Do you ever get the feeling that someone, somewhere has written about what you’re about to write about and then found confirmation of that fact? I have gotten this a lot the few times I’ve sat down and tried to come up with a good idea for a work of fiction. My passion is science fiction and fantasy but it seems like all the good ideas have already been exhaustively written about. Every idea I seem to have seems second- or third-rate. I’m not sure how one works around that.
I was actually contemplating writing about my blog style in the context of the merits of long posts versus short ones. Honestly! Then, I saw this post on my feed. It’s well written and says basically what I was planning to say. Beyond it, I can speak to my own personal experience on this blog and on my previous one. We’ll have to see how this goes.
I suppose a statement of definitions would be in order before I go too far. I will go out of a limb and state that a short post is one that is less than 250 words or one manuscript page long. Consequently, a long post is anything over 250 words.
Short posts are obviously easier to get finished and posted. If you’re trying to generate buzz on your blog this might be the route to go. The greater quantity of interesting posts you have the more likely people will find your blog. There are other ways to optimize your blog to drive traffic to it (the simplest I think is to pick a clear topic for your blog…something, I admit, I haven’t done for this blog) but increasing your content can definitely help. Also, most of us have a day job and potentially a boss that could drop in on your cubicle at any moment. A short post can satisfy your urge to write or comment on something without pulling you away from your paying work overly much. A short post can also encourage you to write something rather than succumbing to pressure of other priorities and writing nothing.
The drawback of short posts is the limitation on presenting really good content created by the brevity of the medium. It’s a little like a Twitter tweet. 140 characters is not a lot space to work with (though some folks seem to manage to be witty in that brief a space). A short post won’t allow you to really explore a topic or practice creating a larger argument. You could end up with a cursory examination of a topic with little depth. I’m not saying it’s impossible to be truly detailed in your coverage of a topic in a short post but it’s very difficult.
Well, what about longer posts? A long post gives you enough space to really explore a topic. You can look at a subject from different points of view and build up a significant case for your thesis. The length also gives you the space to explore different styles of writing. Really, in a short post, you are likely posting a URL and a short comment in most cases (at least in my experience). A long post might include the same link but will allow the writer to spend a lot of words on explaining the significance of the content of the link.
The length and potential density of a long post is at once an advantage and a drawback. The advantages I have outlined just above. The drawback of a longer post is that you need to have time to wade through it as a reader. I know that I’m glancing at articles frequently throughout the day. I have learned to read pretty quickly but I don’t generally make it off the first page. If a long post piques my interest I may save it for later reading in an web/mobile application called Pocket (1). However, the reality is that it may be days or weeks before I get back to reading that saved article. If the piece was about current events it may no longer be relevant to me.
Perhaps the barriers to writing a longer post speak to the type of style of writing you need to employ. In the Journalistic Style of Writing, you attempt to cover all the basic facts of an event (the Five Ws) in the opening of your piece with information of decreasing importance in later paragraphs. This style works especially well for news articles but can be employed in an opinion piece as well.
For myself, this blog is an experiment in creative writing. While I’m not planning to write fiction here at this time (I’m just not that brave), I will be trying to write better and in an entertaining way. I want to take ideas I’ve either read about, listened to or seen on the Web and respond to them with my own thoughts with some level of coherence.
(1) – Pocket is one of the more useful apps I have on my Chrome browser and on my Android phone. Being able to save and look at web pages later is really great.