The joys of real-time wordsmithing

I’ve read advice about being a Proper Blogger, e.g., writing stuff in Word or equivalent so you can spell-check, get grammar advice, and go through as many drafts as you need, then putting up posts with future dates so you have a nice steady stream of material.

If that works for you, great. I do most of my writing in Word–but (with one exception) none of my blogging that way. When I’m working in Word (other than “work work”) I’m usually writing columns for print publications or essays for Cites & Insights (or doing other “traditional” writing work).

Nor (with specific exceptions) do I postdate material, which may be obvious given that I sometimes have three posts in one day followed by a week or more with no posts.

Here’s how these posts get written. I have a few minutes (at work) or half an hour or more (at home) and an idea that I feel ready to blog about (either from my little book of notes, like this one, or more frequently either because I encountered something I wanted to comment on or Just Because). I open WordPress [still a slow process] and click on Write. I choose some categories and start writing.

Not the “WYSIWYG option” in the new WordPress; I don’t have the new WordPress installed yet; I’m on 1.5.1.3. I use the “quicktags” bar some of the time; some times, I just key in the limited HTML that I use. It’s sort of a small editing window, but it’s OK.

I finish the essay (and, as you know, some of them really are essays), save as draft, and click on the draft to see it as it will appear in the blog. (Oh: Now I see that clicking “Advanced Editing” shows me the “as it will appear” version without an explicit save-and-restore.) I correct bonehead errors (the endless hyperlink, etc.) and maybe look over what I’ve written and refine it a little.

Then I click on Publish.

I started on this essay at 3:05 p.m. [PST] Sunday, February 5, which for some reason gets datestamped as 6:05 p.m. (I’m not a football fan. Such is life.) You can see when I finished it by the time stamp.

When I write books, print columns, and formal print articles, I normally submit a second draft–but each of those drafts has involved a fair amount of the intradraft editing that’s standard practice with word processing. I call Cites & Insights “1 and a half draft” writing, but even there, the first draft involves loads of intradraft editing.

I’m not sure what that makes this blog. First draft? Half-draft? I do know that it isn’t spell-checked and that the only grammar checking is the nut behind the keyboard. I’m sure you’re getting my “real voice” in about as raw a form as you’ll see (possibly excepting email or list responses). Real-time wordsmithing works for me, and it’s probably the only way I’d do a blog.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying anyone else should blog this way. I’m just saying it’s the way I do it.

What about the exceptions? The “Word exception” should be obvious: I write Off-topic Perspectives (reviews of old movies in DVD megapack) in Word, and post each disc’s worth when it’s done–but note that I write the four reviews for that disc after I finish viewing the last movie on the disc and usually post the commentary without any additional editing. The “postdate” exceptions included the first post (which I wanted to appear on April 1) and a few posts on cruising that appeared during a long cruise. There may have been one or two other exceptions, but that’s about it.

5 Responses to “The joys of real-time wordsmithing”

  1. See Also Says:

    TextWrangler, Markdown and the BATF: writing and publishing tools

    So Walt Crawford did a post the other day about how he composes his blog posts, titled The joys of real-time wordsmithing. I have been meaning to do something along those lines to talk about the tools I use, so…

  2. Lisle McKenty Says:

    Yeah, Walt! (Imagine cheerleaders in short pleated skirts and at least three syllables in “yeah”.)

    I do get tired of the blogging-as-a-profesional posts/ blogging-qua-writing posts. I like the off-the-cuff nature of WAR. I thought blogging was supposed to provide a really quick way of publishing, not so much a broadcast megaphone. I use blogging to sort and sift my ideas. I read blogs for different reasons. Some I read to keep current; some for amusement; some for nice crunchy ideas to mull over.

    Taking blogging soooo seriously as it seems many do (I name no names) just doesn’t work for me. If someone is more comfortable composing in Word, fine. But let’s not hold up the work! I do not hold any blogger to any huge standards, other than do not lie to me. If I get miffed at a blog, I generally don’t go back there–voting with my eyes. I try to keep the bonehead errors to a minimum on my blog, but I decided long ago that I only have so much time on this planet. Speaking of which, housework calls. I am not a perfectionist there either. :D Fortunately, there are few critics here.

    Keep going with the real-time stuff, please.

  3. walt Says:

    Lisle,
    Thanks for the comment. This really is a “whatever works” situation. If I didn’t do Cites & Insights, I’d probably do a lot more blogging, and some of it might be done more deliberately.

    On the other hand, I also have a strong general bias against over-revision for most writing; I think it’s awfully easy to suck the life out of your own writing by attempting to refine it too much. Maybe that’s one reason the biblioblogosphere turns out to be reasonably fascinating: I think most writers do let their voices shine through more than in formal writing.

  4. Claudette Ning Says:

    I wonder if you could tell me if I should use “prefer” or “preferred” in this sentence: “Gone are the days when IT managers prefer to deal solely with one computer vendor.”

  5. walt Says:

    While I’m not qualified to be a grammar resource, that one’s easy: I’d use “preferred,” since you’re talking about the past.


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