How Long is Too Long?

        So how long is too long, anyway?  I suppose the answer to that question depends on the topic being discussed.  For a writer, length most likely means one of two things: pages, or the time it takes to complete a project.  The answer to both questions is simple: find a happy medium.

        When it comes to pages, I have no problem reading, or writing, a long work as long as it is interesting.  It’s when a work drones on and on without getting to the point that I lose interest.  I believe that there needs to be a happy medium between an author painting a picture in the mind, and the reader painting their own picture based on the details and description of the work.  Basically it comes down to not overdoing, or underdoing it (as so many things do in life).

        With regard to the time it takes to complete a project, well, I’ve certainly learned a lot.  When I first started writing my book, I figured a year and I’d be done.  All I can do is smile about that now.  It takes what it takes.  Still, though, I suppose there must be a happy medium between a year and pulling a Salinger and taking half a lifetime to complete your follow-up works.  The lesson that I’ve learned is not to worry about deadlines and timelines.  Instead, worry about the words.  If the words are good, then there’s nothing to worry about.

        Hopefully in the future, I’ll have nothing to worry about.  If it doesn’t work out that way, oh well.  Life is meant to be lived, not avoided.  It’s just something that you can’t get away from….


21 thoughts on “How Long is Too Long?

  1. I worry about this a lot! It’s especially hard for me to write a blog post that doesn’t go on forever. There’s a sweet spot, a certain amount of time that people are willing to invest in reading a post. I haven’t quite found it, but I’m working on it!

    • Writing definitely isn’t easy, but there’s no need to make it difficult either. Write about what you love, and people who love what you do will find your writing. Thanks for the comment, and best wishes to you.

  2. Good question, I even worry about my blog posts being too long sometimes and how readers regard a big block of text. I think for a book it is different, like you say if books are interesting people will read, like the Harry Potter series for want of a more eclectic choice of example.

    Susan Hill writes quite a few books books that usually don’t make 200 pages and they are great but the Dicken’s debut novel was 800 odd pages and his books are all great so I guess to be safe cover all sizes and show your versatility or shorten them and then do a Stephen King, years later bring out the extended version, money spinner!

    • I like the idea of a money spinner! I suppose that is getting a little ahead of myself, though. For now, I just have to wrap things up. It shouldn’t take too long. Unfortunately, I’ve said that before…. This time, though, I mean it. Now, I just have to get to work. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I personally like short and sweet — and get to the point quickly. But I read something which said that the blog posts that are most shared are about three times the size I like. So what do I know?

  4. Learning to write something with meaning and worth for a blog and yet keeping it short is a real skill, I still have a lot to learn on that. In regard to writing novels or any kind of book though, I think it’s a good thing to grasp, because it’s one of those traps that most new writers don’t even realise they’re doing, until they leave their work for a few weeks or months and come back and read it – and find they’ve repeated themselves several times, used lots of unnecessary words and made their chapters three times the length they actually need to be!

    Recently I’ve read quite a bit about the worlds changing level of attention span when it comes reading online, it’s about 8 minutes before interest begins to diminish – apparently. I’m sure this varies with different people, but it’s worth bearing in mind. So many people now have a lot of social media, not for any particular reason, but just for fun, keeping up with friends, making new internet friends or charity fund-raising Facebook pages, and that all takes quite a bit of their time in each day keeping up with it all, not leaving so much time to read what they would like to. I know that feeling well and it’s a little depressing, as well as a cause of anxiety when you fall behind with reading posts! I guess it’s a bit like coming home from school to find you have a stack of home work! 😐 So shorter blog posts, definitely a good idea.

    I agree with you about deadlines for a book, in the end it is the words that matter most, deadlines are just a harassment. I have seen a few self published authors on Twitter posting regular tweets on how many words they’ve written that day or that week, trying to build an excitement about their next novel. I might be wrong about this, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea, or that anyone else is interested. I think boasting about how quick a novel is progressing makes it sound like it might be a bit cheap and nasty – something a reader might not want to buy. How quickly and efficiently someone is at throwing a novel together doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be worth reading. We all think in a different way and progress at a different level, so take your time with your books Cody, and enjoy the experience – words are everything in the end! 🙂

    • Well put. Thank you for the encouragement. I tend to write in waves, but I’ve been in a bit of a dry spell lately. Hopefully the next wave is just around the bend.

  5. I think of it this way, if its a post on let’s say philosophy or some other meditative thought then 1500 to 3000 words is about right… one can always break it up into several following posts with links at the bottom and top as a sort of menu. I’ve done this on longer philosophical tracts and it works out fine. In the end it comes down to your own needs and what you feel is about the length of your expected readership or you own. If your practicing for publications then think of the basics: most go from 1000 to 6000 words, depending on the type and kind of article or review. If I’m doing book reviews or poetry usually 1000 to 1500 words which is scrollable without being too long for a single sitting to read. Not sure if that helped or not, just my basic practice.

    • Thank you for sharing your basic practice. It is always good to hear from another writer about their writing process. It helps to bring me out of the dark cave of isolation that I sometimes find myself in when working on my writing projects. Thank you for your comment.

  6. I’ve been reading what professional copy writers have to say, and one message is that the purpose of the first sentence or paragraph is to get you interested to read the second one.

    The second paragraph is either a payoff paragraph or the lead in to the third paragraph.

    By the third paragraph there should be some kind of payoff that has read the mind of the reader and knows just what they have been wondering/thinking – and serves it up.

    • Your comment brings me back to my days between the walls of Allen Hall at the University of Oregon. Personally, I’ve always tried to make my first sentences as interesting as possible. Sometimes, though, it is easier said than done. I suppose we can’t all write opening lines about being transformed into a “monstrous vermin.”

    • Espero que tengas un buen fin de semana también. Estoy muy halagado de que a encontrar placer en la lectura de mis palabras. Espero que te guste mi próximo post, que está a sólo unos días de distancia.

  7. “It takes what it takes.” Amen! A time table is only a suggestion. When someone asks me when I plan to be finished I say, “Eventually. I hope.” The writing takes just as long as it needs to (and longer).

    • I agree. When the time is right, we’ll be ready. I find that if I rush things, it actually takes longer in the end as I ended up having to spend more time reworking and rewriting.

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