If anyone ever tells you stringing beautiful sentences together is easy, he’s a big, fat liar—and probably a lout and a poser.
So don’t listen to him.
I do, however, have friends in the writing community who bemoan the ease with which new-media “pros” have taken over the airwaves. They make writing look and sound easy.
Minus formal literary or journalistic training or, for that matter, a solid grasp of sentence structure, they belch out blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages like gassy, mindless monsters with nothing and everything to say. Some get traffic. Most don’t.
Fine by me. You see, as the medium continues to adjust to what the message is (apologies to Marshall McLuhan), writers with English or Journalism degrees dangling precariously on their walls still, even after all this time, need to adapt to a range of platforms begging for our every thought.
Does it mean we surrender a bit of our literary souls? Nah. It simply allows us to tell another story in a different way, and some have become high art in 140 characters.
They never told us these truisms as undergrads:
1. Writing incomplete sentences is fashionable. Even preferred occasionally. Especially if you’re trying to evoke literary trendiness. Which is. Like. Always.
2. 140 characters must be weighed like a baby at birth: slowly, carefully, lovingly—just make sure you wash your hands.
3. If you can’t paint a picture with words, just use a picture—big and colorful and evocative of things that remind us of a full summer of midnights alongside swimming holes with Labrador retrievers and a cute bathing suit that makes our butts look amazing (See: Pinterest et al).
4. Snark isn’t a virtue. It is the tonal teat that nourishes the soul of many a journalist, and it simply doesn’t work in new media unless you’re Perez Hilton. For every crass aside, there are better opportunities to be on point, genuine and enriching your audience with solid information.
5. To scan the content of a story is to love a story, so tailor each piece as if it were a good New York deli. I know, I know, this concept is anathema to good storytelling, but the reality is the web has trained us to walk into a virtual shop, look for what we want (pastrami, prosciutto, turkey breast), “buy” that information and move on—quickly.
Is writing for new media easy? Probably. Just look at the miles of drivel out there with no audience.
Perhaps the better question to ask: Is writing successfully for new media easy? I’m afraid not, and a whole new set of rules apply to earning an audience.
As those rules continue to evolve and cover everything from headlines to effective story length, we’ll learn what we’ve known all along: Good stories will rule forever and ever, amen.
And they’ll never be easy to tell.