How I write articles

How I write articles

"How does Balint write these articles?" asked probably nobody, ever. So you didn't ask, and I still delivered. Below is my current method of writing.

1. Write a crappy first draft

I put words down almost as they appear in my mind. As Stephen King says, the first draft is for yourself: I speed-run through what I want to write for the topic. If I feel stuck, I leave a placeholder to return to it later.

The idea in this phase is to get in the writing flow, to collect ideas, and to have something I can improve in the subsequent passes.

Julian Shapiro has this fantastic quote: "Writing is a laxative for the mind," which I've found true. I write partly to clarify my thinking, to express and recall ideas more precisely, and to find gaps (or generate further ideas!) related to the topic.

To prove my point, as I was writing this, it occurred to me that I should turn off the editing software I use for the subsequent phases so that I can focus on the flow of ideas and not get distracted.

2. Edit it without mercy

This is hands down the most crucial and difficult part and the one I enjoy most.

This is where I need to make it work for the reader. I'll heavily rewrite and rearrange phrases, remove some of them, or add new ones as they occur. I'll swap words for their synonyms and ruthlessly eliminate the ones just standing there. I'll play with sentence length as nothing sounds as dull as the same length of sentences throughout the article.

As I'm doing this, I keep thinking about whether the text serves the job of getting the main message across.

I use Grammarly to help me. It's terrific, but I'm cautious not to accept all suggestions as it also wants to remove the soul of the article.

3. Read it aloud

This was also suggested in Julian Shapiro's writing guide, and I recently started doing this for the recipes of my new book (and this very post).

This helps mostly with sentence length variation and ensuring my writing sounds natural and enjoyable.

4. Feed it to ChatGPT

I'll paste the post to our AI Overlord to see what it comes up with. In my minimal experience, the first result is incredibly pompous, so I ask it to reduce the flamboyancy.

I take a few ideas or phrases that I prefer from its output and apply them to the original text.

I just started doing this, and I think I'll skip this one if I'm in a hurry, but I'll probably keep doing it for book chapters and longer articles.

5. Give it a final pass, and publish it

I'll skim the post one final time to see if anything sounds off, and if it does, I'll make minor corrections and then publish the article.

I'll then celebrate by checking my X feed or watching the analysis of a chess game while sipping coffee.

The job of an author is tough, so we deserve a treat.