5 1/2 Reasons You Should Kill a Draft Blog Post

Image of a Butcher Knife

“Forget the schedule. This post sucks.”

That’s the refrain I repeat to myself at least once a week. Whether it’s working on a piece for Copyblogger, my own blog, or our Google+ account … something’s not clicking and I need to throw in the towel.

Ever been in that position before? Perhaps you struggle to know which ideas to kill.

If that’s you, then this post should fix that.

1. The idea sounds bad to you days later

We preach the rules of writing first drafts. And there is a reason for number nine: “Once finished with your first draft, leave it alone for days — if not weeks.”

See, a delay between your first draft and your first revision allows you to examine an article with a fresh set of eyes. Even if you walk away from it for only a few hours, you need that break to objectively evaluate your idea.

If it still seems like a good idea, keep it. Bad idea, kill it.

And if a deadline demands you turn around a blog post in a few hours, then get someone else to look at your first draft. And make sure they will be brutally honest with you.

2. It’s likely to create controversy you don’t want

Friend and colleague Beth Hayden has some great advice about writing and publishing content that scares you.

Her argument is that that very fear could be an indication you are on to something. Something big. Something that will resonate with your audience — so much so you just might get the silent majority to come out of their closets to comment.

Do that and you’ve won.

Then again, you might find yourself defending a hill you don’t want to be on.

I’m an advocate of the occasional post that catches hell … but before you publish you need to examine your motives carefully. Consider these questions:

  • Are you absolutely sure that your article is important enough to bother all these people?
  • Are you sure you’ve cooled off long enough?
  • Are you sure you know the full story?
  • Is it possible that you wrote faster than you can think?

3. It looks like something you wrote last year

A daily blogging schedule can take a toll on a blogger. Burnout is not uncommon, but a more mundane result of over-blogging is redundant copy. In other words, you start repeating yourself.

After closer examination those eleven tips look too much like something you published last year … or perhaps you’re telling that marketing disaster story once again.

What you write may not be duplicate content, but it is redundant, and remember, one of the cores behind blog posts that Google loves is fresh and original copy.

3.5 It looks like stolen content

It’s interesting … this business of writing content … since everyone is doing it, it’s hard to come up with totally unique article ideas.

For example, search “content google loves” and you’ll get a lot of look-a-likes.

People aren’t stealing content. In this case, it’s really the second half to point 3: when you can pursue a line of thought (or particular keyword phrase) that has been glutted by others … the similarities in content, sources, and ideas will be close.

Maybe too close.

So, if after closer examination you feel like your article looks something that’s been overdone … kill it.

Besides, to avoid such a fate in the future, dive into some keyword research to get ideas that are ignored … and be the first there (which is what I did with the Art of Writing Great Google+ Posts).

4. It looks shallow

This is not about short posts, necessarily. This is about content without teeth. Without original research. Without seductive metaphors … thoughtful, complex lines of reasoning … and opinions based upon solid, convincing facts.

You won’t find shallow on Blind Five Year Old, Plus Your Business, or Boost Blog Traffic.

Instead, think substantial.

Fortunately shallow posts are salvageable. You might just need to add quotes, scientific findings, and anecdotes.

5. It looks like a lunatic wrote it

Here’s what happens: you’ve wandered away from your original premise … and after repeated revisions the dots simply don’t connect. No matter how hard you try.

Your article is not a conceptual whole, but rather a fragmented body of unrelated concepts. What do you do?

This type of post, too, is salvageable. What you once thought was one post is actually three.

But if that doesn’t work, then save the fragments and use them down the road. They could be perfect for a completely different article.

Your turn

Can you think of any other signs that indicate that you should kill a blog post and move on to another one?

Share it in the comments …

About the author

Demian Farnworth


Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media's Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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Comments

  1. “This type of post, too, is salvageable. What you once thought was one post is actually three.”

    I actually love catching myself when I write things like that. Sure, I have to rework the main post I am working on but I have another 2 in the queue for tomorrow or next week or next month so 1/2 of that battle is already one! But if you don’t catch yourself you end up not making any points.

  2. Today I killed off an idea that has been fermenting in my mind for the past week. I am not ready for any possible backlash, and even though I still don’t consider the topic that controversial it has the potential to stomp on a few toes.

    Although I’ve never encountered 3-5 (yet), I think we all have experienced the first point at some time or another.

    • It takes a lot of courage to post something controversial but it also takes a lot of courage NOT to post it, too. We should always be evaluating our motives.

      • Great points! Yes, we do need to evaluate our motives. This happened to me last night! I grabbed something off my business blog just-in-time that was much more suited for a personal FB post or similar (it had been a great day…Keurig delivered a free brewer, Dodgers won and I have healthcare for the first time in 7 years!)

        Now I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t have even posted it on Facebook. But very different set of “rules” than a professional blog.

        Thank you for your great articles!

    • Hey Chris

      If it’s been fermenting in your head for a week, there’s probably something that needs to be said.

      And who knows, maybe the fear of a possible backlash isn’t as bad as you might expect.

      Maybe it’s a great opportunity for you to face and overcome that crippling fear, connect with like-minded people, and – to me – most importantly: Have the idea/thought/issue confronted, by those who disagree with me. That’s where big ideas are born. If my arguments fall apart when road-tested, I want to know. And I’m thankful when it happens.

      All the best:)
      Oliver

  3. Your last one made me laugh out loud. “It looks like a lunatic wrote it.”

    I think what you post here is great advice, and some that I very much needed to hear today. I’ve been working hard on a book, and I’ve let my blog slide for a while (only a bit — not completely). I find that when I return to my blog’s dashboard after days of writing the book, I’m a bit drained and likely to blog anything just because it feels like I have to — almost like I am afraid I’ll be accused of neglectful blogging if I don’t just put some thing up there! Which is weird when I think about it in a more rational moment after getting a good night of sleep.

    There’s something to be said for blogging frequently, but quality trumps quantity sometimes. Most times.

    I had a boss who used to say that you should never send out anything until you’ve waited at least twenty four hours and given it a second thought. This saved me from sending out a lot of embarrassing emails and still saves me from posting a lot of junk on my blog. In a world where there’s a lot of pressure to send out or post as quick as possible, she had realized you can really get yourself into some bad situations quite publicly if you don’t slow down and THINK TWICE. She had a lot of loyal employees on her staff — we all felt a lot less pressure to be quick and freedom instead to aim for writing something GOOD in that office.

    (Even as I write this I start laughing about the irony, though. I did not wait 24 hours to post this comment, did I? Oh well. Maybe I’ll regret it tomorrow.)

    Thanks again. I am going to check out your other blog posts as they look very relevant and interesting!

    • Comments have amnesty against that rule … unless you are angry … then yeah, wait 24 hours. I’ve broken that rule quite a bit, by the way. :/

    • That was something I learned when writing at university, except with assignments I would normally allow them to rest for three days before looking at them again. With blog posts, I write my drafts in iA Writer and just leave it open on my desktop for a day before revising and finishing it off. I’m not a perfect writer, but I do keep trying.

    • Right to the point, is better to wait and think twice

  4. Here’s a sixth reason – kill the post if it’s a good idea – http://www.copyblogger.com/kill-your-good-ideas/

  5. Ha! I’ve totally killed drafts because the look like a lunatic wrote it.

    6. Tipsy writing isn’t as brilliant as you thought the next day.

  6. What about posts that is timely as in news timely, you wait 3-4 days it is old.

    • If you’re news blogging you’re likely regurgitating what everyone else is saying. We take the approach of waiting until all the “me too” posts are out there, and then coming with a more thoughtful perspective on what the news actually means. Sonia is really good at this.

  7. I’ve often had drafts sitting there for days, of articles which took me awhile to type up only to go back and look at it again and think…”Should I actually publish this or trash it?”.

    As for those that relate to point #3.5, it can often lead to point #2 of causing controversy, since you’d probably be having people saying it’s stolen and blah blah and ruining your reputation online which is quite fragile.

    Scrapped a few drafts that relate to #5, especially when I type up a draft early morning when I haven’t had my coffee. I’ll keep it in draft, go away for a few hours, have coffee, come back to the post and look at it and wonder who typed it…looks like a lunatic did, haha.

  8. 6. Kill it if you author it and even you can’t get its point.

  9. I can totally relate with number 2. I wrote a post once for a local news publication that was an opinion piece. I pissed off a lot of people. I also hit a home run with a lot of people, and my editor told me that it was the most popular post on the website–ever, with the most amount of clicks–to this day.

    While that was an awesome feeling, I also got some flack from the local authorities–because they were one group that was pissed at me. So, that brings me back to number 1–which I always do nowadays. I find that if I don’t walk away and come back later, I regret it later on.

    I find that if a post isn’t worthy of being written, if there isn’t enough meat for people to chew on, it is gonna suck and is not worth publishing. I’ve been known to be halfway through something when a light goes off in my head that says, “this thing sucks” and I delete the entire thing.

    Thanks,

    Josh

  10. wow, another fresh article from you, is this post from draft for a week?
    you’re right totally unique article now a days are hard to achieve.. but it is in the presentation and how you explain it more detailed.

  11. Your content could bore you. If it’s not holding your interest, it won’t hold a reader’s interest.

    Your content could be targeted to the wrong market. Maybe the posts you’ve been writing aren’t even for your ideal clients/customers/readers. Although, you may not have this epiphany until weeks, months, or years later. Sigh. It’s okay. You can always start over.

  12. I was going to say what Alison said – Kill the post if your heart’s not in it. Posting content that feels like an obligation will lead to resentment of blogging. Free up the time and energy for something you want to do or write. You’re doing yourself and your readers of disservice if you think, “Yeah, but my readers are depending on me!” My rule: If I feel burdened when I sit down to write it, it gets abandoned.

    Re. 3.5 & the comments that Michelle and Brian made, as a food blogger I go to events with other bloggers and media. I always try to distinguish my article from theirs by doing extra research and taking a different angle. For example, a rice milk demo event I attended resulted in a post that discussed the nutrients in rice milk and the potential dangers of phytic acid. A cheese sampling might lead me to focus on the cheese-making process, or a specific region, or discussion of a book I once read about someone who made cheese. Sometimes I take one fact that I learned at the event and expand on it instead of narrating the event, which, often, I’ve live-tweeted anyway. And sometimes I’ll abandon a post about an event if I decide there’s nothing I can add to what I’ve tweeted and what others have posted.

    A lot of new bloggers think that if they’re invited to cover something (event, product, etc.), they’re obligated to write about it. I used to think that too, until I was told otherwise. Do I never post things out of obligation? No. Occasionally I post to keep my blog current and to stay on the radar of PR companies. When I do I tend to post their press releases and do minimal research to add some other context, but I’m very selective about those cases.

  13. That first tip has been a huge one for me lately in my second coming of writing online. During my first efforts, I would always sit down to blog and go for speed as opposed to REAL quality. Now, I’ll write a post, come back to it in the morning, reevaluate and rework, then maybe take another day or two off and repeat until I get exactly what I want.

    Of course, sometimes it’s necessary to stay quick and topical, especially if you’re trying to write about something that is happening right NOW, like the Pittsburgh Pirates winning in the playoffs. Nice work here Demian.

    • Thanks Eric. Yeah, I’m beginning to believe that quick is better reserved for social media platforms like Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. Your content on your site should get the high quality content.

  14. And sometimes you click in publish instead of save draft and your automatic newsletter send to everyone :-0

    ( i do this all the time aahahaahahaha)

  15. Sometimes it’s all about what motivates the post in the first place.

    I’ve noticed a lot of people in the blogosphere tend to approach writing by looking for posts to copy.

    A much better method: find a problem and then solve it.

    When you come from this kind of genuine desire to help people, lots more of your writing will be post-worthy.

    -Jake

  16. How about this: If you don’t have an exit strategy.

    There may be times when you have a good idea and you start writing it, but once you get into it you can’t figure out how to end it. All you have is a fragment of an idea. It’s a good idea and what you’ve written so far is substantial, but you just can’t figure out the ending.

    My suggestion for this is to sit on it a few days. Let it ferment. The ending may come to you later – sometimes much later. But don’t publish it until you figure out how to end it strongly.

    • Spot on. You don’t want a great post ruined by an ending that falls flat. I can’t tell you how often that has happened, where I’m like … meh … this ending sucks, let me sit on it. Last sentences are almost as important as first sentences.

  17. Good advice on waiting; I often get fired up when I see a news story of some sort (usually involving politics) and it ignites enough of a spark under me to pump out hundreds of words.

    Sometimes I put the post up that day, other times I wait longer, but I almost always wonder if it’s the right thing to put up as these ones are a little out there.

    • That’s a temptation hard to resist at times … on the one hand you want to beat everyone else to the punch, but on the other hand you don’t want to look like a dork. Hard line to balance. ;D

  18. Well, if you’re passionate about your subject-matter, it’s easy to get carried away and forget about the audience. Sometimes when reviewing my own draft I discover that it’s perhaps only me who finds the topic interesting. Then it’s really tempting to convince myself that it doesn’t matter and stick to it anyway, but usually it’s not such a good idea.

    • So true.

      I find that focusing in on solving specific customer problems helps me avoid that…. usually. :)

      -Jake

      • I think that is a great approach! I’ve gone so far as to create a post simply asking readers to send me questions they want answered. I recieved dozens of responses and ideas for posts.

  19. That’s so true. It’s kind of an art of finding out what bores your readers, but starting off by knowing them well through what they’ve liked and shared in the past, what generates comments, and surveys, you can usually get a bead on their interests.

  20. 6. If it’s too much about you, not your audience.

    I have a personal blog, which attempts to blur the boundaries between me talking about my life and me adding value. Sometimes, I draft a post, and then I realize that the audience just wouldn’t care. It’s me talking about myself, only.

    No matter the industry, if you put too much of yourself into the post–and it isn’t a story that would make your audience identify with you, it’s time to hit the delete button.

  21. Stolen content is key to avoid! It seems like there is a copyblogger or hubspot copy the day after on every marketing blog. Hilarious at how unoriginal bloggers have gotten.

  22. Reminds me of the classic movie 1776. Thomas Jefferson played by Ken Howard has difficulty writing the Declaration of Independence. Hundreds of crumpled up papers are strewn throughout his chamber. Then Mr Feeney brings his wife to him. And then the rest is history.

  23. Hi Demian,

    2 has nailed me many times.

    I am pissed. I speak my mind.

    Turns out I am going to attract pissed people only to the post.

    Bad idea.

    Trash it.

    Write from a high energy space.

    Thanks!

  24. I have experienced scattered thoughts when writing and like the idea of creating 2 or 3 posts instead of just 1 confusing post.

  25. I suppose this could apply to a whole blog too, if it’s not working kill the Blog!

    I’m trying to wrestle with a good approach to drawing tutorials, at first I wanted to do direct video posts, but then realized it would have got repetitive after a very short time…so in theory I’ve killed that very idea and am going for a more mixed approach and see if that works…because I think the art niche has been done to death, I’m thinking more and more in depth drawing stuff drawn from different angles and more useful information that any Artists might want.

    It’s made me think this post…cheers!

  26. Yep, I have one.

    You have just plain forgotten what it was that set you on the path of writing the article in the first place and you know it would have been better if you had completed it when it was a fresh idea :(

  27. Demian, another masterpiece!

  28. I hate killing an article once i have a draft because I always stop to think of the time I wasted writing it, but you’re absolutely right. I’ve gone back and looked at older posts and videos of mine, and I can’t help but wonder what I was thinking at the time.

  29. I think you are right. Draft blog post is such a waste of time.

  30. Great post! I’d trash a post if it sounded boring, or if it wasn’t crystal clear what my readers were going to gain from it – you might start a post because you’ve got a real bee in your bonnet about something, without thinking about how it’s going to benefit your audience.

    This shows how important it is to let a post brew when you’ve drafted it, rather than rushing to publish.

  31. Interesting about the appearance of stolen content. Certain types of blog posts do lend themselves to this type of issue:

    Posts written around a specific keyword.
    Posts trying to answer a popular question.
    Step-by-step posts about a specific software or app.

    I tend to post more off-the-top-of-my-head, so I don’t tend to run into such issues very often. But some bloggers with a different process must face a lot of frustration trying to be original in a crowded field.

  32. It often happens when we don’t do enough research before writing about some topic which don’t interest us that much and for the first time we are writing for that topic in order make the topic looks original and unique we don’t do the research in the way we need to do. we can find that writing wired when we take a look at that after some day because in those period we come across with various topic similar to our topic and pay attention to it because it relates to our previous writing.

  33. I’ve been thinking of this post for the last few days since I left my original comment, and I’ve realized I was wrong.

    Anger fuels the flames of whatever fire is currently burning, and anyone who watches their regular local news broadcast knows that if it burns or bleeds it leads. And when it comes to blogs, isn’t that lead what readers are after and what writers are trying to create?

    When emotion becomes too far removed from our posts we forget about why we started posting in the first place: to share our feelings on issues in a way that allows our passions to come to the forefront. First drafts often get at this quite well, but they become watered down with revision.

    This is a quagmire I see established sites fall into. They have the visitors, they have the sponsors, but they often no longer have the balls to really put content out there that makes people think in new ways. Too many killed posts, perhaps? It’s made me rethink my strategy.

  34. While it’s not always possible for every piece of writing, if I’m not passionate about an article, I generally do not want to release/ publish it — whether it’s for a client or myself. I usually work on multiple posts simultaneously, let them brew for a few days, and try to inject some passion in to them afterwards. If I can’t find the passion, I might start over. Unfortunately, I’m a perfectionist and this is a bad business model when you’re writing lots of small content instead of fewer larger pieces.

    tl;dr : It’s easier to be passionate about a single larger article than 10 smaller articles.