How I Write an Article

To start most articles I just brain dump into Notational Velocity or Simplenote. My location makes no difference (which is why I love Simplenote and Notational Velocity so).

I often times start an article by writing what I assume will be the introduction (though it’s likely to get changed dramatically before all is written and done with). This introduction is, to me, the heart of what I want to actually say.

Then I just start pecking away. I write in Markdown and in short, incomplete sentences. This first-draft writing stage is when I love my article the most. It’s full of bullet points, convictions, trains of thought, and, most importantly, delusions of grandeur.

If by chance the keyboard and I get into a flow I may write the whole piece all at once, but that is rarely the case. A lot of times I have a substantial amount of research and/or thinking to do in order to get a well rounded article. And so I start with my basic ideas and assumptions and then answer more questions to fill in the gaps with juicy details and desirous how-tos.

This is especially true of my reviews. I start typing and end up with a whole lot of very ugly text. Just lots and lots of chunks of text. It’s during that first draft that I try to write until I’m absolutely spent and have nothing left to type. It would be better to write 5,000 words and edit them down into a 2,000-word article than to write 500 words and force more in an attempt to build it up.

But that is not to imply that when writing a software review I write about every single feature. In fact it is the opposite; I make a point not to address every feature. I am not writing a laundry list, I’m telling a story. So instead of feature listing, I do my best to highlight what it is about the application which has most impacted me and why I enjoy it so much. Then I try to talk in detail about those features — sharing emotion, musings, and information about them.

Once I have nothing left to type I step away from the whole thing (usually by opening a separate text editor, such as TextEdit or TextMate) and write an outline for how I actually want the article to flow. This basic outline helps to bring some semblance of structure and organization to the article.

Then I copy and paste each sentence, one by one, from the original brain dump into the outline. This places the random chunks of text into their new home of organization, and is an exercise which helps me get out of the nitty-gritty details and look at the overall scope and flow of the article. Because once that has been defined it is much easier to see what needs addition and what needs subtraction.

Often at this stage I find fresh inspiration to write more. So I do.

After that secondary writing phase I am usually done with all that needs to be written. So now I start editing. Then re-writing. Re-editing. And repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

By now I’m sick and tired of the whole thing. I put it into MarsEdit ask my wife to read it via MarsEdit’s perfect preview. Or I just walk away from it for a day or seven.

I then edit one more time before finally just publishing and hoping for the best.

You would think that after writing this website for over three years I’d be able to sit down and just crank something out quickly and easily. But I can’t. And maybe I never will. But that’s okay, writing is a process and I dearly enjoy it.

And thank you, dear reader, for reading. It takes a lot of time to write here, and I appreciate that you show up to read it every now and then.

How I Write an Article