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3 Places Your Best Ideas Are Hiding In Your First Drafts

Posted By Darren Rowse 4th of May 2015 Writing Content 0 Comments

Many bloggers write drafts and then ‘edit’ their writing – but ‘revising’ is a little different and is definitely a good exercise.

Today I came across a great short video by Beth Dunn from Hubspot that was recorded earlier in the year at the Inbound conference.

In the video Beth talks about ‘fixing your writing’ by learning to ‘revise’ your work.

There’s lots of take home points in this video but what resonated with me most were the three points Beth makes about the places in your first drafts that your best ideas often hide (at around the 9.30 mark).

These best ideas (or the ‘screws’ or the ‘points’ as Beth calls them) are often the things that you need to pay particular attention to and that you should make the centre pieces of your revised drafts.

These points regularly can be found:

The Change

The place in our writing where we hit a fork in the road and it changes course in some way. Some writers call this the pivot.

For me in my writing I find myself regularly feeling tempted to take a tangent in my writing halfway through a post and have trained myself to take note while I writing of these moments because they are often golden moments that can trigger me to completely change what I’m writing or that lead to followup posts.

The Laugh

The moment while you’re writing when while you’re writing something just ‘lurches out onto the page’ and you laugh out loud and wonder where it came from.

This reminds me of a post I wrote back in 2011 about ‘Listening to Your Inner Crazy Voice‘ where I identified that I’ve noticed that many times my best ideas have made me either laugh or gasp when I’ve had them.

As I wrote back then:

In each case, the reaction I had straight after having the idea was to either laugh or gasp. In most cases, the reaction was the same when I told those around me. I’m learning that the laugh and gasp reactions are good. They tell you that you’ve thought of something a little out of the box—something that will, at the very least, get noticed.

The End

The vast majority of your great ideas will be found at the end of your first draft.

This resonated with me very strongly. I regularly find that after banging out a post that the crux of what I say is in my conclusion.

This is logical in many ways – we spend a lot of time exploring an idea in our writing and after all that grappling with the topic we refine our idea to the point where they’re a lot better when we’ve finished than when we started.

In some ways the first draft becomes the opportunity for us to think out loud to help us get to ‘the point’ or the idea.

The mistake at this point is simply to publish what we’ve written. Rather – treat your first draft as the raw material for what comes next. Take that idea that you’ve refined and make it the centrepiece of your writing.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Okay.. I know that.. SOmetimes we just click the publish button without review it

  2. (The Change and the laugh) already i started to continue practice these rules. The first draft becomes the opportunity for us to think out loud to help us get to ‘the point’ or the idea, hope it will hit me as a reminder.

    Thanks a lot :-)

  3. I remember the beginnings of when i took up blogging i came by “the change” in one of the my first articles.
    These moments can dramatically change what you were about to say

  4. Great article Darren. I feel, for me, that the one aspect I loathe is the rewriting phase, and even when I discover the gem that’s hidden in a piece, I struggle to make it central to the writing.

    This seems to be especially true when deadlines are tight, but if the writing is important, the task must be done!

    Thanks for sharing and reminding us of the critical importance!

  5. I used to be an English teacher and it was so difficult for students/people to understand the idea of drafts. I even showed the 5 copies of my graduate school application essay: and how ideas changed. Started w/ a handwritten draft, then 1st typewritten draft double spaced for room to edit/revise w/ pen, do that a couple times, then final. They want to type, hit Spell check, ignore the spell check, and print/post.
    I keep a notepad when watching tv to jot ideas and an open file on my laptop. That way i can cut apart my posts when the pivot or aha! hits.

  6. I use “the change” when I’m trying to figure out what to write. I’ll start writing ( it’s kind of a brain dump on whatever topic I choose) & just see how it evolves. If I the turn my writing has taken, then I’ll use that revision as my blog post.

  7. This is a valuable piece of information. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Darren, I really free form it lol…but in the end, it works well for me because not only am I clear on publishing without heavy editing, I enjoy it, and that enjoyment factor attracts to me the audience that digs this same approach. With that being said I am really diligent when it comes to spelling and other aspects of my blog. I do crack the whip at times but other times, I am really focused heavily on just feeling awesome as I write, and then, going live with it.


  9. I am not publishing any article without proof reading and review..

  10. That’s the best thing about writing. Something else always comes out in the draft.

  11. I guess you might say I write the first draft of blog posts in my head. But I often find one or two things that can be taken out and expanded upon in separate blog posts. So I will write and publish what I originally planned, then later write more detailed posts about the ideas that popped out at me.

  12. Added structure keeps things clean. Gives the reader a chance to digest better.

  13. i will not publish any post before proof reading. sometimes it goes in draft but no matter because quality matter instead of quantity. your tips is really helpful for me and i will definitely apply on my blog.

  14. Great ideas! I often write down laugh and gasp ideas immediately whenever I have them (not only during blogging). However, when I come back to them in a few days they are usually much less laugh and gasp. Then there is a process of self-convincing that they were great ideas and I should follow them.

    Regarding ‘The End’ point, I do not like the concept of rewriting the whole post as it takes quite a lot of time. On the other hand, I often have a feeling after writing last few paragraphs that they are the best and fully addressing what I wanted to share. I consider to prepare a draft of a draft – something like quite detailed plan what I am going to write. I hope this will force me to prepare detailed investigation and then allow effectively write the exact post I would like.

  15. I never been into writing myself but after reading all this insights i think i am going to get more into it. Very useful information here and great ideas. As others have said content is still king. Thank you Darren for such a great post.

  16. I really hate the writing part of the blog, sitting in front of the blank page trying to come up with something is the hardest part.

    Once an idea pops though its really easy to get into the flow and expand up down left and right of the idea filling it out into a full topic.

    The hardest part is often just getting in front of the keyboard knowing the pain of creativity will be there until I can get going!

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