Monday, July 12, 2021

Too Many Words

So that was a long gap between posts. I suspect things are going to get oddly sporadic, random even, now I'm back at work. Having dropped a day to go to three days a week and also requested, if possible, the three days don't come all at once, I now have a pattern that's sufficiently scattered I can't readily hold it in mind. 

I can't say being back at work is a joy but it does at least provide a little outside perspective after six months sat at home in front of a screen. And a keyboard.

One of the many recurring tasks the job involves is writing those little cards you see that sit on the shelves to draw attention to certain titles. The latest guidance suggests they should never be more than twenty-five words long. After I saw that I went around and did a word count of a few of mine (and other peoples'). Almost all of them were longer than that. The only reason they weren't a lot longer was you couldn't fit any more words on the cards.

I'm going to try to stick to the advised word-count on any new ones I write in the hope I might develop some transferrable skills. If I could train myself to be concise I might be able to knock out a blog post in under an hour, which would mean I could reasonably expect to get something up whether I'd worked that day or not.

Shorter, snappier posting has been a goal of mine for years. It's not like I don't know how. It's more like I've forgotten. Looking back at the early days, pretty much every post comes in under five hundred words, some at half that. Re-reading them now, they don't seem to lose much for being so very, very much shorter. 

The posts get progressively longer and longer over the years until these days I don't consider I've scratched the surface of anything in much under two and a half thousand words. I discard entire ideas for posts nowadays (and not infrequently either) because as I frame them in my mind I can feel them running to five thousand words or more. 

I wanted to do one in reply to Aywren's post on the importance of story in mmorpgs but just the thought of doing justice to the subject made me feel tired. I couldn't see how I could get it done in less than a couple of days of solid work. 

The reason I did a music post on Friday, due to an unfortunate piece of scheduling the one day in five I wasn't working, was that music posts are relaxing and fun to do. They take even longer to put together than regular posts but well over half of it is watching videos and listening to songs so it hardly counts. 

And the way I write music posts feels different. They're almost always just a lot of opinions, emotions and supposedly smart remarks, all wrapped up in a frame where I try to sound more hip and happening than I am, a persona I've cultivated for the best part of fifty years now and with which I'm very comfortable. It comes easily.


Writing long meditations on the warp and weft of mmorpgs, by comparison, feels uncannily similar to being back at college. There's a lot of reading and research, the structure has to be considered and there's a deadline to get everything done and handed in which always seems to be bearing down on me. Eventually I get it finished. Then I sit back and wait for comments. The only thing missing is a grade.

The only comment I got on the first essay I ever handed at college was succinct and to the point: "Too long". That was it, the only thing my supervisor had to say. He certainly took his own advice. 

We had some words about it. Things got quite heated. I changed supervisors for one who seemed not to mind. My essays, if anything, got longer. I wonder, now, if the first guy might not have had a point.

This, as I'm sure everyone still reading will have noticed, is yet another post about posting. There's something of a convention in the blogosphere, or this part of it, anyway, to apologize for blogging about blogging as though it's self-indulgent or tedious. It might be either or both but not necessarily. As a blogger, I lap this stuff up. It's shop talk and shop talk is only boring to people who don't work in the shop. We all work in the blog shop.

It's July now and if anyone's mentioned Blaugust 2021 I haven't seen it. Belghast is very evidently not in any position to take on the extra work and responsibilty and if he even thinks about doing it someone had better call an intervention pretty darn quick. If anyone else was planning on stepping in I guess we'd have heard about it by now. I am, for for sure, not voulunteering!

These past few years Blaugust has offered the best chance to chat about how blogging works. We usually have that week at the start where everyone comes out with their tips and hints and the week at the end where we all recap how it went and in the middle there's a lot of topic-work that frequently includes showing your workings. It's like a convention, where everyone gets to sit around and tell each other things they all already know, and yet somehow hearing other people say them helps make sense of it all.

If we're not doing that this year then I guess there are just going to be more posts like this, where we mither on about how we're doing, what's working and what isn't. Or I will, anyway. I mean, you can't just write about games all the time, right? Sometimes you just have to write about how you write about games.

That's about nine hundred words. It's not the five hundred I'm hoping to get down to but it's a start. I'm going to stop now because I can already feel a bunch more words trying to push their way to the front and I'm damned if I'm going to let them get the better of me. Again.

Now I just have to think of what to call this thing and which pictures I could use to break it up a little. That's the hard part.


  1. For what it's worth, I don't think I've ever read one of your posts and felt like it was going on for too long.

    I'm not saying "too long" doesn't exist though. Of course it always depends on the topic and the writing style, but in general I think my limit is somewhere between 2k and 3k words. Any longer than that and I start skimming, sometimes even skipping whole paragraphs.

    But, again, it always depends on who's written it. To this day I've written only one post longer than 1,5k words myself, and even I can't stand re-reading it, so I'm not doing that anymore. :-)

    1. Thanks! The patience of whatever readers I might have is a significant factor but the real issue is how much of my day a really long post eats up. Over the last couple of years, with all the time I've had at home, what with one thing and another, I've fallen into something of a pattern of spending at least three hours most days writing a post. Quite often that stretches to five hours or more.

      It's complicated by the fact that I probably enjoy writing as much or more than pretty much anything else I could be doing with the time, so I don't have much incentive to cut back. There are only so many hours in the day, though, and the more of them I spend writing, the less I have to write about. I already do quite a lot of posts that take longer to write than I've spent playing the content I'm writing about, which is starting to feel a little bit unbalanced.

      Probably nothing much is going to change. I've been saying I need to write shorter posts for at least five years now but it never seems to happen. I keep re-iterating it in the hope I might shame myself into doing something about it but so far, no such luck.

  2. I always struggled to hit the minimum word counts for essays. Looking back at my blogging, my earlier posts were also - if not short, then at least shorter than they tend to be now.

    I wonder if you get more verbose over time when you continuously write about the same thing, as you start to build up all this history that you feel the urge to reference and repeat for new readers...

    1. For me, one definite change since the early days has been my increasing awareness that I actually have readers. It's bizarre, really, because as I look back, I was getting plenty of comments right from the start, but for years I was very definitely writing for me, not for an audience.

      I think that probably started to change from the first time I did Blaugust, which was officially in 2016, although I acknowledged and "shadowed" it the year before. Over the years since then I've both ciltivated a more overtly conversational style and also taken to considering how posts might be received before hitting Publish. That does lead to more back-referencing and explanatory notes, for sure.

      I guess it's inevitable the longer we carry on, even though it's quite likely some readers remember this stuff better than we do. That's not hubris - it happens and it always throws me when someone quotes something I said years ago. Someone did it at work just a few days ago and it makes me realize people must actually listen to what I say, sometimes, which is a very sobering thought!

  3. I enjoy your long form posts. I mean, if you want to push yourself and work on shorter posts, certainly. It's just that when I read a blog I like the fact that folks take the time to write out what they want to say without having to worry about fitting to a specific length. Kind of haiku vs free form poetry. Each is good as they scratch different itches.


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