How I write when I write about watches
Whilst on holiday last week I thought a lot about the process of writing and thought that my readers might be interested in how I create an article for Timepiece Chronicle
Every article begins with an idea. I always have a notebook within arms reach so whenever my brain splurts out an idea I can capture it before it flies away. These ideas can be either individual watches ( The Vulcain Cricket and the Universal Geneve Tri-Compax articles were both born from wanting to write specifically about them), an general topic or theme (Grande Sonnerie or Chronograph dials) or random thoughts that transform into articles during the research stages.
Some ideas in my notebook have been there for over a year now because I haven't worked out how to make them interesting but sometimes it's because someone else has recently written about a similar topic. Last year I was all ready to begin researching radium when I see that Wound for Life published an article on it, immediately halting any work I'd planned. It's a topic I'd still like to cover here because I'm a firm believer in the idea that it is the interpretation and delivery of information that makes writing unique. Wound for Life can have their article on radium and I'll have mine (when I write it), each presented and written about in our own way. There are countless articles on every piece of watchmaking minutia that have covered nearly all the information possible so the individual voice of an author can make these old facts sparkle again, with a little creative effort.
Once an idea has been decided upon I start researching it, a process that varies in length depending on the scale and scope of the idea; opinion and editorial pieces like this require little research, a review can take a few days to piece together the history of a watch whilst an in-depth study like Lost to Time can take a few weeks get right. I'll use every tool at my disposal to find information: forum posts, blogs, videos, brand websites, books, auction houses, newspapers, old advertisements, museums, the list goes on and on.
When going through old blog posts from Hodinkee or others whilst researching, I'm sad to say I don't actually 'read' the article. My goal is the information contained within and by glossing over the prose, I can hopefully stop a clever turn of phrase or explanation from routing itself in my brain. For example, Jack Forster has such a distinct way of writing that I can only enjoy his work when I know I'm not going to write about that same topic in the near future as I worry I'll use his words inadvertently. It's been nearly six weeks since I read his piece on the new Rolex Air-King and his description of the dial as "a bunch of ill-assorted lifeboat passengers who, thanks to a random twist of fate, were all going to have to learn to get along with each other, or else" is still lodged in my brain.
At the bottom of nearly every article I've written since late April I've put the sources at the bottom. Information doesn't just appear out of thin air and I want my sources to act as a horological breadcrumb trail that my readers can follow if they want to learn more (or to double check what I've written)
After I think I've researched enough I'll begin writing the first draft and I'll attempt to keep hammering away at the keyboard until I have run out of things to say. A silly technique I use is to put insert whenever I can't instantly remember a date or reference so I can continue my thought process without stopping to look up the information. If I've done my research right, that date is in there somewhere so forgetting it in the heat of writing isn't important. If I'm struggling to explain a point in my own words then I go back to researching as I don't clearly understand it well enough.
The first draft is always a garbled mess of wandering paragraphs, non sequiturs and repeated sentences, and the more I write the more I realise how crucial the editing process is. After reading three great books on writing ( Stephen King's On Writing, Steven Pinker's The Sense of Style and George Orwell's Why I Write) I learnt that the first rule of editing is to cut unnecessary words and suddenly a bloated 2000 words transforms into a svelte 1200.
Everything becomes a lot clearer and you realize how much you can prattle on. This second draft is currently at 1352 words ( Finished it's down to 1001 ). The topics I edited out of this article were: Presidential Libraries, the writing of Lost to Time Gallet Part 2, my daily routine, a tangential segment about the wristwatches of Donald Trump, me complaining about the need for social media.
After editing two or three times and proof-reading I'll arrange the photos in the article, write out the summary blurbs and have it queued ready to publish. There will always be touch ups before publishing but if I've done everything else right then these are kept to a minimum.
That's how an article comes together at Timepiece Chronicle. The programs/gear/stuff I use are quite ordinary but for those interested I've listed them down below. What is more important than any of them is that I love writing about watches and will continue to do so for as long as I can. There is always another topic to discuss, always new/old watch I haven't talked about
- Operating System: Windows 10
- Keyboard: WASD V2 Mechanical Keyboard (Cherry Brown Switches)
- Blog Hosting: Squarespace
- Writing Program: Evernote Premium
- To do software: Todoist
- Camera: Canon EOS 600D
- Lenses: Various ones I've picked up over the years, mostly old M42 screw mounts mounted to a converter
- Notebook: Baron Fig 2016 Planner
- Headphones: Bose QC25
- Spotify Playlist of Choice: Deep Focus
- Coffee: Black