How Much Do You Do Before You Click “Publish”?

The other day I posted to a friend in a private forum that if I had known that my Writer Site post was going to be Freshly Pressed I might have spent a little more time on it. I could have read it with a critical eye–expanded some passages, perhaps cropped others. I could have edited more.

As I pondered this notion, I thought I could have added some research, links, more images or videos, and doodads to jazz it up, too.  Or not.  Maybe that wouldn’t have been a good idea. The story needed to speak for itself.

My mind went back and forth and all around, wondering if I could have done more.  Have you ever felt that way?  Like maybe if you could just have a do-over.

But even as I was writing and thinking (thoughts going more RPMs than the written words), I thought how spending a lot of time editing and sweating over each blog post would be like always wearing your best underwear in case you’re in an accident. Or always having the house cleaned in case you have guests. But blogging, when it’s done in a routine, is wearing your everyday underwear and allowing dust to lie on the coffee table. It’s allowing yourself to just live (or to write).

This is very different from other types of writing–at least for me.

In writing my book, which is a memoir, I revise over and over again.  I am not happy with one chapter, one scene, maybe not even one paragraph . . . yet. When I finish the project, it will have taken ten years, or so I anticipate.

I’m planning to start compiling a poetry manuscript.  The only problem is that I am not satisfied with any of my poems. I will think I am, then I get second thoughts and want to revise again. On occasion, I’ve revised the life right out of a poem and have had to delete it completely.  Mostly, the poems get better the more I work on them.

When does revision stop? I don’t know because I am still in the revision process for most of my work. Even my published poems are being revised.

Other than Spell Check and a once through for glaring errors, my blog posts don’t get revised unless I find new information that I need to add to a post, and then I make it clear that I am adding something at a later time. (One caveat: if I do a re-read after I hit “publish” and find a typo, I do correct it).

Fellow bloggers, how do you feel about revising and editing blog posts? Do you do it or just click publish after you write a draft? And if you write elsewhere, how does your blog post writing process differ from that of your other writing?

64 Comments

Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Poetry, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing prompt

64 responses to “How Much Do You Do Before You Click “Publish”?

  1. jeannieunbottled

    Great post! I’m not a blogger, but this is something I think about re: writing. By not revising, I sacrifice clarity and a certain “mathematical perfection” that I strive for in my prose. But when I revise, I lose the jazzy looseness of speech. It’s a conflict between classical and jazz music.

    • Luanne

      What a beautiful analogy that is! And when you work on a piece a lot, I have noticed, it does develop that precision. You are truly a classical artist, IMO.

  2. I try my best to check everything before pushing the publish button, but if I do it from my Kindle, autocorrect invariably ‘corrects’ something that was MEANT to be spelled the way I had written it Grrr.
    🙂

  3. I pretty much know when a post is done, then proof it about three or four times. Then I publish. I go back and re-read to look for typos. Those, I revise, otherwise, no revisions. My other writing? My fiction? Ha, ha, ha. I stop. I don’t revise. I just stop. Sometimes I start again.

    • Luanne

      What do you mean you stop and sometimes start again? Do you lack motivation, is that what you mean?

      • I start and I’m chugging along pretty good and then I grind to a halt because I don’t know what comes next. Basically, I don’t know how to write the great swampy middle. Then, I decided to start another story, or I scrap the first and do a different beginning. Lately, I just think every idea I have is crap. So there you go!

  4. Revision stops when you’ve come back to using the phrases you had in the first place. But I know what you mean. You could go on forever and sometimes, especially in blog posts, you have to just let it go and write what comes to mind naturally, like in a conversation. I like the underwear analogy. 😉

  5. I’m a serial proofreader even when I blog. In fact, I’m proofing this comment as I write it! 🙂 Happy writing! Great post.

  6. The amount of revising I do depends on the type of blog post it is. I’ve noticed that with my latest posts, a multi-part series about my peyote ceremony experience, that I have been revising and “thinking/processing” more before I publish them because I need each part to have some kind of story ark that will keep the reader engaged. Normally the posts are a story unto themselves and the ark is pretty obvious. My publishing frequency is a direct reflection of how much I am fretting over the quality and content of these posts. It’s gone way down while I try to write this larger story and I wonder if I haven’t chosen the wrong forum to share such an intense and mystical journey (that is, I’m a little concerned about how it will be received because of the nature of the material).

    I do go back and edit post-hoc. I can’t ignore an obviously difficult sentence or repetitive use of a word, so I will make minor edits after I publish.

    I hope you are just STOKED to have had your work Fresh Pressed. That is AMAZING! Way to go!! Leave all that doubt behind and bask in the glory of knowing your work was well received. 🙂

    • Luanne

      Aw, thanks, Dawn. I have noticed that your series is written more as chapters in a book. The quality is luminescent. But, I agree, it’s impossible to blog regularly when you are writing like that!

      • OMG, “luminescent”???? Shucks darlin’ I’m blown over by your use of that word to describe my writing. Yowza! I guess it’s time to quit procrastinating and get the next one written!! Thanks so much for your continued encouragement. I’m embarrassed to admit how much I need it.

        • Luanne

          Dawn, you deserve it. I’m about ready to kick you in the butt. are you working up this material to put it all into a book???

          • Hi Luanne,
            I’m not sure if this will go in the book or not. Possibly. My memoir wasn’t supposed to cover this time period, but my memoir’s ending it still very much up in the air. So WHO KNOWS? I sure don’t. And I have not been working on that project enough either. Let the butt kicking begin! 😉

          • Oh and if it’s so darned luminescent, then how come I get so few readers and comments? Argh.

  7. I think this is why I like blogging, because I just type it straight in, and then … publish! With other writing I need to begin with a notebook and pen and physically write, then revise and edit and type it up and print it out and read and re-read it, highlight bits and chop out others, and hardly ever do anything with it. If it wasnt’ for blogging I would never get anything out there at all 🙂

    • Luanne

      Jackie, I know what you mean! I seriously am going to try to just finish something so that I can just be done with it. It gets ridiculous. I will say that blogging has really allowed me to do a lot more writing as usual because of the low level of revision I do on the blog posts. That means that I actually am improving my writing more quickly.

  8. I tend to write a post, preview it, read it through, correct as necessary, and then publish. I don’t go overboard with linking/editing, because … well, I like blogging, but I have other things to do too 🙂

  9. I edit and revise out of habit. My brain keeps rewriting it after I’ve saved the draft. Something keeps me from clicking Publish until it tells me it’s okay.

    • Luanne

      At least you get that feeling to go ahead and click. I feel that it’s partly because of the conversational tone of blog posts. They allow a blogger to just be him or herself.

  10. It depends a lot on the post. If I’m writing a political or social justice post, then I post quickly. It is topical and I need to get it out. That said, I always do another edit after I hit “publish” because there’s always just a little something that I haven’t noticed

    When I’m telling a story, I take my time and schedule it. Then I go back and compulsively improve it. I’m pretty sure that WHEN my memoir is finished and published, I will be arrested breaking into a bookstore with a red pen in my hand.

  11. thepoetswife

    Most of my blogging is done in snatches of time, literally minutes I’ve snatched from the rest of my life…each “draft” of a post could have only a paragraph added to the previous one, or even just few words changed, before I have to leave it, so…no, I definitely don’t hit “Publish” till several drafts later. Except once. I actually wrote most of the post at one sitting, then hit “Publish” by accident!

    • Luanne

      Oooh, I did a publish by accident once. What a scary feeling! I think I had to send it to trash and then copy it and start over. It was a messy project and not well thought out.

  12. I’ve struggled with that, too. Wanting it to be super polished, but trying to keep up on regular posts. I’ve been slacking lately for that reason. I am prone to typos, especially when I am quickly trying to capture an idea. I like your analogy about being in your “regular” underwear. Excellent post.

    • Luanne

      That’s exactly the point: wanting to be “super polished,” but needing to get on with it. Another blogger wrote the other day about thinking that blogging has been down lately–that a lot of people are slacking. I wasn’t sure if she was right or not. Thank you re the underwear ;).

  13. Blogging is the place where I can just do it! It’s like scrambled eggs for supper, quick, simple, easy to do. Everything else is work. Love to work, but it’s more complicated. One of my daughters is an artist and she says the difference between an artist and every one else is that an artist knows when to stop. I think the same is true for writers and revision. So I rarely throw away the original version of anything. Sometimes you have to start over with it!

    • Luanne

      Scrambled eggs make a great supper. I love the notion that only artists know when to stop working. I am terrible about destroying old drafts. I hate the “clutter” of them, or is it really the embarrassment?

  14. Luanne, I always preview and move things around, but I am not that great at noticing every flaw. Later, I notice but no one has said anything so I let it go! I enjoy my storytelling so much that it doesn’t bother me too much if there are some mistakes. I don’t post photographs and sometimes wonder, “Is that why I haven’t been Freshly Pressed?” and then, I say to myself, I write like I read, no pictures in my adult novels, shoot!

    • Luanne

      I always try to add an image of some kind to every post because they show up better in the WordPress Reader. That’s about the limit of my knowledge of these things. Oh, and I read that if you do your own videos, that have them on Youtube and your blog is good.

  15. Sherrey Meyer

    Luanne, great post! I’m the worst to ask about previewing and editing and revising. I know we’re supposed to write our memoir or novel or whatever by just getting down that first draft without ever editing or rewriting. Well, I can’t do that — I’m type A. If it’s not perfect, it isn’t right.

    Blog posts, however, I know people who drafts in Word documents and then revise and revise and revise before copying and pasting into a blog template. I usually open the blog template and write more or less from stream of consciousness. If I fuss with it too much, it sounds too stilted. I want my blog post to sound more conversational, like I’m having coffee with you and we’re talking back and forth about writing and stuff. Not like I’m giving a lecture or writing a textbook. It goes back to the jazz vs. classical music analogy above.

    I suppose I too could look at those last sentences and determine that’s why I haven’t ever been Freshly Pressed! Sigh . . .

  16. Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse and commented:
    Before I click “publish”, I follow a step-by-step process and once that process is completed, I click.

    But the process is longer and has more steps for a book length manuscript that I’m going to sell to readers than the editing process for a post that’s free to read.

    For example, Hemingway had a process. He worked on on page a day. He wrote the rough draft and then edited and revised until he was satisfied. Then he never (or seldom looked back). The next day, he wrote the next page following the same process. Of course, he had a great editor called Max Perkins who edited those Hemingway manuscripts before publication. Therefore, maybe adding that one step—a professional editor you trust—would be a good idea for a book length manuscript.

    • Luanne

      Ah, that symbiotic relationship between writer and editor. I think it’s necessary to buy that kind of attention today. I recently read Good Prose by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd. Todd is Kidder’s editor–for decades now. I don’t think there are too many of those kind of relationships left in the biz. Ugh, if I wrote like you say Hemingway did I would never get a page done.

  17. Spending a bit more time to add at least one link leading to another post on your site and one external link to another site; a photograph and/or an embedded video for each post you click and publish might be worth the added time because those elements may boost your site’s search engine ranking. When search engine spiders crawl a site, all of these elements add to the search engine rank of that site. A site with no photographs, links or embedded videos usually has a lower search engine rank and does not end up on the first-page of a search for a topic you have listed in your categories, tags and META Tag.

    We are competing against other sites that cover the same topics. When someone searches “editing” and “revisions”, this post could be on the first page of that search or page 100,000—how many cyber surfers are going to see page 100,000?

    It all depends on the search-engine ranking. The goal should be to have a rank in the top 1%. And that isn’t as difficult as it may sound. For example, all of my sites are in the top 1% (according to the numbers Alexa feeds me).

    There are hundreds of millions of sites out there. Someone in the top 1% could still have a global search-engine rank of two million or less and that might be enough to land that site on page one of a search for a specific topic you have written about.

    For example, Alexa ranks your global-traffic rank as 7,874,840 with 73 sites linked in. A goal might be to work toward getting that number down below 3,000,000 to be closer to or beyond the 1% rank. And that number isn’t that bad when you consider that there are several-hundred million sites out there.

    • Luanne

      By the way, Lloyd, thanks for the re-blog! Your info is really valuable for those of us who don’t know aything about how to drive readers to our blogs. What is a META tag? And what is Alexa?

      • I hope this helps.

        Alexa is a site that ranks Websites and Blogs. How, I do not know but it may be the only game in town for discovering the global and country ranking of a site.

        I suggest you add Alexa to your tool bar and only go with the free option. Alexa also charges for more bells and whistles. And I’m not qualified to tell you if the extra is worth it. Once you have Alexa on your top menu bar, you can check every site you visit to see its ranking.

        Here’s the link: http://www.alexa.com/

        The META tag is information about a site that is hidden and invisible to most human eyes but not to search engine spiders.

        I use META tags on my Websites but I’m not sure how to embed them in my WordPress Blogs. The invisible to human eyes META tags are usually crept by search engine spiders first to determine if a site will be included in a search list.

        Here’s a site I just found that goes into detail about META tags:

        http://www.metatags.org/all_metatags

        And here is the META tag for my novel’s Website:

        My Splendid Concubine Home Page

        Source: http://www.mysplendidconcubine.com/

        To find a META tag right-click on a Website or Blog with your mouse. A small menu should pop up. Click on “view page source” and look at the top to see if the site has a META tag or not.

        I have never checked the META tag for any of my WordPress Blogs, so I was curious and just right-clicked on my “Lloyd Lofthouse.org” Blog and was shocked at how complicated that invisible html and/or META tag info is for a WordPress Blog.

        To find the end of the hidden html coding and META tags look for this html code: Everything above that is invisible.

        http://lloydlofthouse.org/

        Unless the site’s host has a way—-and there is a way I just don’t know it— to block the source code, anyone can right-click and see the coding for almost any site. But they can’t change it unless they can access the dashboard of a site as the administrator.

        • Luanne & Lloyd,
          The META data is why tags are so important in WordPress blogs. The tags, more than categories, are what the spiders look at. So be sure to include any and all tags pertinent to your topic.

        • Luanne

          Lloyd, this info blows me away. This is very scientific! I looked up the blog I have with my daughter about adoption on there and although it is always near the front of a lot of searches, it still doesn’t reach the 1%.

  18. susanpjames

    Thanks for a thought provoking article. I’m a compulsive editor. Never stop. Even with a comment I can spend an hour writing and revising it. Blogging is a challenge. Takes too much time and effort. I write numerous drafts before I post anything. Every time I click the “Publish” button a warning shiver runs through me. For this reason I’ve held back publishing my books. They have to be perfect and of course, they never will. So I dither and revise and edit until it may be too late.

    • Luanne

      Susan, you are worse than I am! I remember when I was teaching and a co-worker told me that she took over an hour just writing comments for each student paper. If I had done that I wouldn’t even have slept, ate, or taken care of my children! But it showed me that there is such a difference between time involved for any project depending on how it’s approached by the worker. My husband worked time-study as a young man, and of course, the difference between people isn’t accounted for!

  19. I struggle and agonize with every post. I want it to sound like me when I speak, but then I get concerned it sounds stupid. Then I worry with how much to include, so I chop and add, then edit and chop. Sometimes it ends up losing some of the fun in the process.

    • Luanne

      Oh no! You definitely never sound stupid! I know what you mean, though, that if you work on it too long it loses its fun.

  20. Pingback: On Revision | Seventeen 20

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  22. I revise my “darlings” to death and keep them on my desk top. They are the expanded pieces of my blog posts. I try to edit and revisit my blog post before hitting the “Publish” button. It can be an agonizing process! Lately, I have been trying to experiment with shorter posts, unexpected bits, and daily prompts!

    • Luanne

      I like the idea of the latter things you mention, and I keep promising myself to try the daily prompts and then I never do because I can’t work so quickly because of all my interruptions from . . . work (drats). Good luck with yours–I love the idea of “unexpected bits”!

  23. I begin most of my posts in my head. Then I type them up. I fiddle with them (phrasing, cut out all the extra “the” and “that” words) and publish them. I then read the published copy – it seems different somehow, and I sometimes catch typos that way. My blogs don’t sound like me talking; they sound like me writing. This is why I’m not sure I’ve actually mastered the art of blogging; really, I’m mostly publishing short essays on my blog (I have started adding some photographs!). I’ve found blogging has quickened my ability to write these short essays in the form I want them the first time through. For my longer work—short stories, novels—time is an essential ingredient in the editing: writing, letting it sit, re-looking at it, re-writing. Thank you for your blog – it helps to read your posts and the comments here.

    • Luanne

      I am really intrigued by your comment that you might not have mastered “the art of blogging.” It startled me and made me wonder if I haven’t either. After all, I naturally write essays which veer a little toward the lyric sometimes and other times toward the academic. I do write posts in my speaking voice, though. But if mastering the art of blogging means using all the tools of blogging by varying content and responding to prompts which move me away from my many areas of focus, then I sure haven’t! I agree that blogging has quickened my ability (to use your phrase) to write these short essays–and I think has quickened my ability to write in other genres as well. Sentence structure comes more easily and swiftly now.

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