Here, and elsewhere, I’ve been publishing a number shorter posts over the last little while. In the past, my blog posts have had an average length of between 500 and 800 words. I’ve even been known to write a few that have butted up against the 2,000 word mark.
Lately, though, many of my posts have been in the 200 to 300 word range. That may sound restrictive, but in some ways a smaller word count is liberating. It’s also refreshing and challenging.
To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why I decided to start doing shorter posts. It wasn’t an attempt to appeal to readers with short attention spans, because I’m lazy, wanting to get more posts written, or because I needed to find time to blog in a schedule that’s been packed over the last few months.
In the end, it seems that I wanted to find out whether or not I could get a point or an idea across in as few words as possible. I don’t know if I’ve always succeeded but the whole exercise has taught or reminded of a few things. Like what?
First, the need to focus. To effectively write something short, you need to focus on one element, on one argument, and one one style of writing. Not just that, but the best or strongest element or argument or style. Determining that takes a bit of thought.
Second, the need to write tightly. Even more tightly than normal. If you want to write something in the space of a couple of hundred words, you need to be economical with those words and the language that you use. Concentrate on the active voice and writing in short, sharp sentences. No flowery prose. Just the bare bones.
Finally, the need for structure. This goes back to my point about focus. Your structure needs to be compact. That requires some planning. You might, for example, structure a short post like this:
Writing short blog posts isn’t always easy, but it’s an interesting challenge for a writer. And while I’m not eschewing longer posts, I’m going to keep writing shorter ones. If for no other reason than to keep me sharp.
Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.
In person and on the web, I continually urge anyone who writes or who wants to write to do the deed. To sit in front of a keyboard (or with pen and paper) and churn out good words. Every day. Without fail.
Writing everyday, no matter how little or how much you do, gets you into the discipline of writing. Of putting words on the screen.
Sometimes, though, it’s OK not to write. Yes, you read that correctly. Sometimes you need to take a short break from writing, or a style of writing.
Curious? Then keep reading.
When I was in journalism school (and that was more than half a lifetime ago), the instructors constantly chivvied me and my classmates to write tight. That meant packing the most information into the least amount of space. It wasn’t easy, but when you did it, the result was like magic.
There’s a lesson there for all non fiction writers. The key to being effective — no matter what type of non fiction you write — is to keep what you’re writing short, to the point, and easy to read.
That’s a lot harder than it sounds. Let me share some of my techniques for doing that.