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Tell the Right-Sized Story


A tweet from 13 years ago recently came to mind.

I'd even take the idea a step further to say most tweets should be thoughts. But I digress.


The point is, people tend to spend too long exploring a topic that isn't as deep as they may think. Their story is just too damn long.


But how are you supposed to know if your story is too long? We all know what it feels like to listen to someone ramble on, but that's their boring story. Our story is actually worth people's time, in its totality.


Kurt Vonnegut used to say that good stories start as late as possible. Your reader or audience probably doesn't need as much backstory as you think. Get to the point. That's what great jokes do, for instance.


Four Jewish women are out to lunch. Their waitress comes over and says, "Is anything alright?"


That's a story—in two sentences!


On the other end are 1,000-page fantasy novels that build entire worlds and weave together intricate plot lines. Those are equally valid. To create the right atmosphere, sometimes you need to spill a lot of ink.


As you sit down to write, ask yourself, What is the right size for this story?


In answering the question, you're essentially picking out a box to throw the story into. Is it a shoebox? A moving box?


Once you've picked the right-sized box, you'll have a second set of decisions to make. You'll need to figure out how much time to spend on the various parts of your story. This is never easy, but it's light-years harder when you don't know how big your box should be. Constrain yourself early and often.


And be ruthless.


Should your idea really be a blog post? Or is it better off as a tweet—or, maybe, just a thought you keep to yourself?

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