Word counts and big, black birds

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Sometimes less is more, or that’s what everyone tells me. I have a hard time hearing that message. Most of my writing is for online publications, and the thing I always figure is — well, it’s not like there’s only so much room on a page.  Why NOT write more?

I got scolded this week by one of my many editors about turning in a story that was twice as long as the assignment.  Oops.  Actually, I do this a lot. Sometimes I turn in 2,000 words for a story that’s supposed to be 800 — it’s really terrible. My editor said that research shows that people often don’t read past the first couple of paragraphs.

What? Well, what’s the point of even writing then, if people aren’t going to be reading past your lead paragraph? Is anyone still reading this now? I might as well be working on a novel and slipping in paragraphs I’m playing with at the bottom of each article.

The crow flies at midnight. Is anybody there?

To me, things are never simple. And when you’re writing about a complex issue, I always figured that the more words you write, the better chance the reader has of understanding all the different facets to the story, complete with the miniscule details that show every angle to what is going on.

Take a community meeting, for example. They can be the most difficult to “sum up” because usually there are quite a few discussions, and in order to be able to understand all of the issues, my inclination is always to explain everything, quote as many people as possible, so that readers understand all the intricacies of the discussion.

Until I get a gig writing long-form non-fiction, I better start learning how to be more concise. I have to get better at summing up: taking a lot of things that happen and a lot of things that people say and boiling it down to a few key topics or points. This can be difficult because I feel like sometimes the only way you can really understand something is if you have background information about it, and know all the events or dialogue leading up to a particular quote or incident.

I don’t have anything more to say on this subject. End. (I have to get better at writing conclusions too.) Under 400 words!

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