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Email Hot Stove: The Writing/Blogging Process

A roundtable discussion about the writing process and individual habits

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Question: How would you describe your blogging methodology? What is the relationship between your writing and readers? How do you navigate mood and reader expectation? What do you like to write about most? What do you like to write about least? What are you hoping to achieve with your work? Describe your writing process.

And finally, why are you a Sens blogger?

Sheer Craziness: Interesting question Amelia, thanks. I'd say my blogging methodology is fairly casual. I try very hard to follow most grammar conventions and spellings. But I know I also tend to start sentences with "And" or "But" which isn't very formal. I tend to be a sarcastic person, so there's often some sort of sarcastic commentary in brackets in my writing. I try to be balanced in my writing - good share of information and opinion (unless it's an informative piece) but in a way that leaves it open to the reader to disagree with me. I also like backing up claims with links to places I've sourced them from. I don't really take into account reader expectation, at least not when writing an article. I also don't think I've been given a lot of reader feedback. The best feedback though is a high number of comments, because it means I got people thinking and disagreeing with each other. That's probably my biggest goal in my writing - to get people to think, and whether they agree or disagree, to at least get them to consider something they haven't already. I also like there to be a point to my writing, a takeaway. It took me a long time to be able to write my Making of a Sens Fan piece, because I couldn't figure out what the point to my article was for a long time.

My favourite pieces to write have to be ones that require a bit of research. Looking at a prospect or a new signing. It's interesting having several tabs open to different sites to get different angles on a player. I also enjoy doing opinion pieces I've thought of myself, because it means I already have a pretty good idea of where I want to go before I start. I don't know if there's anything I really dislike - I've avoided doing strategy explanations so far, because I haven't ever had formal hockey instruction.

My writing process is pretty simple, I think. I have an idea. I sit on it for a couple days. Then I sit down, and write the whole thing, even if I'm not happy with it. I come back to it a couple days later, hopefully the night before it goes up, and I fix it. Sometimes, it's just spelling, and sometimes it's the whole format.

Oh, and one last thing! I always try to at least attempt a clever caption. I feel like that adds to the feeling that I don't take myself too seriously, no matter how fact-based my article is.

Amelia: We are similar in a few respects. I do consider the audience, but only for certain pieces. The regular S7 features (recaps, Five Thoughts, Ups and Downs etc.) I think about the formula for those posts and what's worked with readers before, what didn't work, what generated discussion. I think about things like is this an opinion or analysis piece that requires critical evaluation? Am I just passing news along? Writing a recap is different from writing a breaking news pieces is different from analysis piece. I remember being more conscious of that stuff when I first started blogging, I found I adjusted to this kind of writing (I was used to writing for school) rather slowly and thinking about the point of each piece and the potential helped me carve out a new kind of writing voice.

My favourite pieces to write are the longer, essay-type pieces. I didn't feel overly comfortable with my work on the site until I started writing those pieces about six months into my time as a writer. I find my voice is clearest in those pieces. I have space to move in those pieces, to take an idea and unravel it slowly, revealing layers, or come at a topic from different angles, or slowly build to my point. I can explore topics that are slightly more personal like my favourite season or experiences with my dad. Or I can write a more research-based long piece, which I actually really enjoy. I like doing the research, I like learning about the team or players and I like figuring out how all that information is going to fit together. I don't like writing prospect pieces because I don't have the same kind of investment in those players yet and I absolutely loathe Ups and Downs - too much formatting (though it's one of my favourite features to read!)!

My writing process feels pretty straightforward to me. I have an idea, actually, I have lots of ideas and it's about narrowing the list to what I'm going to write about now, what I can save for later or pass on, what will never see the light of day etc. Sometimes it's as simple as "I would like to write about Bryan Murray" so I do some research, find my angle and go from there. Sometimes I have an idea like "Kyle Turris" and "evolving perceptions" and I do some research to go along with that. Sometimes the idea is less concrete like "rivalry". Sometimes I just let an idea sit in the back of my head and fester until it evolves into something more. I usually start writing in my head. I see sentences or whole paragraphs in my head and eventually just start writing them down in a word document. At that point structure and organization is mostly set and I never edit because I hate editing!

Hahaha! I also try to provide a funny caption from time to time, just to prove I have a sense of humour!

Mrs. O: In terms of my writing and readers, I try to write about what I know and what I'm informed about in order for readers to learn something or see a different perspective about something. I like when someone can connect to something I wrote as well. I also try to add a pinch of humour or sarcasm into what I write because it makes me feel like I'm writing more conversationally and I'm letting a bit more of myself come through since I'm a fairly goofy person in general. That said, I try to make sure that I'm using proper grammar and diction because I don't think readers take you very seriously if there are noticeable mistakes all over your writing.
I like to write pieces that allow me to thread in my area of knowledge with research that I find. These tend to be articles about coaching, hockey tactics, or player evaluation. I've spent a lot of time learning about the sport and, as a result, I like to write about it. These pieces are fun for me to write too, because, as I said, I like to think I'm teaching the readers something. I don't really enjoy writing the Five Thoughts pieces, or at least in the off-season, because I can never think of five things that deserve (or maybe that I think deserve) attention.
My writing process for the blog isn't as straightforward as my writing process in school, per se. Blogging is my time to write creatively, so I tend to start with an idea, do an outline, scrap the outline, do some research, make another outline, fill it in, scrap half of it, etc. I tend to write long-winded articles because there's always so much I want to say, which is why I have to scrap things so often.
Why am I a Sens blogger in particular? Well, I've been cheering for the team and evaluating them critically for quite a while now. I would eat, sleep, and breathe hockey if I didn't have responsibilities, so blogging about my favourite hockey team came naturally. I write for school a lot and it took some of the joy I used to have for writing away from me. Blogging has helped me enjoy writing, especially since it's about a topic I love so much.

Ary: Really interesting question! I'd describe my blogging methodology is all over the place. Like Amelia and Sarah mentioned, I usually start with an idea or something that I'm interested in exploring, and then gather a ton of research, which usually takes a day. The next day I'll sit down and generate an outline, and write it. I'll usually give myself a break and either edit at night or in the morning to let the idea sit and to make sure the point I'm trying to get across is clear. I'd love to be able to write casual pieces but they aren't really my strength, so I usually save that for Recaps/Nuggets, and features that we have that are a bit for formulaic... so I guess that my writing style is kind of scientific method-y in that I have an idea/hypothesis, gather research to explore, and then discuss my findings.

I love to write comprehensive pieces because I like giving the readers a solid summary of an idea and let them explore from there, with a lot of links for them to guide their digging. I have a fear of leaving stuff out or not providing enough context, and this usually results in my pieces being a bit longer than I'd like. I think that readers like to see arguments backed up with as much evidence as possible, and evidence of all types (qualitative + quantitative), so that even if they disagree, they can see where I got my observations from and then have a productive discussion on why I think a certain way. Like Ross, I like when there's lots of comments because that means that I generated discussion or got people to think about the idea, even if they disagree. I also love to write pieces that I can do a bit of research on and illuminate a certain perspective, like my post on confirmation biases, or pieces that introduce the reader to something (like hockey analytics or prospects).

I'm a Sens blogger because Amelia gave me a fantastic opportunity (to write for you folks)! But all in all, I like learning and thinking critically in general, so Silver Seven becomes my outlet to do so about the Sens, whether it's exploring new concepts or analyzing decisions made by the team. I started as a casual hockey fan in Toronto, and then went to support the Leafs (boo, I know). Converted to a Sens fan with my best friend when we were 8-9 and have been a fan since. I think it's fun being emotionally invested in sports, for better or for worse, and I'm glad that we have such a supportive community that likes to listen and discuss things about the Senators.

Amelia: I'm interested by the amount of outlining that goes on, not because it's not worth it, because it obviously can be, but because that's very different from my own blogging experience.

Mrs. O: I have to outline to make sure I stay on track. When I blog, I'm writing about something that really excites me and I could go on alllllllll day about it. Outlines help me stay on topic.

I don't outline in any other writing I do, to be honest, just here.

B_T: My methodology is mostly to sit down and write the article from start to finish. It's not really intentional; I just never seem to get the time to revisit ideas that require a longer process. I've had more than a few article ideas that required further digging that I just never got back to.

For reader expectations, it's about the quality and (to a lesser extent) topic choice. If I have an idea that I think is audience appropriate and that I could do proper justice to, I'll write try to write it.

It might just be a by-product of how my methodology has turned out, but I like writing the stuff with a solid framework in place. It's comfortable to know how the general look and feel will go so I can just focus on the content of the piece.  Least favorite are probably prospect pieces. I've also got a love-hate relationship with recaps - I enjoy writing them, but I'm generally not happy with my process for doing so.

My process is kind of free form. Find a point of interest, start writing and see how it flows from there. If it goes nowhere, scrap it and find another starting point.

Nkb: I struggled a little bit getting going on putting digital pen to digital paper, but I ultimately found it to be a good exercise in exploring the "how" and "why" of my writing for S7S. Because I'm a sucker for lists and bolded headers, I broke my answers out into distinct sections:

How would you describe your blogging methodology?

My approach to blogging is akin to how I go about my life and my work in general: there's lots of picking around at the edges of a project, some procrastination and then furious hours of intense work until a product emerges. When something first comes to mind, or I have a project assigned to me, I'll spend time doing precursory research. I need to consider what other, smarter people have written about the subject already, and whether I have something interesting to add to the discussion. I'll debate with myself whether it's worth doing, I'll browse Twitter for a while, then, when the time is right, I'll spit out 95% of the work typically without taking a break. It's a weird, probably unhealthy way of writing that I wish for the life of me I could change or understand. Let's just say it's a work in progress.

What is the relationship between your writing and readers? How do you navigate mood and reader expectation?

It's an open question as to what S7S readers think of my writing; I don't think I've posted enough articles yet for people to have formed an opinion or to know what to expect from me. That being said, I'm always interested in communicating well-researched ideas in a clear, concise manner. I like to keep the tone of my writing casual because there's nothing worse than a densely worded post about the technical nuances of CF%.

What do you like to write about most? What do you like to write about least? What are you hoping to achieve with your work?

I'm most interested in exploring ideas about how the game is played. Hockey is a beautiful, but also complex, game. It disheartens me to hear it reduced to the clichés so often parroted by the media's most prominent voices. I've noticed a slowly change in the way that hockey is talked about in some circles, and I'd like to add to that. I think I have something to contribute to that conversation. So in a sense, I most like writing about the "how" and the "why" of the game.

And finally, why are you a Sens blogger?

I'm dumb and never got on the horse to write a piece for the "Sens Fan" series the way I should have, so I'll transpose some of my thoughts from that here. I'm a Sens blogger for the same reasons that I'm a Sens fan: because I love hockey, I grew up in Ottawa and because of my dad. When I was young, the Ottawa Senators didn't exist and so I was a defacto Habs fan. We moved overseas for several years in 1993, but one of my last memories of Ottawa at that age is parading around in my CH jersey after the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.

When we came back to live in Ottawa again, the team was just beginning its' ascent to respectability and my dad and I watched a lot of Sens games that year. I was also playing minor hockey at the time and I was just terrible; by that age most kids would have already been skating for at least five years and I was starting from scratch. But I loved hockey, and I loved my dad who poured so much time and effort into making sure I could play. There was a free skate at the local rink that started at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings, and I attended it regularly because my father would drive me and skate with me. Sometimes it was just me and him when we got there. I eventually played hockey at all sorts of levels in all sorts of arenas all over Eastern Ontario because my dad was willing to drive me there. We talked about many things along the way, but we so often bonded over the Ottawa Senators. I've loved this team pretty well as long as I've loved hockey, and it's cheesy to say but it's a big part of my life.

All that being said, I shouldn't minimize my mom's role in my playing of organized sports (Hi mom!), so I'll add that I definitely would not have been able to do it without her support either.

Peter: I think my approach is similar to Ary's in a lot of ways, although I rarely make a formal outline... usually I've just got one in my head, and I usually write my posts in one writing session--although that can obviously be different when I'm writing essay-like pieces, as opposed to ones that are part of a series. For recaps, I try to start them during the game so that a) they're posted as quickly afterwards as possible, and b) I can keep track of observations I make without forgetting them.

My writing is usually focused on things I think are interesting, and since I'm a fan in the same way everyone else in the community is, I think we probably find similar things interesting. I consider our relationship to be one of mutually interested peers, or something. I don't really actively think of mood or expectations, except the expectation that what I say be true (or at least a well-founded opinion), which takes a bit of self-fact-checking to make sure I'm recollecting things properly and not misstating things.

I most like writing about happy things, like free agent signings and trades (and the in-depth looks at where those players might fit). Draft picks and prospects are also fun to write about, for similar reasons; they carry with them a great deal of potential positivity. I don't like writing recaps of games we've lost, especially when the team gets blown out.

I'm a Sens blogger because I like the team and I like writing so it seemed like a pretty good idea at the time. At first I was hoping that my sports writing would become a career, but now I'm less optimistic about that happening; now I just write for fun and when the mood strikes.