The story I linked to yesterday, and some recent comments on one of my posts, has motivated me to write some of the stuff that I recently left out of recent posts, and also describe how I plan my posts.
The truth is, I often wonder about my writing competence. Do I have a gift for it, or am I just lucky to hit on topics that people would like to read about, in my random written ramblings? I don’t know how other people plan and then write their content, unless somebody tells me (which they haven’t) but I do know how I plan my own posts. Maybe this will seem familiar to other bloggers?
Firstly, I should mention that I do sometimes write off the top of my head, without any planning at all. But this is rare. Normally if I do that, the post will be emotionally motivated, so it’s a response to something I’ve seen or heard or read, and it’s written to convey my feeling, be it outrage, anger, pain, or some other emotion. Those posts will often contain more of my dry wit than usual, which is a risk. I can be funny, but being funny is difficult. It’s too easy to miss the mark when aiming for sarcasm, and hit the facetious, childish, insulting or stupid mark instead. Such a post, if it goes wrong, can drag down the quality of everything I write, making it all seem arrogant, pretentious and presumptuous.
Normally everything I write is carefully planned, and prewritten in my head. (And this is where I wonder… Do other bloggers do the same?) I’ll think of what I want to write the night before, or maybe while I’m driving, for example.
My “posts in my head” are then quite detailed. They always contain the introduction, almost word for word, and the conclusion, if there is one. Further, they contain most of the paragraphs that the final post will contain, at least down to the key concept of each paragraph. I also frequently plan other lines or witticisms that I know I will include, but may not know where in the final structure of the post they belong. I make no effort to commit any of it to memory. Fortunately it comes back to me when I write. Filling in the actual words comes effortlessly once I know what each key concept is. I liken it to writing a computer program… When solving a programming problem, I know and understand the problem I want to solve, and before I write a single line of code, I know what my solution will be. I don’t know what the various classes (the abstract objects definitions at design time) will be called, or what their methods, properties and events will be named. I don’t know exactly how I will code discreet little parts of the program, but that doesn’t matter. Those are implementation details and they just flow without much effort once I sit down to code. Writing a blog post is the same.
Of course what does happen is, sometimes when I sit down to write, a concept that seemed simple yesterday grows more complex and important today. Also, I don’t like my posts to be excessively long, and some paragraphs, with their concepts that may have changed a post’s tone completely, sometimes need to be omitted.
For example, yesterday’s post about the time I almost witnessed a suicide was to have another paragraph, describing a conversation when I arrived at work. The first person I told about it asked me why I didn’t try to save her. I felt guilty that I couldn’t save her, but ended up omitting this because I managed to convey that guilt more effectively without mentioning the conversation, in my second-last paragraph. It also included a nod to the conversation, in the form of an imagined prayer that she said to herself. (The conversation was with a very devout Christian.)
My recent post about atheism and morality had a great deal of my planned post omitted. My opinion on abortion has changed several times over the years, and although it is now similar to the way it started out, I didn’t think that needed to be written. (Irrelevant.) I once gave a friend money for an abortion. The thing is, I didn’t believe that she really wanted it for an abortion – she came from an impoverished background, while I, at that time, had money to waste. I thought she was scamming me for money, but gave it to her anyway, because I thought she needed it more than I did. Try as I might, I could not find a way of making that relevant to the rest of the post, so it had to be left out.
So fellow bloggers, how do you plan your posts? Similarly to mine, or completely otherwise?