To write is to rewrite

To write is to rewrite

Who in their right mind writes a piece straight off, and that’s it - done?

No-one, that’s who.

That’s because revising / editing / refining what you’ve done - however you want to describe it - is at the very heart of it all.

Ernest Hemingway once said “the only kind of writing is rewriting.”

If you imagine a piece of content to be like a block of raw material a sculptor might work on - that raw material needs to be chipped away at and ‘shaped’, until it looks right. I think there’s a similar principle behind the art of writing.

There’s an assumption made by some though, (typically senior executives without any kind of marketing background) that most content can just be ‘banged out’ really quickly, doesn’t need any editing, and despite that, will be fantastic and totally fit-for-purpose.

You know the kind of people I mean. Those people who sort of belittle your craft by saying something like:

“I could easily write a few blogs in a day.”

“I wrote a blog once.”

“My three-year old wrote a blog once.”

This kind of ‘gives away’ how much they value the content creation process; i.e. not very much at all. They might therefore regard content to be something quite throwaway / disposable - a ‘nice to have’.

In my full-time employed, non-freelance life, I’ve had a few battles with these kinds of people. All non-marketing people. For the most part, they were battles often lost to their blind arrogance and pomposity, just because they were invariably far more superior than I, in the office. What can you do?

Anyway, back to the point, before I turn this piece into a full-blown rant.

Editing, revising etc… it’s not just about proofing your work for typos. You’re checking that the whole thing actually makes sense, that it has a logical ‘flow’, and, if it’s not a pure informational or factual piece of content, that it makes a point - and makes it well.

Revision / edit types might include:

  • Reducing the overall length of the content

  • Amending or adding headings

  • Tweaking the overall structure of the piece

  • Swapping out words to prevent repetition

  • Removing paragraphs which generally ‘don’t fit well’ or repeat something said elsewhere in the content

I bet if I were to go through all of my self-penned pieces on this site, I could shape and edit them a little more, so they read better or are brought more up to date, factually. In fact, sometimes I will actually do just that - it allows me a valid excuse to republish and re-promote it, if I’ve improved on its relevance enough and given it a bit of a polish.

I believe one of our skills as content creators is the ability to revamp and repurpose existing content (i.e into an infographic, mini-paper, video content, etc) - and this comes from the established knack of being able to revise, reshape and generally edit things.

A few general tips:

  • Revisit the brief. How well does it fit with what you’ve done, or where you’re going with it?

  • Be self-critical and realistic. To an extent, we’re all protective about the content we write, but it’s actually really healthy to read it whilst trying to be as objective as possible. Stepping into this frame of mind can allow you to identify ‘chinks in the armour’, and pick up on things which your client might comment on or question.

  • If time allows, try to come back to re-reading your draft later that day - or even the next day. Fresh pair of eyes, and all that. It can work wonders. (‘Peer reviews’ aren’t always an option…)

  • Don’t be afraid to delete stuff. Do you really need that extra paragraph (the one you’re pleased with, but doesn’t prove a natural fit for the flow of the overall piece!)? Is your piece actually 500 words too long now?

The long and short of it is that edits are necessary. Even the best writers have editors.

Give your drafted content the treatment and attention it deserves.

What to do with your company website’s old content

What to do with your company website’s old content

Interview with Rob Mills from GatherContent

Interview with Rob Mills from GatherContent