Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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The Writing Process

I just discovered a great article over at Poynter Online all about the writing process. The author, Roy Peter Clark, suggests this process:

Sniff. Explore. Collect. Focus. Select. Order. Draft. Revise.

I couldn’t agree more. Although I no longer write in this style very often, when I was writing for a magazine this is pretty close to the steps I followed. The sniff is constant for me, I’m always looking around, reading interesting things, keeping my eyes open. After I’d sniff out a good topic to write about, I’d dive in and really explore. I’d find out what the real deal was, read as much as I can, get a handle on the major players, the major products, etc. I’d then follow that by collecting everything I could. That included research, writing and, of course, interviews. I’d do as many interviews as I could get. Sometimes whole interviews would get shelved, sometimes I’d only use a single line from an hour interview. It’s that kind of cutting that I did during the focus step, though I must admit that I usually focused during my ordering/drafting, rather as a separate step.

Then came the most important step, and the most important lesson I learned from writing for a magazine.

Revise, revise, revise.

Never hold on to your words, cut like crazy. Take other people’s advice. Read it over again. Cut again. Just get rid of filler, no matter how much you love what you’ve written. Hold on ideas not onto words. That is a tough lesson to learn, but an important one. Too often we become attached to what we’ve written and we’re not able to make good and logical choices about what’s good/important/necessary and what’s not. That’s why you let someone else read it with a big red pen. I know it’s scary, but it’s necessary.

Just to be clear, this by no means is the process I follow here. This place is all about ideas for me, I get them written as soon as I have them and explore them in writing. It’s a different approach and a different goal. In reality this is part of my sniffing: The very first step. I explore ideas, explore my mind and get feedback. There are countless things I’ve written here that could easily turn into larger pieces if I wished them too.

It’s for that very reason that I love this space and this style. It’s a fun way to think through ideas in public.

June 14, 2005