December 01, 2008

Help Me Write! - Just a Little Off the Top, Please

Last post we discussed writing for an online audience. Writer’s Digest posted an excellent article on writing blogs. One of their main points was that a blog post should be less than 300 words (though I've heard others say 500). As I mentioned last week, our story segments were running from 450 – 1,100 words. The WD article got me thinking...what else can I do to shorten the story segments?

Obviously, shortening the segements isn't easy. I have to make tough choices (and, by the way, I really appreciate and value the perspectives shared by Sheree, Rebecca, and belle). Now, my task is to shave 100 – 750 words off my story segments to net out at around 350 words.

One thing I've been playing with is the way I describe basic elements of the setting (i.e. scene descriptors, time of day, the character’s surroundings, etc.). Rather than develop those items through the formal prose, I’m considering a different tactic: screenplay-like descriptors that introduce each scene. Here’s an example:



FRIDAY, NOV. 22, 1963 – 12:35PM

This approach saves time by telling readers where the characters are and what time it is (crucial when you’re jumping back and forth through history).

Now, it's your turn to weigh in:

  1. What do you think of this approach?

  2. How does this approach help the reader? How does it hurt the reader?

  3. Do you have any other suggestions that might save time? For example, should I add the character names to each title bar?


Anonymous said...

I feel that the inclusion of the location at the beginning of the episode is helpful and even consistent with the most common form of episodic stories today - the TV show (Fringe and Heroes come to mind). And, since it's also been around for a long time in movies, I don't think it would be an unwanted distraction.

As for the names of the major players in the scene, that could be helpful also, as long as it doesn't make the header too cumbersome... So maybe something like this:

FRIDAY, NOV. 22, 1963 – 12:35PM

Come to think of it, that's again almost exactly how Heroes introduces it's scenes.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

I can see doing that as a way of review. I wouldn't want it to replace the original writing that gave the set up. Unless you're trying to invent a new kind of story form. Maybe that's what needs to happen. But I tend to think, if someone wants a book to read, they'll be disappointed at some kind of shortened alternative. If they want a graphic novel, obviously they'll go for pictures. If they want video, they'll look for that media.

This is an interesting idea. I'm a reader, but I don't generally go to the internet for my fiction. Who does? That's the person you need to find out about. Who wants to read 400 word snatches of a story at a time?

I will say, I have been compelled by blogs telling continuing stories. I've looked forward to the next chapter in great anticipation. But there weren't any short cuts. It was just great prose.


J Sherer said...

Becky and Nathan, excellent feedback. Becky, you're absolutely right. And, I've discovered that I completely forgot to appropriately position just what is meant to be! How can everybody give feedback when they don't really know what we're trying to accomplish? Great question, and excellent job of picking up on that issue. I should go back and refer to my old posts about strategy before jumping into the tactics...

So, you guys can expect the next post to be a review of the concept...

Thanks for the feedback! We're already improving the process!!!