Back in the days when facebook wasn’t infected by the horrid timeline, and users were forced to keep posts to 420 characters, one either learned to write an entire life event in 420 characters, or they moved on to an fb note or a blog. Personally, I loved the 420 character limit. The stories I told! All read in the blink of a refresh rate.
Twitter, with it’s 140 character limit was useless to me. Now that links can be tweeted, it’s a great way to pass along something that one wants to share, without the original message being corrupted, much like the kids’ game of Mailbox.
However, long before I joined facebook, even before twitter was even a chirp, I wrote emails. My family is somewhat scattered, and I have many friends who were ever curious about my children’s misadventures. I had an email group for “Aubrey Stories,” and would send out an email whenever my son or daughter did something brilliant, hilarious, or ridiculously stupid, about once a week. Because I was generally at work when I wrote them, they were somewhat short.
As my kids got older, their biological stupidity grew to where I was writing longer stories, and more than once a week. I realized as I read through old emails that I was often redundant. Well, now that I was aware of it, I couldn’t stand to read my own writing because I desperately wanted to fix it. Fortunately, I came across a writing tip from Orson Scott Card, the famous sci-fi writer of “Ender’s Game.” While I can never remember the exact wording, the sum of it was, “Write everything. Then read what you wrote and delete half of it. Read it again, and delete half of what’s left. When you’re finished, you have boiled the story down to just what needs to be told.”
I’m sure Card would say that’s not what he wrote, and I’m sure it’s not exactly. However, it’s what I remember of it, and it has stayed with me. While I rarely (anymore) end up with only a quarter of what I started with, I have been known to delete substantial amounts when editing other people’s work.
Between Orson Scott Card’s lesson in sanitizing literary vomit and facebook forcing me to think tightly, I believe I’ve become a better writer. If nothing else, it takes a lot less time for me to bore someone to death.