Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Editing For Length

Cut cut cut.

One of the best things we can do for our stories is to present them in their simplest form. There is no need to hoard words and details. Know when to say when.

I heard an essay the other day I thought was pretty great. I was totally engaged--laughing and feeling the narrative. Then it went on too long. And at the end there was a weak moral, stapled awkwardly onto an ending that could've been cut paragraphs before. I had a disappointed aftertaste. (Maybe it was my own essay...?)

So here's a good guideline for bloggers: if you can't write it in 500-1000 words, you might want to break it up into something you post over several days. Scrolling down is tedious. Online reading is tight and swift and internet readers are always eager for something to look forward to the next day.

I think that's all I want to say.

This reminds me of my brilliantly talented friend Paul's video called Proper Noun from his band Paul Jacobsen and the Madison Arm. The girl keeps talking and talking and talking. And talking:

Want to discuss this tip with me? Ok, I'll be on facebook.


CTR Mama said...

True! (And your HS teachers would be so proud.)

Ali said...

Hi Courtney,

I'm very happy to have story teller tips. Your short piece reminds me of a quote (variously put down to various different authors on the Internet, because that's our little reminder not to trust everything we read there!):

“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

― Mark Twain

It takes time to be efficient with words. But if writing is communication, you need your reader to listen. And if you want him/her to listen, it's very worthwhile not to lose their attention!

Have a great day
Ali in Switzerland

Salmon Tolman Family said...

Simply put: you put it simple. I love trying to always keeping my stories uncomplicated and simplified. I'm glad you agree, too!

Elyse Beard said...

this is something I totally suck at and really want to work on. I could talk until the earth ends, and my essays always end up being super long and wordy. I love these writing tips you're giving lately! Thanks!

Lani said...

Yes. Agreed.

julie said...

I like reading long stories if they're written well.

Messy Musings said...

thank you for the advice (she said very sincerely)... I sometimes do tend to get wordy on my blog.

Bethany said...

Just like hosting a party. You want to end it at the right time so everybody goes away thinking what fun it was and how they wish it went on longer. Not when everybody wishes it had been over ages ago. :)

Lindsay said...

I'm currently getting a masters (in math education) and we write a LOT... but, each thing we write (e.g., essays) have a page LIMIT... not a minimum. If we can't fit what we need to say in a very small number of pages (usually between 1 and 3, double spaced), then we don't understand it well enough.

Amen to this post. :)

The Lady of the House said...

I laugh. Only because I had a fantastic journalism professor that taught to write like this:

Most important stuff first.
Additional details next.
Only the stuff your mom will read last.

I still try to write like that as a blogger.

Christi said...

Lady of the House... Thanks for sharing. I'll cherish and share many times I'm sure. :)

Vanessa Brown said...

This is very helpful too. Many times I am brave enough to write something out. But then I am frustrated by how long it is. And just delete it.

Angela said...

Right, but the essay you read probably didn't get boring because it was too long, it was likely just poorly written. There's something to be said for getting drawn into a long essay or chapter, and it takes real chops on the part of the writer to keep the pace going and keep us interested. I like a short, tight essay too, but I worry that blog reading is making our attention spans are shrink.

rhonda said...

I think it depends on the content. Sometimes I am left wanting more because the writer is just that good, and then other times it drags on probably because I'm not that interested.

Linnea said...

This is such a great point. I tend to get wordy, so am always trying to edit edit edit!

I think this applies to photographer's blogs as well. I can't tell you how many photographers blog I look at where they seriously needed to edit a blog post down majorly. It compares over really well to writing - maybe they have 5 beautiful pictures of a bouquet at a wedding, but really only need to show one to get the point across.

Lola said...

I think the same holds thru for vlogging etc. Too long and people tune out and leave. Social media has made competition for attention quite heated!:)

House of Tong said...

I concur 100%. I admit that I suck BIG time at writing and thus have been trying to compensate with more photos. Its kinda sad and that is why I try too hard to have a decent photo. bleh

You are def a Wordsmith(WordJane?!!). Advice much appreciated! xo