Recently I had a discussion with a friend who is also a writer. He writes essays and one-act plays. We discussed our writing styles. He’s a good writer, quite witty with a very interesting background. I suggested that he try his hand at an autobiographical novel. His life was a treasure trove of fascinating experiences. He admitted that he found it especially difficult writing about himself but, more than that, he found writing a novel very daunting. He liked writing short, compact pieces. He just didn’t have the “words”, as he put it, for longer literary forms.
Now I’m just the opposite when it comes to writing. I can write either short or lengthy prose. I learned to write as a journalist and public relations professional so I can easily knock out a short piece, i.e., a news release, a speech, a magazine article; or I can go long with a book of fiction or non-fiction. Like a good quarterback, I can throw the short, intermediate or long ball. My friend, on the other hand, likes the short and intermediate throws, ones that he does quite well. Both styles can lead to success.
I thought a lot about our discussion. Our differing approaches to writing length, I believe, lies in the way our brains are wired. We’re both competent writers but our synaptic networks prefer different approaches to organizing our thoughts and language usage. It comes down to comfort level. His temperament prefers knowing where he is going with a writing project, a tight schedule for getting there and a pre-defined ending. Mine is somewhat different. I often don’t know where a story I’m working on will take me. My characters often lead the way and I don’t keep to any tight schedule. I just write and hope that it all works out.
There is no right or wrong in the style of writing you enjoy and are good at. The brain is a marvelous thing and works in strange ways, which is why we have so many wonderful and creative writers in every genre. Go long, go short, but please don’t hold on to the ball too long or you’ll be benched and out of the game. Just write!