The Writing Process

Photo from: Tales from the Writing Front
Every one has a different style for writing and a different process. This was very apparent to me as I watched Jason write a huge paper for one of his recent classes. While he writes and then edits and makes changes to the final product, I prefer to write and edit as I go, giving me multiple drafts with subtle differences.

Then I had a wordpress error/crash that caused two drafts to totally disappear. In my frustration, I posted a tweet, which got some responses I wasn’t expecting. Several people, including Matt Florence and Jeremy Day suggested writing in word first (which I am now doing) and then transfer to wordpress.

Then I started to wonder how other PR professionals write, so I posed the question to Peter C., Editor & Publisher of PRBC, whose writing is always inspirational and well done.

Peter says his actual process has evolved over the years. He used to be more like me, methodical and “outline, decide how many paragraphs to spend on a topic or theme and then begin drafting.”

Now he says he just writes.

“I’ve usually got an idea of what I want the final product to look like and just assemble the various bullets in my head into sentences and paragraphs,” Peter said. “I stop every few paragraphs and reread to make sure it’s going where it should be and there aren’t any logical gaps or tangents that should be followed (or ones that were followed that I’m now not sure about).”

As for the technical process of composing in word, on paper or in another format, he just uses what will work best for him when he sits down to write. Peter favors using wordpress and saving multiple drafts along the way. But that isn’t his only choice place to write.

“I’m actually a very big fan of google docs when you’re working with a wonky system, or not sure what PC you’ll be accessing from later on,” Peter said. “I’ve been using GDocs since it was Writely and acquired by Google. After setting up autosave on Google Docs the entire system can crash and you’ve still got a recently saved version just sitting there waiting for your next keystroke.”

As someone who just lost two whole drafts, that is very appealing to me.

Peter does recommend Google Docs for writers interested in making sure their work is saved on a regular basis, especially those just starting out.

“When you’re just starting out you’re so concerned with everything else and it’s too easy to hit publish instead of save, that working in a different platform entirely comes in very handy since it prevents accidental publication (what I like to call idiot proofing),” Peter said.

Before using Google Docs, Peter relied on two personal systems for making sure he didn’t lose his content: “memorizing the keystroke for ‘save’ and just hitting it each time I hit enter for a new paragraph and the keykatcher.”

Not familiar with this “keykatcher,” I asked Peter for further details and got kind of a Big Brother-esque explanation.

“Designed to ‘spy’ on employees (to make sure they weren’t, for example, working on their resumes at work or using Facebook) the keykatcher (or hardware key logger) is a small device that fits between your keyboard cable and the PC recording every keystroke you enter to a text file on its internal memory,” he said.

A less 1984 use was for writers to have their text saved. The Keykatcher didn’t at the point that Peter used it, save mouse movements or alt+ or control+ keystrokes but at least the text was saved and could be copied and pasted back into the document with minimal touching up.

An example of a keykatcher can be found here.

2 thoughts on “The Writing Process

  1. I consider myself a very weak writer. So my workflow may be onerous for someone more accomplished. I do want to take a moment and highlight one additional component of my workflow that helps mitigate data loss and enable mobility, Dropbox []. It offers similar benefits of using Google documents, with the advantage of not requiring an internet connection. Basically it mirrors all your files in a directory structure to all of your different computers. It works with Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s real nice; I can bounce back and forth between work laptop and home desktop during the numerous passes it takes me to get something finished and published. Happy writing!

    1. Great suggestion, Matt! I’ll have to look into it.
      Your writing can only improve with practice and you seem to be making great strides. Don’t sell yourself short.
      Thanks again!

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