Writing 500 to 1,000 Words At A Time

I wonder if people had longer attention spans would I write more with each post? I used to write 1,ooo to 3,000 word posts when I first started out blogging and before blogging when I was sending Scrawlings of a Mad Man by email. Then I learned a few things about on and offline reading habits, the typical reader quickly scans articles looking for information related to them and if and only if they find something of interest to them, which can encompass a lot of things, they will go back and read the article. However, if the article is too long they will stop reading unless the article is written well and relates to them. Typically 500 to 8o0 words. 1,000 words is pushing it and over 1,200 the article had better be written well, organized well, and have plenty of eye-movers such as headers and pictures to keep the reader involved.

Whew, that is a lot of information to take in and for someone like me who writes a lot not good information. Allow me to recap for those who saw the opening first paragraph and thought to themselves, too much to read:

A typical reader does the following:

  • Quickly scans looking for anything of interest to them
  • Stops actively reading between 500 and 800 words unless well written and organized

So, what does that have to do with me or for you for that matter? If nothing else as a writer you are aware of some reading habits and as a reader you are aware of some reading habits. More to the point, this knowledge affected my writing. Now, would blogging alone have affected my writing as much as my writing has been affected alone? Doubtful, blogging is a wonderful medium, but is hardly the only writing I do.

Then came college. Blogging and college occurred at the same time. And I think the combination of blogging and college had the biggest affect on my writing. College papers are supposed to have a point and get to that point in under X pages. X pages is completely relative-some professors want single space 10 to 11 point font. Most though want double spaced 12 point font. What does that mean? Not much other than the difference between 1,500 to 500 words. Really that’s about it.

For four years, I have been writing for other people. People who have to read between 12 and 30 papers and who most likely do not want to read 3,000 words at a time, thus double spaced 12 point font. Is that all there is to writing? No, there is having a point and getting to the point, which means good writers do that quickly with style. To do that within the boundaries of a typical college paper and not making a lot more work for yourself means direct writing, which tends to cut down on the word count.

Is that it? Not really, some lessons from other authors brought home the message that half of what I write can be tossed into the garbage leaving me with a more direct message. While I understand and have practiced doing just that, I don’t like how the remaining half reads. So I don’t. But you get the idea there have been more influences upon my writing in the last four years than in the twenty years preceding.

548 words later you may be wondering, why? I hadn’t really noticed the 500 to 1,000 point until I started working on Nail Clippers. Originally started as an inside joke, Nail Clippers has moved beyond erotica into a story of its own, that I write 500 to 1,000 words at a time. Shortly after writing part 3, while talking to a friend I lamented that I wanted to write something longer. At the time we both thought I meant over 10 pages or a novel, but weeks later I think what I meant was over 1,000 words. Took four years to go from 1,000 plus to 500 to 1,000 words, perhaps four years after graduation the number will go up…I doubt it because 500 to 1,000 words at a time forces me to write better…I think. 🙂



7 thoughts on “Writing 500 to 1,000 Words At A Time

  1. Blogs are basically essays in the classical sense, which is to say the writings of Montaigne. Rather than to do the research, I picked one at random to find that it was ~5000 words and not atypical of his writing.

    It speaks to our attention spans as well as the quality and quantity of writing in our digital age. We are exposed to so much media that we are overwhelmed, and thus we filter it by quality and interest. When there is a cloud of words, we try to pick the ones that mean the most and in the shortest time before we get lost in the ever expanding plethora of prose.

    Sadly, it would seem that 1000 words is something of a sweet spot for our sensibilities, but given that we are discussing things of less lofty nature than say Solitude or Cato the Younger, I feel this is perhaps appropriate. Our grandest thoughts should be curated by our own voice and not the needs of the reader, but our interests and concerns can be relegated to shorter narrative as though to brainstorm by way of expository writing.

    It is merely a medium unto itself, though I hope to be as Montaigne and record something of thoroughness and truth. Until then, I place my trust into the whetstone of blog writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Re: Nail Clippers

    I hate feet. Not my feet. My feet are cute. 😉

    But… FEET. *shudder*

    So since your NC story started with feet, I get all squidgy just looking at the title when it pops up on my Reader. So, there’s that.


    Re: Reader Attention Span-ish Stuff

    I get interesting responses from my longer posts. The perma-links are clicked more often on posts that are over 800 words, and my top two posts this so far this year – as well as my number one post of all time – each fall into that category.

    Not sure why that is.

    I wonder if reader demographics affect anything, or whether subject matter… Matters.

    Also, I think there’s a webcrawler/google-cataloger rule of some sort that basically ignores posts under a certain mininum. 300 words? Or maybe it’s 500. Which effects referrals from search engines when people are looking for something specific. Which is sort of an attention span thing, in its own way.


    1. Ankoku1331

      I too am not a fan of feet. Not even mine. However, the start is catchy and then the story took off on its own. 🙂

      Your posts tend to have an interesting eye organization that makes reading them easier or at least not as daunting as the standard block paragraph style. Demographics and subject matter play a large role in how long people will read.


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