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Writing First Drafts for Successful Blog Posts

I don’t always write a draft for a blog post. It depends. Sometimes, I publish it as soon as I finish the last sentence. Sometimes, I publish it without reading it a second time. I’ve published many posts without reading the post at all. I’ve just been writing, and hit publish when I felt it was the right thing to do. I need to focus, and I need to remove distractions.

One of the posts I wrote without reading it a second time, was writing a blog post while the cat is peeing on the kitchen table. It wasn’t that bad, it was just some creative writing. Lately, I’ve been doing my best to always finish the first draft, before doing anything with the blog post.

I believe that, as a blogger, writing drafts will be even more important in the future. We need to be more structured; use references, and write long, unique posts of high quality – it’s not just about being noticed anymore.

This afternoon, burn down the house. Tomorrow, pour critical water upon the simmering coals. Time enough to think and cut and rewrite tomorrow. But today-explode-fly-apart-disintegrate! The other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, in the hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, by reading your story, will catch fire, too?
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Distraction free writing

Time is always an issue. How much time should I block on my schedule every day? It’s not just time for the actual writing.It’s more of a routine, and it requires everything to be right.

Writing requires concentration. That’s why I am listening to music while writing. I have tried to write without having any sound close to me. I can still write, but I’m not as productive as when I’m listening to something in the background. I used to play all sorts of music, even some of my favorite songs. That’s until I discovered Focus@Will; now I’m only listening to instrumental music created to boost my productivity and help me become a better writer.

Writing requires discipline. I’m not always ready to write. Like now. It’s close to 5 am, it’s dark outside, cold inside, and the wind is trying to mess with my head. I’m tired. I’d rather be in bed. Instead, I’m in the kitchen, typing, trying not to wake up my family. The hard work is editing, rereading everything I’ve been writing. I don’t have any problems releasing what I’ve written to the world; some people find it difficult. I’m not one of those. I can ship my work too soon; never too late.

I’m using the pomodoro technique. I write in batches of 25 minutes. I use a writing software in full-screen mode. I’ve been using all sorts of different tools, but at the moment, I’m using Evernote to write my blog posts. The thing about Evernote is that I create a notebook for my posts, and I create notes for my drafts, the structure and all the various references inside the notebook. It makes it a lot easier to find everything I need in one place.

I don’t edit anything, until I’m at the end. When I’m at the end, my big decision is, should I just publish, or should I reread it. I know the answer, but that’s the hard part.

Pen or pencil

It might sound a bit old fashion. But, sometimes when I write the first draft, I start using paper and a pen or a pencil. I like the feeling of holding it between my fingers. I like the way it looks, seeing my words on paper. The visual part of it makes me happy. It brings more joy to my writing. Sometimes.

I have a paper notebook. I only use it once in a while, when it feels right. The writing routine is important. But, to me, changing things, creating new writing habits is just as important. I view the first draft as being creative, doing things a bit differently, to make something I haven’t created before. Many times, before I start, I am looking at the structure of the post, asking myself, how can I turn this into something completely different?

If I really want to make it stand out, I’ll be using a pen or a pencil and I’ll be writing the first draft in my notebook.

iPad is for one thing only

I don’t use the iPad for writing the first draft, not anymore. It’s not that I can’t use it for writing, because I can, it’s not that hard, and I can write fairly fast as well. To me, it’s something completely different. It just doesn’t feel right to use the iPad for writing. I’m using it for structure and reading, that’s it. Remember, I’m only talking about the first draft here. I’m using the iPad for a lot of different things, but this article is only related how I’m writing my first draft.

Most times, I start the first draft on my iPad, or with a pen and paper. I structure the post by using Evernote.

The best apps for any kind of writing

I have been testing a lot of apps for writing. Now, I’m using Byword for most of my writing, but not for my first draft. The first draft is always written in Evernote. One of the great things about Byword is that you can publish directly to Evernote. I don’t do that much, but once in a while I’ll start writing the first draft in Byword, and I’ll publish it to Evernote, and I’ll continue to write everything inside Evernote.

There are a lot of great apps for writing. I need an app that has distraction free mode, and as simple as possible. I don’t want to think about formatting or editing. I just want to keep writing, until I’m at the end.

The blank paper

I have noticed that what works best for me, is to start with a blank paper. No headline, nothing. Just a blank paper, and a pen. I’ll start by summarizing the topic I’ll be writing about in a phrase. Adding a purpose statement. Then, I’ll start adding anything related to the paper. Brainstorming. Mind mapping. I have set a time, using Focus@Will. I don’t pause. I just keep writing until I’m the music stops playing.

Don’t spend forever writing

I always use a timer when I write. I focus on productivity and to get things done. I have discovered that when I have a specific amount of time, I’ll be more focused and more productive, and the texts I write are actually a lot better. It might not be the same for you, but this works great for me. I always do the research prior to writing, and I outline my posts before I start writing the draft.This helps me spend less time writing. I never start with the intro, most times, that’s the hardest part. Preparation is the key.

Nothing is off limits

Writing the first draft is more or less like an experiment. I use my imagination, and I allow myself to go to weird places. Nothing is off limits. This makes it a lot more fun to write, and I always know that I can clean up the mess later. The first draft excites me. It makes me feel alive as a writer. It makes me proud. That good and the bad, is that I’m the only one that will ever read it.

15 responses to “Writing First Drafts for Successful Blog Posts”

  1. I’ve been having trouble with that spending “forever” part – I try to use my timer, but it only ends up distracting me. Ill keep pushing. Hopefully, I could cut down my writing time for each post I create as I get more practice

    • I have also been having trouble with that part. Now, things are going a lot better. I am using the Pomodoro technique, and I’m sticking to my schedule no matter what. It’s all about persistence, it took me a long time to actually get things done in a matter of time I specified for each post.

  2. Josh says:

    I should start using drafts again. It almost never happens when I blog. It is a bad habit I need to break.

  3. Good stuff. I wanted to try Byword, but it’s Mac only 🙁

  4. My Inner Chick says:

    Great tips. Thank You!
    I write my blog posts inside my head first, then on tablets or scratch paper. It usually takes about five days. I always decide on my title last. And even when I press publish, it’s never completely finished!

    • That’s interesting. I also start inside my head. I have been thinking about the post for a while before I actually start to write things down. Yes, it’s never completely finished, but it needs to get shipped 🙂

  5. Ilka Emig says:

    I love that your first draft makes you feel like a real creative writer. My first draft usually sucks. So I definitely agree with you about the need of editing and re-writing. Thanks for your great post 🙂

  6. Hi Jens,

    such a nice article it is. This is an eye opener for all who just start writing a first draft.
    I learn a lot from this article and hope it’ll helpful for me for sure 😀


  7. Hey Jens,

    Oooooooohh. That’s something I NEVER do … publish as soon as I finish the last
    sentence. That’s ultra-risky and can really backfire.

    For me, I invest 10 – 20 hours on a blog post now. That may mean a week, two weeks, etc. But one think I don’t do is create so many drafts.

    I guess it works for some people but not for me. I finish the first draft then do some editing and add images, then publish.

    One thing I do agree with is using a timer of some sort. I write in 33 minute increments.

    Great post.

    – Andrew

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