What Is The Proper Length For A Blog Post

My favorite posts are raw and authentic. They are the ones where we don’t hold anything back, pieces where you place raw emotion upon the page and say ‘this is me.’

I have one of those floating around inside my head, a post that is intimate, personal and painful but I haven’t figured out yet if I am going to publish it publicly.

But I’ll write it down and put it upon paper because that will help provide clarity and understanding and maybe it will illuminate the path I need to walk upon to get to the other side.

Sometimes the way forward requires looking back so you can see where you have been.

In the interim I’ll share a piece I wrote a few years back that people still talk about because it is timeless.

whytowrite

The Proper Length Of a Blog Post

She accused me of plagiarism and gave me 12 ‘F’s. Don’t ask me to try and explain how I received those 12 failing marks on one paper because I can’t tell you.

It happened twenty-six years ago and I simply don’t remember what sort of cockamamie grading system she had in place. I remember her black wig and how she liked to eat raw sticks of butter.

And I remember how she told me that my writing was inferior. It made me angry but I didn’t let that stop me. When she refused to listen to me and insisted that I had cheated on my paper I decided that she was unhinged.

Of course that was before I noticed the wig and sticks of butter. When you are a 17  year-old boy you tend not to notice that kind of stuff because you are too busy trying to look cool in front of the girls.

I don’t know that I ever managed to pull off cool, but I think it is fair to say that I learned how to write. That is assuming that you accept her insistence that my writing was inferior.

I suppose it is possible that it was, but I doubt it. Since I don’t have any of the papers I wrote for that class you’ll have to decide if you accept her word or mine.

Writing Isn’t About Limits

Every week I try to participate in several different online writing groups. Some of these groups provide writing prompts for us to write about. In addition to a topic they usually provide a word count and ask that we not exceed it.

I hate word counts. I don’t like limits. Writing isn’t about limits.

Writing is about telling a story. It is about using words to paint a picture inside the minds of the readers.

Word counts create limits that impact the tales that must be told.

Don’t limit yourself. Don’t let your stories be ripped apart, shredded and destroyed by the limits of length. A tale must be as long as it needs to be to be told.

Tighten Your Tale

A while back someone told me that word counts were a good way to instill discipline in our writing. They said we should limit our words to only those we require to tell the tales that must be told.

My response was that “brevity can bite me.”

That is because my stories are going to be as long as they need to be. I wish that I had told the Butter Eater to adjust her wig and suck on another salty stick. She wasn’t supposed to try to crush the imaginations and dreams of her students.

Don’t get me wrong because she didn’t crush mine. She lit a fire under my ass and made me want to prove her wrong. But that is neither here nor there.

When you are telling the tales that must be told you need to just write. You need to put pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard and let the words flow forth. Write first and edit later.

Word counts cause confusion because they create a condition in which you let your internal editor take creative control. Don’t do that. Write with reckless abandon and use as many words as you need.

I am not repetitive because I am forgetful. I am repetitive because it is necessary.

Tell A Story

A story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Every story you write needs those three things. Go read It Was Logical and you’ll find them there waiting for your visit.

Word counts are for bad stories. Word counts are for worriers who wonder how they are going to read 100 papers. Word counts are for very specific papers and purposes but they should only be used as guidelines and not as law.

Learn how to tell the tales that must be told with talent and you won’t ever have to worry about a word count again.

And now if you will excuse me I am going to start stretching because in a moment I am going to be chased by a thousand angry editors. So I am going to run and lead them on a merry chase hither and thither.

Once they are exhausted and worn out from our time on the road I shall sit down and let them know that I believe in brevity. I will tell them that we should all work on tightening our tales and using fewer words to tell them.

But it should only be done after we have spit out how ever many words it takes to tell the tales that must be told.

Just write my friends without wonder or worry. Just write without regard for word count, editors or readers because when you do that your passion will come out and your personality will prevail.

Success shall be ours.

P.S.  Don’t forget to take a gander at A Confession About The Secrets We Share.

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8 Comments

  1. Sam April 14, 2016 at 3:41 am

    Yes yes a thousand times over YES! I despise word counts. People have told me I am a “wordy” writer. But you can’t write under restriction if you want it to be truly authentic. Love this point of view!

  2. Mitch Mitchell April 13, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Well… lol

    I have a couple of takes on this.

    The first is that I agree with you 99% on the length and word count of our writing. The way I see it, we write as much as we feel we need to get our point across, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    The second is that some folks are not only incapable of doing that, but some of them can’t seem to write more than a couple of sentences and call that “writing”. On the other hand, there are those folks who write and write and write and end up not saying anything because they keep repeating the same sentences over and over, and that’s because it’s the way they talk; ugh! The first group needs to learn how to tell a story, and the second group definitely needs to learn how to edit and remove words that aren’t needed.

    As a challenge at my writing group a couple of years ago, we all had to write a story of a thousand words or less. Mine came in at 993 words, and I was kind of proud of it. When I finished reading it to the group, none of them seemed to understand any of it, which confused me because I thought I’d done a pretty good job within the limits. I submitted the same story a couple months later, only this time I fleshed it out a little bit more, maybe just under 500 more words, and this time they not only got it but laughed when they were supposed to. That was a good lesson for me because it proved that trying to fit within a framework that someone else sets up doesn’t always mean you’re going to produce something meaningful or even understandable, so we all might as well add a few more things here and there so people know what we’re trying to say.

    Kind of like this comment…

    • Jack Steiner April 13, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      Some people forget or never knew that a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Or if you can’t manage that, some sort of chronological order that makes it clear what they are trying to say.

      Well, they should but they fail at it. It is why I can’t read some blogs, too damn confusing and messy.

      I use word counts when they are required for professional work or if I am participating in some kind of writing group but otherwise it is going to be as long as it needs to be.

      In other words, we are in agreement. 🙂

  3. Janine Huldie April 11, 2016 at 11:54 am

    I try also never to worry about length as I have found that it honestly depends more or less on what I feel I need to say. Word count on my own blog rarely ever comes into play thankfully. 🙂

  4. Danny Brown April 11, 2016 at 9:37 am

    It’s one of these evergreen questions, mate. Depending on what publication you read, there’s conflicting advice.

    “The best shared posts are those 1,500 words or more.”

    “The optimal length is 500-700 words – after that, people lose interest.”

    Over 10 years of blogging later, I’ve come to the conclusion that the post is ready when it’s done. When you’re happy. When you hit publish. Content length is immaterial – content love is more important.

    • Jack Steiner April 12, 2016 at 8:02 am

      What I find fascinating about all this is how some writers speak to us and others don’t. Meaning that when a writer’s words resonate with you they can write a book/post that is 10 million words and you never think twice about length.

      But a writer who you don’t relate to, well it doesn’t matter if they write five or 500 words.

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