Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Short Stuff

Without doubt, one of the apparent changes in publishing in recent years has been the push toward brevity.  There are many reasons for this.  First, people generally have much shorter attention spans than previous generations.  Our minds are accustomed to processing emails, tweets, and 22-minute TV sit-coms. Most people can no longer hold court in the protracted processes of thought.  Publishers know this.

Likewise, in the crush of time, people feel that they no longer have time.  The average American reads less than one book per year (on Kindle or otherwise) and any piece of writing that takes longer than ten minutes to read is often viewed as bothersome.

Toward that end, I've noted that many journals and magazines have strong tendencies toward brevity.  Write fast.  Write few.  Write well.  This seems to be the motto.

But writing brief is difficult.  Like a poem, the fewer words one has to work with, the more essential every word becomes.  Every comma counts.

Last week I did submit several "stories" to a publication calling for 100-words only.  Yeah . . . 100 words.  Listen, you start out to write a story with only 100 words, it had better be good.  There has to be a story.  There has to be a plot.  Great characters.  And at 100 words, it had better move along at a crisp pace.

I wrote two of those suckers.  Good ones.  Both with "surprise endings". 

I can appreciate brief (and briefs).  But these stories made me feel like I wasn't wearing any underwear.  When you take only 100 words to work (no more, no less) you really feel vulnerable.      

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