Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quantity and Length in Writing

Last semester, I went to an editorial office of Automotive magazine which was patronized by the biggest media chain in Indonesia. Well, I learned a lot. Not only that I had the chance closer to the real world of external media, I found new networks.

But during certain length of time of discussion, something got me into the core. It's about writing. When I was a child, I have a strange hobby: sending letters to my classmates who I met everyday. I don't know, it's like there was something special in sending letters that time. But anyway, my mom and siblings knew that activity, and praised my friends who sent a long letter to me. They said, the longer the better.

It put in my mind that if you can write so long, it will be considered as a good one. So, I always try to.

I didn't enjoy writing when I was in school. Never did. But I started writing when I was 15, and would like to write for school's task when I got the mood in the right ambience. Later, I know that this is not good if you wanna have writing as your profession. Especially, when you meet the deadlines.

But as for the length of your writing piece, the big news is that readers' reading intensity is decreasing. Why (Indonesian online news channel) is becoming so popular, as many people rely on their news? It's because they provide the short news. For one small incident, they can post 3 news about it, on various angles. Mostly, their news are not longer than 500-800 words (less than A4 paper page). People enjoy look into a short article and read it, then find another short article to read again. They think it's better than reading one article of full-written news.

But despite the fact they're almost everywhere and fast, mistakes are nothing questionable. Speed doesn't mean accurate. There's the positive, then there's the negative.

Here's one question: Write one article with full information or three articles on the same subject but different angles?

What do you think of reading this post? It's a long one...

But a few months later, I went to a book fair where there were so many books discounted. I went to my favourite bookstore's booth there and met a guy who was in charge. At first, he was talking to a woman who visited the booth looking for a book, then they were drown in a small discussion. This guy seemed to know much about literary and the values of writing pieces. As I looked for a book, I asked him too when he finished the conversation with the previous lady. He couldn't find it, I said ok. Funny, after visiting the booth, I went to a mall where there's the same bookstore, and the guy was there too. He still recognized me.

"I'm hopping around, " he said, when I asked why he was there too. It was only one hour away from when we first met in the booth. Until now, I didn't know his job title at the bookstore, he didn't answer me directly. He tried to help me find the book I looked for, who knew the book might be available on the store. They only stocked certain titles at the booth for the book fair. But, the stock for the book was also empty.

He then offered me another titles, like Eat.Pray.Love by Elisabeth Gilberts. "It's going to be in a movie," he told me. I refused as I had one at home. "I like it so much, can't wait for the movie though," I added. He offered me another title by Mrs. Gilberts that I wasn't that interested. It was "Committed".  He told me to come to another branch store, in Serpong. It's the biggest store, 40k titles are there. "Book heaven!" he joked.

He asked about my job. I said I was a student in the morning, and a teacher in the afternoon. But he was interested more in my college textbook and where I bought it. Good marketer! Keep on track! I said my school has managed it and all I needed to do is to pay. He explained to me that one of universities in Serpong usually bought their textbook in his store he worked. I jumped into a point, "But those books here are very expensive!" I laughed. But he said, "That the price for a value of knowledge." I thought, guess, he was right.

Once I read a reviewer's review on a writer's new book. It was a too-short story to be a novel. Yet, the reviewer praised the book for being too short. She also said that the author has passed a trial that many authors cannot pass on their first books. I was like, being short or long, is it a trial?

We, writers, write books for certain purpose to share, no matter how long it could be, no matter how many titles we could produce. We went through so many researches that sacrificed our time, energy, mind, and money. All of our hopes were given to the piece. Through contacting hundreds of publisher and agents, and the editing process, the tense. The refusals. Fighting desperation. And what we got? 10% for royalty. Should we still consider the decreasing of readers' reading intensity?

Leave out the difference, this is book and that is article. It's obvious that people can't endure the length of writing pieces. Many people around me somewhat are complaining that I buy and read many thick books. Many and thick! It's me who spend my energy and time to buy and money to pay. It's me who is going to read it, and not them. Why are they complaining about my lifestyle? See....

Back to the guy I met at the bookstore. I agreed. Small conversation can open my mind. I agree to follow the readers' demand to provide short news. Why? I understand their lifestyle, too, which doesn't have so many times to get information on what's going on. Make it short, make it quick. Efficiency to stay update in little time. For book, people read it for their curiosity to kill in their leisure time, why should we bother?

Quantity or length, as long as you enjoy... as much as it's worthed for everything.

I'm only a piece of dust...

1 comment:

  1. As I child I wrote letters to everyone I knew too. Thought I was the only one who did that. :)

    I heard somewhere that writers write for the 1% of the population that reads and I try to remember it's that population that exists...because those people love reading, so the longer the better!


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