Tuesday, July 5, 2011

TUESDAY TIP: Blogging Is/Isn't Writing? (Debate)

This is a fairly long-standing debate amongst novelists or wannabes. Probably more among the wannabes than the people actually writing and publishing whole books.

Blogging is writing. There's no question that one has to have an idea, write it coherently and then check spelling, punctuation and grammar to make it readable and even edit it to make it engaging. But is blogging the same as writing a book? I can hear you now, "Well, the way you do it, Sarah, sure it is."  Okay, you can stop laughing now ^_^

Seriously, though, blogging fulfills a writer's need to "write," to get all those little words in our heads to come out and stop jumbling up our thoughts, but it's not at all the same as writing a book. It's more of a way to procrastinate and not write a book. Yeah, you're laughing again, aren't you? Because I committed to blogging four days a week and you're wondering when the heck I'm doing any actual writing. Well, I'm wondering that myself these days!

Blogging is also not most-effective when the posts are "book-length" or overly involved. For example, I find that Dean Wesley-Smith (who blogs about self-publishing and plans to release his blogs on the topic as a book soon) has a lot of interesting ideas but his blog posts are invariably so long and rambling, I have yet to read one without skimming it. Yes, even a long-winded grrl like me gets bored and skims.

The Harper Collins-hosted Authonomy Blog recently had a guest blog post about blog post lengths (there's a tongue-twister that's even hard to type!) The author noted, with a wry grin, he'd just barely exceeded the alleged optimum length of 250 words, but is 250 words an optimum length?

I think so and here's why. When formatting a "page" in "standard manuscript format" (which in the US and for most, not all, of the DTB publishers amounts to 12pt Courier, double-spaced lines with 1" margins on all 4 sides of the page) you get about 250 words on a page. Not always, not exactly, about that amount.

I also noticed, when I read the Authonomy guest blog on my iPad, that if I zoomed out to where the text was just readable to my bad eyes without my reading glasses on, the entire article short of about 2 or 3 lines fit onto the single screen. Given I could zoom out further to get the entire thing (including those 2 or 3 errant lines) but would just barely not be able to read the text at that size, I found that to be interesting.

So, of course, being that I'm an engineer and have to analyze every little thing in the world, I tried a few other blog posts--some of mine, some other blogs I read--and guess what? When I get one "screenfull" on my iPad, zoomed out to where I can just read it without my glasses on, or at the average reading distance for the average reader, I've found the optimum number of words (at a rough guesstimate count off my iPad screen) is actually about 250 words. Wow, what a coincidence! Not (grin)

It's long been a known fact in magazine publishing that a "sound bite" or "side bar" article is going to be read by far more readers than a multi-page spread. It's not just turning the page that loses readers. It's the length that wears them down. Like this blog post, which is already far past the 250-word limit and just past 600 words if I'm counting correctly.

If you're reading this line, thank you!! for not giving up and clicking away to somewhere else, but I'll stop boring you. The bottom line is, keep it short but pack in enough meat to make it worth reading the one screenshot you do give your readers.



Ms Kitty said...

I'm going to disagree.

1) On post length, I prefer 500 words. 250 works isn't enough to really get going.

2) Is it writing? Yes, informal writing. So I don't worry about every word being perfect. Just as I would not use slang when speaking to my boss, but can use it freely with my friends.

WebbieGrrl Writer said...

Thanks for disagreeing, Kat! :) Hey, gotta have at least ONE person disagree with what I post or there's no debate--and I advertised "(debate)" in the post title *grin*

Personally, I find the 500-750 word range to be ideal for me as an author, but I have to agree that 100-300 is idea for me as a reader. Past the 200-300 range, I start drifting unless the piece is super-chock full of nuts I can bite down on and really chew on past the time it takes me to read the article.

I do not, by the way, profess to WRITING these sorts of blog posts--or not yet. I wish! Writing non-fiction is definitely an art form unto itself, and quite different than writing fiction, which is where I fit naturally.

I'm really stirring up a debate because I'm going to disagree on your second point, too! *haha* No, not just to be disagreeable but really, I think a blog post or any other "public" writing really should be as professionally worded or worked as you can make it. There are times in forum posts where I don't bother, but on a blog, I always read, re-read and edit. Even after I've posted, I might come back the next day and fix a typo I'd missed--and I do come back to check for them. I think it's important to maintain a certain level of professionalism simply because unlike diamonds (which depend on the mining and export business ambitions and players) "the internet really is forever" (or so sez the Wayback Machine at Archive.org)

I think a big part of what tone one presents in the blog posts depends on what one's intended audience might expect. Your Jordan's Croft blog, forex, is definitely a informal personal blog where you chit-chat about your farm life, family, personal quirks AND writing. I'm hoping that this blog will end up as resource for its users more than a speaking platform for me, its author. Then again, it sure is taking up a lot of my word-writing time *smirk*