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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Good Storytelling isn't Measured in Words

When it's concise, even long-form writing seems short.

Magazine writing proves the point.

Nonfiction writer Joan Didion mastered concision by writing for magazines like Vogue, Mademoiselle, and Life for decades, says Louis Menand in The New Yorker.

Didion, the "quintessential magazine writer," drew readers into her stories by leaving things out (the fiction writer's trick).

She developed "methods of economizing the exposition and managing the reader’s experience, ways of getting the reader to participate in the job of making sense of whatever it is that the writer is trying to think through," Menand says.

Didion mastered concision because she was forced to. When a writer works for a magazine, Menand says, her ability to write concisely gives her a Darwinian edge.

"The job of the magazine writer is never to give readers a reason to stop before they reach the end. The No. 1 sin in print journalism is repetition. Pages are money; editorial space is finite. Writers who waste it don’t last. Conditions demand a willingness to compress and a talent for concision."

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