Contentions: Track your rewriting

When I edited my book Creative Doing with Rachel and the Holloway team, we worked together mostly in two different documents. Cumulatively, there were 3,016 suggested changes and 240 comments across both documents. 

Those numbers sound reasonable to me, though I wouldn’t be shocked if that’s an underestimate; we spent a lot of time on the book.

Good writing involves mostly rewriting. These suggested changes and comments are a measure of how much rewriting actually went into the book. Good quantity leads to good quality.

These numbers weren’t actually that difficult to find, especially if you use Google Docs. I found these numbers through counting the number of suggestions in Google Docs, and counting the number of comments.

These kinds of stats help make collaborative editing work more visible. It gives the many people who didn’t work in the doc a sense of how much work actually went into it.

In a world where, understandably, most of us don’t have much time to dive into the depth of editing decisions, this data serves as a hook.

Counting these suggestions and comments is only the first step to a deeper conversation. What were all these suggestions about? What were the most important, or valuable, suggestions? 

While outcome metrics like pageviews, time on page, and sign ups are important, understanding the process is as well. These types of intrinsic stats are a gateway into getting a better sense of the process. 

It also reminds us that the outcome metrics we crave are the byproduct of making good, high quality, work.

P.S., In my decade of work, I haven’t sent these metrics as a writer. When I work as an editor or writer, I haven’t received these metrics from a writer. I’m in mild disbelief; that’ll be a topic for another day.

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