Years ago, the time spent writing an article was measured in days and pages. The turnaround time from mailing to news of rejection or acceptance would be weeks. Today, I can write a decent article and, if I’m lucky, have it guest-posted in a day or two. So, the news is all good, right?
So it would seem, but we should remind ourselves of the old adage that says when a new technology develops, something is lost. Take the current average article length, roughly a few lines over a screen, five or six hundred words. What depths can be reached in such a short piece? Some tips, a narrow focus on an issue, an opinion? This could be considered criticism except that need determines usefulness. Short writing for short times.
Ray Bradbury had it right in Fahrenheit 451 in describing the trend toward abbreviation in every aspect of our lives. Reading habits bear this out. For the most part, readers want a few bytes to chew, swallow, and then click to the next course. A page maxes out their attention span, if not their appetites.
What is lost with abbreviation? For one, the richness of detail, the support which makes opinions and descriptions believable. And allusion, the references to similar ideas found in other blogs or literary sources. Then, there’s interest, the building of tension, the satisfaction of resolution. But, of course, these qualities refer to literature. Web logs aren’t, and were never intended to be, literature, though “literate” remains a qualification of better website material. So, here we are, one page wonders, giving advice on how to freeze vegetables safely or expressing passionately, with our stock of expletives, how the movie Avatar addresses corporate evils.
Many are satisfied with this state of Internet affairs, resigned to the “something lost,” even embracing it. In hard copy days, the market for the submissions of such fluff would have been directed to editorial pages or the comment sections of weekly columns. Today, everyone can have a place at the global publication table, handicapping the Internet with the same function that makes it useful – accessibility.
Because of the above assessment, writing content of decent caliber becomes a challenge. Here is a list of factors we should consider for any article:
· Interest –. the foundation of any article
· Content – the material should leave the reader more informed or thoughtful
· Relevance – appropriate to its category, not relevant to popularity
· Polish – free of any spelling errors or obvious grammatical blunders
· Style – written to the audience most likely to read it
Is this possible in six hundred words? Absolutely, but not without effort. And not without acceptance. The effort in creating a page of literate, thoughtful, interesting text requires proofing, rewriting, and maybe getting feedback from a trusted enemy preceding submission for publication. An enemy will be brutally frank, just what is needed for quality assurance. As to acceptance, the website community needs to look just beyond its current standards of simplistic, expository, just-the-facts content. To look over the horizon and assume its readership might enjoy something heftier than lightweight information.
The rule of thumb for Hollywood studios is to take a chance, a gamble, every fifth film or so, and lean toward the off-beat, the experimental, to produce a movie which most likely won’t sit in a Cineplex for weeks raking in safe revenue. The Internet now stands at roughly 200 million websites and over 20 billion web pages. With the ease of Internet posting, and this astounding quantity of possibilities, following the example of Hollywood by creating web space for solid writing should be a no-brainer.
Mike Carter – Artist Inlet Press