Monthly Archives: April 2013

Write to the point (never mind the word count!)

I have a beef with a lot of blog owners and other content websites, and you might want to blame Google.  You see, a lot of blog owners welcome guest posts – as long as they are 500 words or more.  And a lot of article directories welcome your words of wisdom – as long as it comes in doses of 500 or more.  And a lot of other websites welcome your content – as long as it is at least 500 words long.

What is so magical about 500 words?  Well, there is a common perception that if an article is 500 words or more, Google will like it more than if it is under 500 words and Google will rain darts and stink-bombs and itching powder upon your website.

The basis of this perception is that shorter articles are not as good quality as longer ones.  The number 500 is a very arbitrary choice, with no basis in fact (actually some websites insist on at least 300 or 400 words, and others on at least 600 or 700 words – in any case, an arbitrary number).

However, there is some reason to suspect that if your website has articles that are mostly 100 words long it might not be judged as having as good quality content as the site with articles that are mostly 700 words long.

Garbage, no matter how long

As a writer, you should write to the point – you should get right to the point.  Say what you want to say, and when you are finished, say no more. Sadly, a lot of people keep writing long after they have nothing more to say. I have read a lot of garbage on the Internet of 1000 words and of 700 words and especially of 500-520 words.

Why especially of 500-520 words?  Because a lot of people write 100 or 200 or 300 words of information, but take just over 500 words to say it. They are trying to please Google.  Or to conform to websites that are trying to please Google.

Quite aside from how ridiculous this charade is – like an endless Monty Python skit caught in a repeating loop – this makes for some pathetic writing.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” In order to please Google, many people will use two, three or four words where just one will do, and their writing quality suffers big time for it.

When you write to the point, you stop when you have said your piece.  That might be at 100 words.  Or it might be at 200.  In the case of this article, it is at 451.

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Long Headlines for Wordy Wednesday

All over the Internet, blogs celebrate Wordless Wednesday by posting images instead of writing.  As a writers blog, we must protest.  And what better way to protest than to post an image of what just might be the longest headline in a mainstream newspaper?



The version above was shared by Amy Vernon, and is pretty long and humorous.  But after it was captured and shared it on social media, the headline was altered, adding a word and replacing three words with longer ones, making the following headline even longer…



Can long headlines work?  I would say this is an example of when they can. A long, startling headline with plenty of words.

These pictures might not be worth a thousand words, but for Wordless Wednesday they’ll do.


RECOMMENDED: Wordy Wednesday – Hagrid moonlights

 RECOMMENDED: Lyrics – The Ent and the Entwife (with video)

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Wreck-It Ralph and Character Jobs, Part I

Although I haven’t watched “Wreck-It Ralph,” I have read the (highly recommended) screenplay, and it sparked some musings about characters and their jobs.

“I gotta say, it becomes kinda hard to love your job… when no one else seems to like you for doing it.”

–Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph, as an anti-hero and video-game villain in his day job, is in fine company. In his book What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z, Lance Johnson provides surveys that list some of the service industries and related jobs Americans rank as lowest and complain about the most:

  • Oil companies
  • Real estate agents
  • HMOs
  • Tobacco companies
  • Auto dealers
  • Cell phone companies (contracts)
  • Collection agencies
  • Banks
  • Auto repair
  • Mortgage brokers

If your characters hold a profession everybody hates, that makes your job as a writer more challenging, but in the case of Wreck-It Ralph, it can also be a rewarding journey.  Everyone (including, ahem, writers) can relate to days in which no one appreciates what you do. Yes, Wreck-It Ralph is about Generation X, the video game and most maligned recent generation, but it is also about our jobs and our livelihoods.

Does the job define the character? 

Does the job define the person? In our society, yes, it does.

Does the job define the character?  In the case of cop dramas, legal dramas, political dramas, hard-boiled police procedurals, stories about sex workers, stories set in the entertainment industry, stories about teachers, even family dramas in which Mom and Dad are the (toughest of all) job titles (what parent hasn’t felt unappreciated at some point?), the answer is yes.

Whether it’s Detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” who lives for the job, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Kirk (when the movies prompted him to admiral and took him away from the Enterprise, that sparked major character conflict and a four-movie arc), there are many examples in which the job defines the character. But it’s also the character’s relationship to the job that creates drama and conflict.

FREE help to describe your characters!

In Wreck-It-Ralphs’s case, he just wants to be a part of society and be valued. His external goal is to get a medal, but in the course of “going turbo” and leaving his game, he develops other relationships.

This works for true stories, too: If your client has a job that the public has preconceptions, especially negative, about, such as the mortgage industry (Confessions of a Subprime Lender), IRS agents, Hollywood agents (sorry), salespeople, or politicians (if you land such a gig), your job is to make the case as to why the reader should care:  Is it a tell-all?  A personal struggle with illness?  A friendship or love story that changes lives? A how-to book on consumer advice?  A cause that’s bigger than the job?

Yes, it is hard to separate people from their jobs, because one of the first questions we ask is, “What do you do?” Why would your characters, including in nonfiction, be any different?  Also, other than their stated job title, characters have different jobs to do in your story.  Hero, comic relief, best friend, messenger, shapeshifter, mentor, sidekick…

Don’t knock the villains (even though we all love to). In my follow-up post, I’ll give some love to the antagonist/villain’s job and why, in Ralph’s words, “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”

Back to the job!

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Contest to help you write your book for children

It is contest time again, and this one will interest anyone who has ever wanted to write a children’s book. So if you know anybody who fits that description, please let them know.

Today (well, in two weeks, actually) we are giving away to one lucky winner a free copy of Write a Marketable Children’s Book in 7 Weeks by award-winning authors, Shirley Raye Redmond and Jennifer McKerley. They have authored more than 30 children’s books and are published by Random House, Simon and Schuster, Gale-Cengage and other houses.  You can take a peak at their Write Children’s Book website here.

You will note that the authors of our giveaway prize are well-placed to provide guidance on both fiction and non-fiction books, which they do.

In fact, here is what one book reviewer (Kathi Linz) has had to say: “If you want clear, concise, easy-to-understand directions, then pick up Write a Marketable Children’s Book in Seven Weeks by Shirley Raye Redmond and Jennifer McKerley.”

Here is what another reviewer (Rachel Burns, writer of young adult books) has had to say on Amazon: ”Jennifer McKerley is a true professional who knows the ins and outs of children’s book writing. From researching story ideas to revision methods and everything in between, Jennifer can help you get your book on the right track.”

How to enter

There are three ways for you to enter this Rafflecopter Giveaway contest (the more times you enter, the better your chance of winning!):

  • Tweet about this contest, so that more people will know about it.  You can do this once each day during the contest (which gives you more chances to win!)
  • Follow me on Twitter
  • Share our free Character Description Cheat Sheet for Children’s Books  using any of the buttons on the right of that page (you can do this one more than once, too – share on each of your social networks).Just remember to use the Rafflecopter widget below to tweet, follow and record your sharing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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