Crafting the Message, pt. 3: Composition and Revision

The Sourcerer and Writing Catalog debut posts combined add up to 359 words. The two drafts I have posted on the sidebar are 563. Most of the difference in the word count is in the Sourcerer post. The final Writing Catalog post is only about five words shorter than the early draft, but it is radically different in tone.

I think one example will serve to illustrate my point. The idea of the Writing Catalog debut post was to give a little speech, since I did invite everyone to the ribbon-cutting earlier in the day. The speech was to answer the question posed in the title: “Why a writing catalog?”

Here is the first paragraph of the draft (even though it contains two line breaks, it is all one paragraph, organizationally-speaking):

The short answer is that I’ve never seen a site quite like the one I want to build.

The detailed version:

My sister is the proprietor of Part Time Monster, and she’s asked me to contribute there. And since I have been studying blogs for years, to help her figure out ways of building an audience for the PTM contributors, many of whom are writers.

Now, the first paragraph of the final version (again, the line break isn’t really a paragraph break).

Because my sister is a  Part Time Monster, and needs contributors. And she knows I’ve been playing with blogs for years. She wants an big audience for her writing and that means she must have more bloggers.

So I created this little affiliate. I tailored it to a more specific segment of the blogging community, and set it up to be a useful resource for writers once I accumulate a nice archive.

Here are a few things I notice about the differences.

1. I transformed Diana from the proprietor of a website into an actual Part Time Monster. That is the difference between description and metaphor, and I think it works rather well here, especially since the “Part Time Monster” title is explained at the link for anyone who cares to read it.

2. The final version transforms me from a person who knows something about blogs, and is helping with audience building, into a contributor who is doing Diana a good turn, because contributors are what she needs.

3. The final version gets to the purpose of The Writing Catalog immediately while the draft passage doesn’t mention that at all in the introduction. It also sets  up a transition that allows me to introduce Universal Half Truths later in the post. That link is not in the draft, and it would have been a mistake to publish without including it.

4. I think, overall, the final draft is a more smooth and easy read. It’s better-paced, and it sounds more like I am talking to real people – all of which are improvements.

I don’t need to quote the Sourcerer draft to explain how I arrived at the final version. It took about 45 minutes to write, and I spent the next 24 hours re-reading and cutting it. I was cutting it right up to the minute I published it. According to the WordPress dashboard, I went through 13 revisions after I pasted it in.

No one, not even Diana, saw it until I posted it. I cut with two things, and two things only, in mind — improving the flow and eliminating things I did not really need to say. My goal was to end up with something that read like the punchline to a joke, but communicated some very serious goals at the same time.

Now, for the order I did all this in.

First, I wrote the draft of the Writing Catalog debut. I sent it to Diana with specific instructions. I told her not to worry about editing or critiquing anything but major flaws, but she needed to read it because I was talking about her blog and trading on our sibling relationship. I made a little joke in the subject line of the email: “Your dragon is almost ready to bite,” referring, of course, to Sourcerer.

That joke was the seed of the Sourcerer post. I had known for a week what it needed to say, but I didn’t have the frame for it until I made the joke. As I was sitting down to write it, I thought “Why not push that joke to the point of absurdity and present Sourcerer as this mighty creature we’ve been training in secret?”

By the time I was done drafting the Sourcerer post, I realized I had to re-write the Writing Catalog debut to make it more crisp, and to make the tones of the two pieces more consistent. I had the revision complete before I received Diana’s ok on the draft I had sent her.

Once the re-write was done, I did not go back to the Writing Catalog post. I spent Wednesday night and Thursday morning connecting my blogs to as many networks as possible, and cutting the Sourcerer post.

This concludes Crafting the Message. Part 1 and Part 2 are in the archive; and this series has its own category.

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