What a Difference a Draft Makes

A bare bones rough draft is a blogger’s best friend in a times of need because it’s a time-saver. A rough draft that outlines your subject, your perspective and main points for expansion, and contains links to credible sources can be the start of something beautiful.

datebookA large selection of WordPress themes with up to 10 unique post formats supports blogging on the go, but don’t under estimate the difference a draft can make.

Watching/listening to videos and podcasts on subjects you blog about can provide great ideas for new posts and so can subscribing to RSS Feeds. Every day events and special events can bring subjects to mind too. When you have a Blog It Ideas Checklist you are bound to have a collection of rough drafts on hand.

A rough draft is a rudimentary version of  what will you will put together, polish and publish as a post. Many writers, myself included, use multiple rough drafts to construct a final draft. No attention is given to grammar and spelling in the first rough drafts. What’s communicated is the beginnings of what will be fleshed out and cleaned up in the edited version, ready for publication.

Well, look at that — I have 46 unfinished posts in my dashboard! How about you? Scroll down and scan these unpublished treasures: you may re-discover a piece of memoir you couldn’t finish at the time, an incomplete gallery of images from last summer’s vacation, or a post you’ve simply forgotten. – Perennial Favorites: The Ghosts in Your Dashboard

Developing a rough draft fully can lead to publishing a top quality standard length post or even a longer essay that may become one of the most successful articles in your collection. So take a critical look at your rough drafts and see what  you’ve tucked away in your dashboard that’s waiting for your creative touch.

As you develop you rough draft, keep the following tips in mind :

Write a strong introduction that will get the attention and interest of your readers. Open with your hook, use strong verbs and, state your thesis with clarity and confidence.

The body paragraphs of your rough draft are the main points you make and also provide the information that backs up your position or point of view. Use search engines to update your information as you develop your rough drafts because nothing is more embarrassing than being unaware of new developments.

A structure of five paragraphs each aimed at a separate aspect of the topic or theme linked together in logical chain can be ideal.  You can use each paragraph to develop three or four supporting or explanatory points on a sub-topic. Be sure to create a clear hierarchy and position keywords in headings and sub-headings and in the natural flow of the text. – Structuring Your Post

Use transitional words and phrases to serve as bridges from one idea to the next, one sentence to the next, or one paragraph to the next, and help your readers see the bigger picture.  Provide personal examples wherever you can and use the active voice wherever possible.

Your conclusion is your last chance to help readers truly understand the subject you are presenting and why it matters. Leave a lasting impression with your readers by placing emphasis on broader implications of the subject as a whole.

 Discussion

Do you have a raft of drafts tucked away in your dashboard?

Related posts:
10 Guidelines for Writing Engaging Posts
Targeted Blog Post Titles Draw Traffic
Keyword Power in the Blogging World
Better Blogging: Powerful, Persuasive Writing
Top 5 Informative Writing Tips for Bloggers
Quick Blog Post Tagging Tips

54 thoughts on “What a Difference a Draft Makes

  1. I have 1-2 rough drafts, at any time. The problem, is for a personal blog, I might not be as disciplined as other types of writing situations.

    I tend to write up 50-70% of it. Then start honing or adjusting before I finish off. Most interestingly I’m inspired at least 40% of time by a photo or photos I’ve taken and I really want to share. So I end up with a theme or blog post topic “hook” in my head that I use build my post. It’s very atypical style of writing inspiration compared to um….course work, job related writing. :)

    1. I used to have many drafts but now I’m not well enough to have a supply on hand – too bad – sad.:(

      If I were a photgrapher type I think the images would inspire me too because I find that happens with free stock images for me from time to time.

      My work related writing is technical and that means the informative style and approach is best suited for it. To some degree that is the writing style I tend use in this blog when creating step by step tutorials.

  2. If one was to look at a first draft of one of my posts, it would appear to them as a collection of notes stuck on a blackboard. The first draft is never meant to be readable, but rather where all the materials are laid to begin the building. Research notes, poll stats, questions, points to make, etc.

    Some writers have the gift to lay it all out in front of them, scan it, then start to put it together in their head.

    I never worry about grammar the first time around. What’s important in the first draft is to get the spark ignited. Then you pick from those notes as you need them like plucking grapes off a vine.

    Post formats are helpful, but once you develop a voice of your own, you have to let that voice command the navigation for where your post goes.

    Good post! 😊

    1. Hi Joseph,
      That’s exactly how mine look too, when I have them. I do numerous edits of drafts and the first ones tend to be link dumps to research materials. Having read your comment I can see that we have the same approach. Sorry for the delayed response.

  3. It’s unusual for me to have more than one blog post at the draft stage. Count me in as a relentless reviser, however. I want my posts and my illustrations to both appear effortless– unfortunately, this requires a great deal of effort, rewriting, and tweaking!! : )

    (I also tend to rewrite and polish the comments I leave– sigh. Must be a personality thing, and/or a neurosis… : )

    1. I used to have lots of drafts but now I don`t have the time to create them and I sure wish I did.

      (I also tend to rewrite and polish the comments I leave– sigh. Must be a personality thing, and/or a neurosis… : )

      Me too.

  4. A great post and solid advice, TT. The number one thing any blogger should focus on is quality content. Without it, all the SEO and other tricks in the world won’t help, at least not for very long. Writing a draft, letting it sit and then coming back to it is a great way for a writer gain perspective on the topic and really polish it.

    Your advice not to worry about grammar, spelling, etc. in the first drafts is spot on. It reminded me of this great, short clip from the movie “Finding Forrester”. As Sean Connery’s character says, “You write the first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head.” http://wp.me/pwfa1-ev (The clip is at the end of the post.)

    Cheers!

  5. Great article and site! I am so happy to learn that I am not the only one who likes to work with drafts. Unless I’m doing a poem or responding to a prompt, I just can’t write and post on the same day.

    I’ve learned to postdate all my drafts so I don’t accidentally publish too soon. I’m new and still learning. Your blog has been very helpful so thanks!

  6. Sometimes I have 3 or 4 stories in the “can” (drafts ready to go). Others, I’m scrambling for ‘what am I going to write for this week?’ I prefer to have stories written ahead so I can revise, edit and fine tune the copy before publishing. Timethief, your suggestions are good ones. I’ve given some of the same advice to my students. ;)

  7. I don’t have a raft of drafts, but I would NEVER think about publishing a post that had not been radically revised and edited–often as many as 20 or 25 times. I kid you not.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    1. Hi there Kathy,
      I thought I probably held the all-time record for editing draft posts over and over so it’s good to know I have a companion. :)

  8. Lemme see … hmm … 13 … not bad… saved in a document on my computer, however. Not that I don’t trust my dashboard … well, a little bit, but I this way I know that everything I’ve written is regularly backed up in two places other than my main computer.

  9. All great advice, timethief. At this time, I don’t have a raft of many posts waiting to gallop out of the starting line. But the upcoming one, is a big switch from all the stuff I’ve done before. It won’t be a big item…on my blog.

    I seem to go through at least 5 major drafts for a blog post. Then later it’s fine tuning. Usually, I have a germ of an idea and start to write. I don’t really organize consciously. I just focus on making sure the core ideas flow and connect to each other properly. Yes, subheadings are important to break the march of text.

    1. Hi Jean,
      Thanks so much for sharing your process. I think formatting considerations like sub-headings, and avoiding creating large blocks of text are really important. Your posts always have related images that communicate your topic as well as the text does.

      1. Thanks for your thoughts. Unlike writing a formal English essay, I can write the introductory paragraph much more quickly in a far less uninhibited way. I do consider the opening 1-2 sentences in a blog post quite key because a blog theme can show excerpts and a thumbnail photo. It’s a matter of grabbing reader’s attention and having them make the extra effort to click to read more.

        But it cannot be an opening sentence that is unrelated to the paragraph nor subject matter.

        1. I’m with you all the way on this too. There’s no doubt about the fact the first 2 sentences either grab a reader’s attention or they don’t. What you say about an unrelated opening sentence is so true. It’s peeved me right off when I have been suckered by an opportunist who has tried to pull one over by playing SEO games with keywords. If I experience this once on a blog that’s the kiss of death – I will not follow such a blog.

  10. Outside of school assignments, I have NEVER outlined or rough drafted a thing I’ve written as what I found was that a preferred finished product does not correspond to the draft. Within a couple of paragraphs my actual thoughts develop (reason out) otherwise. This is especially true with fiction, but otherwise as well. This note is so done. I don’t think I do too badly without either outline or rough draft. Apparently some people don’t start with a condensed version of something in mind, although it’s probably helpful to some people to do both outline and rough draft.

    1. My first go is always simple. I just pour out whatever I have on the subject and then I search and add information begin to organize my draft unconsciously. After I pick up that draft from the dashboard I begin to develop it by doing draft after draft until I have what I want to publish.

      1. In journalism, there is a thing called the “inverted pyramid.” That “who, what, when, where, why, how” business is supposed to be incorporated into the first paragraph, ideally into the first sentence. Well, if it’s all in the first sentence, then all you can do after that is add details. The style doesn’t lend itself to breaking something down into components.

  11. Yes, ma’am, I do have those drafts. As a matter of fact, I currently have 167 drafts. Every one has a title (which may change, of course). Some are nearly complete, others are only a collection of interesting links, or an evocative paragraph or two. One is titled simply, “Poetry Drafts,” and a half-dozen poem starts are there.

    My current post about the renovation of a historic home in Kansas was in draft form for three years, while I made three trips to Kansas and continued research. It was worth letting it simmer for a while.

    A note: I always — ALWAYS — have a backup copy of my drafts, too. I like to work in the WP editor, but I never let things just sit there. Things happen, after all. ;)

    1. Small things can spark the imagination so it’s important to collect interesting links and/or develop evocative paragraphs like you are doing. I’m impressed. 167 drafts is a large number and the 3 years that went into the development of the historical piece is reflected in your commitment to get the story and share it with us. When it comes to backups more than one in more than one and in more that one location is recommended.

  12. Hi TimeThief, Yes, half a dozen drafts, though they tend to be just notes or phrases, not as fully formed a text as you describe above, or a photo which is in fact the inspiration or reminder for the story. But I am also in the throes of re-thinking the whole blog and working on a “draft” of a whole new look/feel/raison d’etre for the site. As always your articles and other resources here have been invaluable as I work through my ideas, re-assessing content, arrangement, theme choice, some technical repair work on SEO related functions (titles, photos, etc.), re-thinking copywrite matters, etc. Thank you again for all the work and research you put into this site, it is an invaluable resource.

    1. Hi Cynthia,
      I don’t carry as much around in my head as I did before and it sounds like you and I both squirrel bits of this and that away. It’s the fragments – links, images, videos, quotes and bits and pieces of what I read that lead to developing posts in the future. Re-thinking and re-branding your site is bound to be an exciting adventure that will impact content. I’m wishing you well with that and in all things as always. Thanks for the kind words.

  13. Prescience indeed. I have just installed a yellow post-it on my desktop to make notes of post subjects to be considered. I have been scratching around recently for a template/to do list for production of the post. Planning sure beats my normal style of banging off a post and then come back to make changes 2 or 3 times before the article is at a stage it should have been before hitting the Update button, and then along comes TT to the rescue, again.

    1. Hi Peter,
      I not only have over 2 dozen revisions for draft posts I frequently find errors I need to correct after publishing posts. :(

  14. I have two drafts stashed, ready for working on later. I tend to do the photo editing and save the photos to a new post which I put away in the dashboard. Then I work on the writing at my leisure.

  15. Drafts are a great resource.

    Since September 2010 the draft of an article I started on the effects of cumulative levels of mercury in tuna has been calling out to me ‘Finish me, lazybones.’

  16. I actually have no rough drafts I admit they are all in my head! My ideas come when I am away from the computer or unable to tyoe it is sooo frustrating hah but great informative post x

      1. yes you know what though I am never ever by a computer when my thinking moments happen, because of my back i spend alot of time on my yoga mat and am meant to be ‘concentrating’ on my position, being good and thats when the thoughts come flooding in, and I know I would get told off if I start writing then and by the time I get up I have forgotten, lol I need a PA that can stand over me that I can just dictate my thoughts to lol..I wish!

  17. I want to thank you so very much! Because of this post, I went into my drafts late tonight and I had this VERY SKETCHY (literally a humor sketch!) post that was sort of a parody about being Freshly Pressed. I had no beginning (no hook) and no ending (no closure) so it had just been sitting there. Somehow what you wrote in this post stuck with me, things suddenly clicked and I don’t mind saying, I’m rather proud of it. Thank you!!!!
    Stephanie

  18. Yes, I certainly do. Thanks for your post – I often though that having many unfinished posts was not a good idea. But Im learning to keep the ideas flowing and capture as much inspiration as possible, then polish the post. What would be interesting is to know is, how much is enough content for an excellent post in your opinion?

    1. Hello there,
      These days the length of a post is irrelevant and the quality of the writing in a post is irrelevant when it comes to popularity.

      One can slap up and image of a cat without any text at all and the post has the potential of exceeding popularity and going viral. Well, there isn’t a single cat image I have ever seen that meets my criteria for an excellent post.

      Just like beauty, excellence is determined in the eye/mind of the beholder. And, what we witness is that legions of people with internet access will be entertained by and willing to promote as “excellent” what I consider to be rubbish.

      1. Yes. Thank you for your considered opinion. I agree and suppose the content of a post might be excellent to a certain audience and boring to another. I suppose a post could also be seen to be like some sections of the traditional media – whatever is popular gets hits regardless of its newsworthiness or actual content.

        1. That’s our reality. One can post what they consider to be a treasure and if there are legions out there who agree and click like button and share buttons it can become viral. Without getting into details, I have some friends on Tumblr with a twisted sense of humor. They have what they privately refer to as a “rubbish blog” where they deliberately post trash, and then they laugh themselves sick over the legions who promote what they post.

  19. I tried that once, worked on a post over a few days, and when I finally hit publish my blog was no where to be found! When I asked support, they found it posted on the date of my first rough draft, days before! I was told it was a glitch, but I am way too nervous to do that again. Now I write and post on the same day, just in case….

    1. Hi there,
      I think your clock is a hoot. http://foundthispaintedthat.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/hit-me-baby-one-more-time/

      Are you logging in here http://wordpress.com?
      If so, don’t do that!

      Always login in here to your own blog’s dashboard only
      http://foundthispaintedthat.wordpress.com/wp-admin
      Bookmark that link.

      What you describe tells me you are probably creating posts here http://wordpress.com/#!/post/ where the auto-save is not functioning well. If so, don’t do that!
      Always create your posts on the dashboard of your own blog at
      Dashboard > Posts > All Posts > Add New
      http://foundthispaintedthat.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php
      The auto-save works there and the post will be Standard post format unless you change it.

      If any post was created on the dashboard of your own blog at Dashboard > Posts > All Posts > Add New then you ought to be able to recover a lost post or page from revisions if needs be.
      http://en.support.wordpress.com/posts/post-revisions/
      See also if applicable > restoring from trash http://en.support.wordpress.com/trash/#restoring-from-trash

      (If you are referring to a Page then see here > http://en.support.wordpress.com/pages/page-revisions/)

      I recommend:
      Always create your posts on the dashboard of your own blog at
      Dashboard > Posts > All Posts > Add New
      Always allow pages to fully load before clicking any other links.
      Use an offline blog editor so you have backups on your own computer http://en.support.wordpress.com/xml-rpc/

      P.S. If I have the time to this weekend I may create a draft post titled “If so, don’t do that!” ;)

      1. Yes do the post! And thanks for the bookmark tips! Yes I was going to WordPress.com but I won’t do that again. I have never however written a post on anything but my own dashboard – I am way too un-savvy to have tried it anywhere else, lol. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would benefit from your nuggets of gold, though!

        1. Oh no! You lost content and the post was created on your dashboard. That sucks! You need to use an offline blog editor.

          P.S. I’m not doing that post while I’m in this mood. I’ll wait until I’m in a better frame of mind to do it and probably give it a much tamer title.

  20. I have several “drafts” but only one or two in the Dashboard. The drafts are sort of spread out, some in Windows Live Writer, a file directory with a title for the pictures I need to either take or I have taken the picture and sometimes have reworked them for the web. I also have a notebook with some ideas for Posts.

    When I write I just try and get words down. If the paragraph order is wrong or something, not a big deal, I then go back and try and make things to not embarrass myself. I do a lot of fine tuning of the writing. Words are so hard for me that I just try and get something down then go back and fix it.

    I do work extra hard on the first 65 words or so – the ones in the Reader and email – I want to hook folks in –

    I use the More tag on the front page so people can page down easily from Post to Post and see what the Post is about. One picture for the lead above the More Tag

    1. I used to have a raft of draft posts in my dashboard in both blogs, and in my private blogs, and in my notebooks. I have always carried little notebooks that I jot ideas down in and doodle in. A decade ago I had time to blog but that changed when hubby took his new position. These last 2 1/2 years I have struggled to make the time to blog, help in the business, do contracted work, and keep house. Such is life. One has to work to live and I won’t be able to get off the hamster wheel for some time to come.

      Your second paragraph and third paragraph describes my process too. I forge ahead when I because the words don’t always come easily and the time I have to blog in is so short. When it come to post revisions I usually have way more than 25 for each post.

      It seems I get a little bit done and the phone rings or someone approaches me who needs my help so I stop and help. Then when I return I have to get my head back into the writing process. I long for the days when I can do one thing at a time uninterrupted but they won’t happen until I retire.

  21. You’re right. I take more trouble with articles that I submit to others and being the editor and publisher of my blog, I find myself far too impatient to do as good a job as I should.

    1. Hi Mary,
      Hmmm … I hadn’t meant this to be a “pull up your socks” type of post but if you needed to read that message between the lines then I guess that it’s a good thing you read it.

      I like The Columnist theme on your blog but I spotted an issue that negatively affects traffic to your posts. Please read this http://en.support.wordpress.com/topics/#missing-posts and then read this post and apply what you learn from it > http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2013/03/15/quick-blog-post-tagging-tips/

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