A reason to iterate your writing (writing advice)

I just realised there's a thing about rewriting I could disclose. This advice should help if you're looking to write texts that are pleasant to read and still contain what you want to convey. The advice you're going to get may feel obvious but it's that only if you thought about it in the first place.

I've favored iterating my texts before because it tends to improve my texts. Sometimes I haven't done it because I was in a hurry to get the content out. There's perhaps a better reason to do this which also means it might be mandatory for great writing.

When you're writing, on one hand you want to tell something and you need to ensure the text contains what you want to convey. On the other hand you need to consider the reader and how to present the subject such that it's pleasing to read.

  1. First write down what you want to tell, elaborate as much as you want, try to get the important points on the text.
  2. On the rewrite consider the reader, how are they going to read through your text, what are they going to need to do that.

It's useful to separate these steps because it's important to consider how your text is going to be read but that would be a distraction when you're producing the text.

The first write

First of all write out whatever you think is worthwhile to write out. When you're doing this the text should come out smoothly because you're just writing out your thoughts.

The only requirement for the first write is that it can be understood by you on the second time when you're reading into it. As long as that is met then it's good text. Though if you find difficult to write then loosen this constraint and just let everything out.

Don't worry if you repeat something. Allow yourself to elaborate on your texts. Don't even worry whether you stay on the subject or not. If things start to diverge from what you were intending to write about then keep writing about those anyway. You can always put text aside and use it as foundations for the next text.

I considered preserving the first write of this text to illustrate what I mean but then I hesitated. There's comfort in not disclosing the early writes and that first write is supposed to not have an audience.

The iteration rewrite or second write

On the iteration, recall how you feel about it when you're reading other texts and consider how you'd read were it written by somebody else. Examine how you're reading through the text.

In this step you're wanting to see how the text functions when it's read and ensure it works great. You want to give headings and overall make sure it's well-written.

You're going to read through the text and ensure it's got everything that makes it nice and invites the person to read it. You also ensure that there's some chance for a person to understand what has been written down.

Considerations on tooling

Editing with a text editor actually supports this kind of a workflow. The first step happens in a text editor, and eventually in the middle of the second step, when you're looking to read the text you'll throw it into more readable form, eg. you run...

pandoc index.md -o index.html

Then you're going to read it like your readers are going to see it.


It may be that you'll end up with more to write about once you've finished your text. This means for further reiteration and may mean you diverge from this advice. The count of iteration steps is not important. It could be that you're even doing this all in one step if you're capable of doing so.

I think I ended up writing this text 3 times. There was separate steps where I read it through in text editor and then read it through in the preview.

Remember this might be just an one reason why you might like to iterate and rewrite when you're writing. I've been iterating my texts before because each rewrite helps to improve on the form. Though in my opinion the preparation for the reading is a much better reason to iterate on your texts.

If you're interested more advice, I just recently wrote in the "On how I write" how recognizing skimming helps the reader.

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