Am I the only one who gets discouraged when, scrolling down a possibly interesting blog post, I see that it’s obviously a few thousand words? Unless the writer is a friend or an amazing writer, I’ll tend to pass. Maybe the writer had a lot to say, in which case all is well, or maybe they rambled forever… which is one of the surest ways to lose my attention.
When you start off as a blogger, you try to say everything in one post. I did. Then, that annoying advice my college teacher would repeat me until I got my essay topic approved came to haunt me again:
“Narrow it down.”
That’s when I realised I was trying to fit 3 posts in 1. From there, it was easy to separate them. What’s difficult is seeing that there are, indeed, 3 distinct ideas. They are so intricately weaved together in your head that you don’t see the different threads. Readers, however, could end up confused or bored and you don’t want that.
So you have a neverending first draft. Excellent! Now, figure out the “point” of your article. You have to be able to summarise it in a few words – your title. If you’d be tempted to add commas, or if nothing seems to grasp the entirety of your content… you might have more than one article in there.
Once you know what your point is, analyse every paragraph, then every sentence in your post. Delete or copy/paste everything that’s irrelevant. Even the funniest of anecdotes will fall flat if it’s not relevant in context. If you have such a jewel, keep it and make it shine bright where it belongs.
All of that is a bit vague, so here’s a concrete example. I tried reading a book review recently and I could not finish it. There was a lengthy introduction about the theme of the book, a rather long synopsis and a few opinions scattered here and there.
I don’t know about you, but when I read reviews, all I want is an opinion. I want to know what worked and didn’t work for you. I can read the blurb on Goodreads, and it will be one that has been rewritten several times by professionals. Actually, most of the times when I read a review, that’s because I’ve already read it and was intrigued by it. Retelling me is redundant.
As for the theme… you can mention it, but make it more than a sentence long and it might look out of place. If that theme is important to you and you feel the need to talk more about it… make another post!
It’s alright to ramble when writing your first draft. That’s what first drafts are for. It’s even okay to post some rambling, especially if you’re talking about your life. But sometimes you have to be to the point.
Of course, time being a limited resource, you have to let go eventually. I’ve rewritten this twice and edited it for several hours… It’s fiiiiine. *publish*
Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. That idea is hard to accept. We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can’t believe that it wasn’t born perfect. But the odds are close to 100 percent that it wasn’t.
– William Zinsser