To Master Writing, Try Different Lengths

I have recently had the opportunity to experiment with several different lengths of written works – from long-form book, to op-ed, to blog post, and the hyper-short back cover blurb. What I have learned from it is this: writing outside your depth (or length) can make you better at what you do.

Not everyone is well-suited to be a blogger. 500-700 words just doesn’t work for some people.

For example, I have a pastor friend who produces beautiful short poems almost every day. They are thoughtful and give a clear image in just a few words. He is also a great speaker, and has mastered the 40 minute sermon. He makes his point clearly and supports it with examples and authority (scripture). But ask that same pastor to write a book and he flinches. Despite being a good short-form writer and poet, the idea of creating chapters full of content leave him speechless.

Another acquaintance writes comedic bits for her radio show and maintains a blog full of short, witty posts. But even a short story feels too long for her. She’s not sure how to keep someone’s attention.

For novelists, and some lawyers, the problem goes the other way. These writers are used to having all the time in the world to make their point, explain the details, and provide support. But give them a word limit and they crumble. They don’t know how to be brief!

But just because a form of writing doesn’t come easily to you doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be gained from practicing it.

If you are a long-form writer, restricting yourself to a brief 250-500 words can help you become more succinct, and can help focus your longer works. By practicing the art of the blog (or even the opinion editorial), you will sharpen your skills and learn to say more with less.

If you are a short-form writer, experimenting with chapter books or novels can help you go deeper with your ideas. It can give you the space you need to fully develop your thoughts and provide examples. When you return to your short form, your concepts will be much more fully formed and you will find you have more to write about.

It doesn’t do the blogger any good to always stay within the box of a traditional blog. By stretching myself into the world of long-form writing and then trying to squeeze my thoughts into the confines of a book cover, I have strengthened my writing and learned new skills.

What writing form have you always feared? Are you “not creative” enough for poetry? Does the idea of chapters put you on edge? Does a blog seem too constraining? Whatever your limits, I challenge you to break them this week. Write in a different genre. Try something new. Then let me know how it goes in the comments. I’ll bet you learn something just like I did.

Author Lisa Schmidt Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist. She provides ghost-writing services to lawyers and small businesses. If you have a project you need help writing, contact Legal Linguist today to set up a meeting.

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