This particular post is a “venting” rant on my part. However, as I dislike making complaints about anything without offering solutions to (hopefully) counter the perceived problem, I’m going to do that as well. This is in regards to so many people either not bothering to read anything you write because of the complaint that it’s too long, or only reading part of it and never coming back to the rest. Any writer who claims this doesn’t vex them is being less than honest, because every writer knows how much work and emotional investment goes into everything we write and share with the public, including “mere” blog posts.
This is prompted by an ongoing problem I have with my writing style, which is making my essays and blog posts too long, so that people avoid reading them, either in their entirety or altogether – or, perhaps worse, just “skimming” through them. Yes, I tend to be “wordy” because I have a very strong tendency to want to be thorough in the points I make, lest I later be accused of being “vague” or deliberately leaving important matters out in order to bolster my arguments. This is no doubt a problem I need to work on, and have tried to address since re-starting my blog. But another part of the problem is this odd attitude that people en masse appear to have when it comes to reading essays and blog posts (which are certainly a form of essay, albeit designed exclusively for the realm of cyberspace).
That attitude is how so many people seem to think that an essay (or blog post) has to either be read in its entirety all in one sitting, or not at all. So if they are inclined to read a post of mine, they attempt to trudge through it completely, and if they can’t – if they grow bored due to it being too long for them, or if they simply do not have enough time that day to get through it – they stop reading at that point and never come back to it. Or, they preemptively skim through the whole body of the post to get an idea of its length, and if they deem it too long to get through in one sitting, they avoid making the effort to read more than itty bitty pieces of it altogether. This, despite the fact that readers are used to tackling novels and even novellas for only as much as they can get through in a single sitting, and then come back to it at another time. Indeed this is why novels – and even novellas – as well as non-fiction books are divided into separate chapters.
This is also why I have, of late, attempted to divide my longer posts or essays into separate, readily demarcated sections so readers have a good “leaving off point,” and do not feel this compelling requirement to read all of it in one sitting, or permanently stop at a certain point or avoid reading altogether. Don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt some people do not like my writing style at all, finding it boring, pretentious, “awkward,” annoying, etc., and avoid my posts/essays for that reason. This is the case with every writer, and we expect and accept this (or need to learn to do so in a big hurry). But this is not addressing those individuals; it’s addressing those who would genuinely like to read at least some of my posts (depending on topic, in many cases), but end up doing the above for perceiving it to be “too long” for them to get through in a single reading session.
As readers of my blog know, the day after Father’s Day, I posted a tribute to my grandfather, a diatribe near and dear to my heart. I made an effort to avoid making it too long so that it would be avoided or only partially read for that reason. I counted how many paragraphs it ran, and the number was 14. Is that really long to the point that so many readers who may have wanted to read it avoided doing so, or only read part of it… and then never came back to read the rest because they couldn’t get through it all in one sitting? According to a close friend whose friendship and opinion I greatly value and respect, this was indeed the case. This friend told me the other day that he/she only read part of the tribute because it was too long.
Shortly before I left that tribute, this friend wrote one for his/her own father on his/her blog, and it clocked in at ten paragraphs, few of them lengthy. This was a mere four paragraphs less than my tribute to my grandfather, which also varied in length (some were quite short). I read this valued friend’s tribute in its entirety because I knew this post was near and dear to his/her heart, and I knew how much emotion this friend put into it. Hence, I made the time to read it. I didn’t think ten paragraphs was “too long,” and though different people must be expected to have different opinions on the matter, I don’t think 14 paragraphs (some quite short) is so long that I should expect those who sincerely wanted to see what I had to say to deem it “too long” to get through.
Obviously, I’m wrong. Fourteen paragraphs is evidently too long for some people. I’m not certain that I can ever truncate my writing style to the point that I make every single blog entry less than 12 paragraphs, but what I will do in the future is this: If I have a lot to say about a certain subject, and want to avoid being accused of “short-changing” this topic, I will post in multiple parts. If I can say everything I want to say about what I have to say in a single post, then I will endeavor to keep it under 13 paragraphs, since I know it will likely not get read, or read in its entirety, otherwise… no matter how important or dear to my heart, or how interested a reader in question may have in it.
In addition to meeting my readers “half way” in this manner, I reiterate this suggestion: Never feel compelled to read a single essay/post in a single sitting any more than you do a novel or lengthy book of non-fiction. If it’s too long for you to get through in a single session, simply mark your point of ending, and get back to it at a later time, just as you may mark the time stamp of a movie or online video that’s too long for you to get through in one sitting. If you don’t think it’s worth reading at all, then by all means, avoid reading it entirely. But if you genuinely do want to read it, and length is a problem or consideration for you, then you do the blogger/writer a bit more justice for their hard work by marking off the ending point and getting back to it when next you have time to sit and read it. And repeat the process several times if necessary, just as you would for a book you had an interest in.