I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Monday, 2 September 2013

The label on the can

In his comment to my previous post (Too big a calling card?) Sir Hugh said: "As far as length is concerned I try to follow your example, but have no hesitation if I need another fifty words to ensure clarity and understanding."

My re-comment was expanded into this post. It's all rather navel-regarding but it answers a point raised by those who have wondered why I willingly wear a prose strait-jacket.

Sir Hugh: I'm not sure you've got the hang of what I do. I write 300-word posts in which length helps define the nature of the post. Length is almost as important as subject and expression. After a few hundred such posts one starts to recognise a structure and a rhythm that (without doing a count) proclaim 300 words. Tacking on another fifty words would mean I was writing posts of open-ended length. Something else entirely.

The 300-word limit might seem random but it was only random once - on the day I wrote it into the home-page introduction. Thereafter it was a simple statement of intent. Obviously, a limit reduces the risk of boring readers by length alone (I still risk boring them by subject and/or mode of expression).

More important, I am sure in my bones a word limit imposes discipline and discipline in writing is mostly beneficial. A sonnet’s discipline - three quatrains of ABAB rhyming, ending with a rhyming couplet, all in iambic pentameter - couldn't be stricter: no room for adding another quatrain. No one complains about the sonnet's format; why not accept the sonnet's verb. sap?

There are other risks. I often over-compress. But mostly I don't. And, since I now add quotes from Second Hand, the limit shrinks variably. Tough. But who says writing should be easy?


  1. Despite my pervious remark about not worrying about length I fully understand what you say. The limit must to a certain extend determine the content and the style of your posts. It is the same principle which is applied by sonnet writer who in looking for form, rhythm and rhyme open up ideas in the poem not conceived at the start. I write as one sonneteer (lapsed) to another.

  2. Well, I am at the moment well into writing a sonnet or sonnet-like thing which, while metrically correct, has already spilled over into additional lines. Woe is me, and goid for you.

  3. Joe: I am not of course trying to proselytise, only to explain. Also to touch on the discoveries that cutting prose can reveal. Husbandry, the post that follows this one, ran to 340 words. And I had been so careful! Every word, I told myself, was essential. Sighing I deleted a whole sentence in the first para - so well moulded! - knowing this would diminish the piece. And lo, a stark, unexpected ending jumped out of what at best had previously been flaccid. My aim is of course to entertain others, not myself. But private delight is not forbidden.

    Beth: God forbid that I should instruct, but I can remind. We've discussed the implication of your skills in music overlapping your writing skills. Less so the way your painting might influence your writing. Could you have arrived at a point where some unknown force had led you to complete one side of a painting way out on the easel instead of being confined to the paper or canvas? As planned? Can paintings run on? Can they be subsequently edited?

    As to the enlarged sonnet why not polish it, as is? Then announce to the world a new format. Sonnets may be confined but the world of poetry isn't.