As a soon-to-be-published author, it’s important to get your name out there in order to establish a readership, a brand, or a platform. A great way to do this is by writing content pieces. Content pieces are short-form writings that your publicist can get placed in the media. However, many novelists find it difficult to switch from long-form to short-form storytelling, and end up with lengthy pieces not suitable for mainstream media outlets.
Short- and long-form writing is inherently different. Here are some of the main differences in a side-by-side comparison, so your publicist doesn’t have to spend too many of your paid campaign hours playing editor.
Long-form writing is more detailed and complex. Novels and memoirs are perfect examples of long-form writing. This form traditionally features longer narratives with detailed backstories and a multitude of characters. These works are typically much longer than 50,000 words. Writers expect their readers to spend more time with these pieces. If you want to explore a number of different themes or have a full cast of characters you want to develop, try writing in this form.
Like the name implies, short-form writing is clear and concise. For this form, think of short stories and essays—thoughtful, but brief. If you want to explore specific idea or share a brief narrative, short-form writing is probably your best bet. Short-form writing commonly appears in blogs, social media, and anthologies, and is usually between 600 and 10,000 words. Because it’s shorter, readers can usually expect to consume this piece in one sitting.
Story and Theme
Unlike a short story or an essay, long-form writing gives you the space and time to explore a complex and multi-faceted narrative. Novels and memoirs can move around in time and settings easily, without disorienting readers. Likewise, it offers the chance for writers to develop a detailed world and craft complex narrative that features multiple climaxes. If you’re looking to write the next Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, you’ll want to stick to long-form.
Think of a favorite short story or essay: Did the piece have a complicated plot involving dozens of minor characters and backstories? Did it tackle multiple complex themes? It probably didn’t, because short-form accommodates short, straightforward plots and specific themes. When writing a short-form content piece, pick one subject or theme, and just tell the story. All of the context and background aren’t as necessary.
Long-form writing gives you the chance to fully develop numerous characters. Without limited space, you can really dive into the motivations and feelings of different characters. Imagine writing a family saga with dozens of characters in just a few pages. Readers would have a hard time understanding and relating to the characters. On the other hand, a novel gives you the chance to truly develop each character, making the story much more compelling.
Just like the plot, short-form writing typically doesn’t feature a large amount of characters. There’s simply not enough space to develop a dozen characters. When using short-form, it’s better to stick to a few main characters and focus on their actions, personalities, and motivations. This gives you the necessary space to develop compelling characters without overloading details. Unless someone is essential to telling your story, cut the fat and kill your darlings.
Long-form is the perfect opportunity to show off your abilities as a writer. You’ll be able to craft longer, more ornate sentences and use a variety of sentence structures. You can use more descriptive analogies, references, and allusions without overburdening your prose. It’s a chance to experiment with cadence, sentence structure, and diction. Instead of Ernest Hemingway, think more like John Steinbeck or Toni Morrison.
Short-from writing keeps it clear and concise. Short-form is more about getting your point across, rather than showcasing your vocabulary or a flowery style. A short sentence can hold just as much weight as a long, complex sentence, but avoid making your writing too choppy. If you’re struggling to keep your prose tight, try channeling your inner Ernest Hemingway. Through simple sentence structures and very precise wording, Hemingway’s minimalistic writing style conveys large ideas in a few words.
Although they may differ in style and content, both forms of writing can showcase your talent as a writer. Even if you usually stick to writing longer works, writing content is a great way to attract new readers and establish a platform. Once you understand the nuances and differences between the two forms, you’ll be able to up start writing short-form content and up your publicity game as a novelist.