut-off time when I have to admit I can’t do it and must move to the next topic.
  • I feel that if you are competent on a topic, you owe to your readers to take into account opposite views, to be honest and self critical to your opinions. This means that I will often reread a post I mention, search for posts with opposite opinions. Sometimes my views changes as I read it again. It happened on the xAPI post that I change my views while writing the post.

Where I’ve been bad

  • After spending hours on writing and editing, I eventually publish. I’m so fed up that I send only a few tweets and I move to the next task. So much work and effort deserve more attention to expect a return on investment.
  • I’m not taking time for a final look at the result. A quick look at the xAPI post revealed that it was like block of concretes layered one on top of another. It’s off-putting and reveals a stuffing read. I did better for the post on me, thanks to @Somewhere. I reused tons of my pictures. Finding pictures is not only to support one’s argument but also to make our writing more engaging. It adds some white space, reduces columns widths. Pictures give a place to the reader’s mind to wander while internalising what’s being read. I should remember that.
  • I tend to write never ending sentences exhausting my ideas with all the variations.I can see the value of preserving complete thought trails when I write for myself. I need to trim them when I write to be read.

What I need to fix this week

  • I’ll prepare topics in advance including the plan, not just gather links and ideas.
  • I’ll do a plan before starting to write. Simple ones with introduction, 3 points and conclusion seems a good deal. I did this for this post.
  • I’ll stay on track when I write, I’ll keep my writing sweet, short and lean from start instead of doing a heavy pruning.
  • Keep trimming what I write. I adopted a convention to mark what should not be published for sake of conciseness. It ease the process.
  • I will add pictures, I can draw, quickly, so let’s do it.
  • I’ll do a better promotion. This implies posting on time and not at the wee hours.
  • I’m using GoogleDoc for preparing posts. I start with a paragraph with my intents when writing the post, the plan, and unused ideas. Very content strategy oriented. Pruned text will be marked with (* and *). When the text is finally transferred to WP this will all be removed.

Do you have hard times writing regularly? I would love to learn from your experience if don’t mind sharing in the comments.