I wrote a lot of this in my car, because I have a smartphone, so now I can talk sternly to it and, magically, those incantations are turned into text.
I’ve tried this method to write blog posts before, but it never quite works because swerving through rush hour traffic isn’t the most conducive environment for good writing. If you can call speaking into a phone “writing.”
But this is my experiment, because I recently read a blog post proclaiming that the “days of working on a blog post in drafts for the last week” are now dead.
That’s right. The final draft is dead. So what does that mean?
The exponential consumption argument
I’ve talked before about how the internet has made our capacity for information consumption grow exponentially, and how that’s going to affect the future of books.
Really, people just don’t spend a whole lot of time reading any one thing online. They skim a lot of stuff and skip through sections.
Chris Brogan’s argument is that we need to accommodate how people read blogs by adjusting to this new habit.
“If the idea’s worth anything, post it. Even unfinished if you have to. You’re not being graded. You’re being consumed, absorbed, and if you’re lucky, passed around. If you don’t have time for the best blog post ever, what are you doing with your time? Reading Mashable? You have work to do.”
In my experience, the equation is simple: when I post something, I get more traffic.
That’s Chris Brogan’s argument, too. You’re trying to earn an audience with all of your blog posts.
The more posts, the bigger the audience.
But posting more than once a week is hard
All authors take pride in their work. We don’t want to put out a half-finished product.
I started blogging with the goal of posting twice a week, but I ran into the insurmountable barrier of having stuff to do.
The real issue is that when I think about writing a post, I immediately attach a one or two hour price-tag to the process.
Not to mention the mental labor involved.
Now, I’m wondering if that’s the wrong approach.
Should we all try to write faster, shorter pieces? Think about how you’re reading this post or how you read any post:
If people aren’t reading the whole blog post anyway, why am I spending time agonizing over each sentence?
I think that there’s a fine line between “good content” and “great content.”
That line is about an extra hour of time.
I wonder if the people who manage to create good content, fast, will eventually overcome the people who create the great content, but take twice as long to do it.
Maybe creating quick posts that build a holistic theme is actually the right way to blog. After all, it takes less time and builds more of an audience, right?
But what about books?
There’s a very palpable fear among authors that this is going to be a winning strategy in the world of self-publishing, that writing commercial ebooks is going to be the only way to make money because they’re faster to write and, in the world of exponential information consumption, faster is better.
I think it’s going to come down to a balance of quality and quantity.
That horrifies some people, but I honestly think there’s something to the art of producing a quantity of quality work, rather than a few pieces of absolute genius.
Businesses have already found that mixing quality with quantity is the sweet spot of content marketing.
When it comes to books, I don’t envision people pumping out two or three novels a year, but I think once a year wouldn’t be unreasonable.
Think about it this way: the line between good and great for books is ten years. One author puts out a great book every ten years and one puts out a good book every year.
Who’s got a bigger body of literature? Whose ideas are going to get spread further? Whose work will have more of a lasting impact?
1. Quality and quantity is going to be an emerging conflict among authors.
2. Blogging is changing, because people are already awash in a sea of content and can now read things on their phones (check out my free guide on blogging)
3. Is making good stuff better than making great stuff? That’s an ongoing question and I don’t think there’s a right answer. It depends on who you are and what you’re trying to create.
4. I’m not advocating for crap content. The thing to keep in mind is that your audience is still going to demand a certain quality, which I think is going to become a self-correcting feature for authors, bloggers, and everyone else who makes content.
5. Readers forgive some mistakes, as you can see by the experience of best-selling, critically acclaimed, self-published author Hugh Howley: His short stories had typos. They led to a big book that was edited by fans of the work. The short stories were good and the novel was great.
3 thoughts on “Is the Final Draft Dead?”
Hmm, an interesting post. Also, the idea of readers helping a writer edit, participating more directly, is exciting.
conflating blogs and books is a pretty risky move – after all, we need to acknowledge how the internet works. People develop internet habits, like tics, like flipping your hair or cracking your knuckles – and you don’t make a conscious decision to do those things, they are initiated when they can be and unconsciously. Check facebook. Refresh email. Check phone. Check webcomics you like. Check blogs you like. When we check, and there’s no new content, we don’t have the “addiction-fulfilled” phenomenon. It’s off-putting, and disappointing. That’s why the best internet sites are basically continual content generators – facebook, twitter, and email are things that pretty much always have something ready for you when you perform your habitual (how many times a day? 50?) check of it. Then you get that little tidbit of information and it’s rewarding. I think blogs respond to the same phenomenon – you check your favorites, maybe once every couple days or once a day – everyone makes their habitual “internet rounds” like a dog turning three times before sleeping.
That’s why sometimes reasoning like this sounds suspiciously like evolutionary biology just-so story. After all, if people are pressed for time, wouldn’t they want better written books, and fewer of them? I think that we’re not pressed for time at all – I recently realized exactly how much free time I have – finances, rent payments, paychecks, phone bills, even cooking, everything is so automated now. It’s not that we are the generation without free time – we are the generation with the most free time, but we spend it pursuing certain internet addictions (netflix, twitter, reading news, cute puppies, etc). I think rather the internet is driving a different trend, but I’m not sure it conflicts with the old trend. The different trend is that those personalities capable of basically infinite content generation, none of it astounding but none of it horrible, have a niche in the blog/internet world (see Jonah Lehrer for how this can end in spectacular fashion). But this doesn’t directly conflict – because people don’t want infinite content from books or movies, they want infinite content to answer their habitual internet tics and checks, which includes blogs.
I really like the idea of blog posts “internet tics,” that’s a great point. And it’s definitely true that we technically shouldn’t be pressed for time, since so many things are becoming automated… but I think when you can press a button to read, see, watch, or hear anything you want, at any point, no matter where you are, your priorities are bound to get jumbled.
Books, in a sense, are now competing with every other kind of media. I don’t think that the “novel” in the traditional sense will get replaced, but I do think that there will be a lot of new forms popping up over the coming years.
The reason Howley is so intriguing to me is that he did what I talk about in this post: he led up to his novel with short stories that helped form the foundation for it and, at the same time, build his audience for that novel.
I don’t necessarily think books will be written like blog posts, but I think that short, bite-size stories will have the same principles when it comes to marketing, building an audience, and making sure people are excited about your book when it does come out in its entirety.
blog posts *serving* “internet tics”