This was a piece of advice given to me by my Graduate Advisor at U.T. at Chattanooga (UTC) once when I was writing a paper. My memory is fuzzy on the exact details of the paper, but I “seem” to remember that it had something to do with an essay in which I had fulfilled the length requirements, but kept writing way past the requirements thinking that more = better. When I was informed that indeed longer doesn’t always equal better, I have to confess that I felt a keen sense of disappointment in that all of the extra work that I had done was probably wasted. And then, when I went back and actually looked at the essay, I saw that my advisor was right. Instead of being this tightly constructed essay where my points flowed one into another to create a satisfying whole, the essay was bloated and formless. Sure it was long (and made sense), but the points just kind of kept going and going and going and it lacked my normal sense of “cohesion.”
I learned a valuable lesson that day from that assignment–the length of a work should be defined by what it needs to accomplish–no more, no less. If it needs 25 pages to accomplish the task, then by all means devote 25 pages to it. However, it only needs 2 paragraphs, then 24 and a half pages have been wasted if you expand it just because you want to write long.
I’ve seen quite a few “bloated” popular pieces over the past two years (2016-2017) where the creators/designers should have stopped far sooner than they did with their creation than they did. For instance, last weekend I thought I was on the last mission of Mass Effect Andromeda, a game that I’ve been playing all summer. Imagine my surprise when at the end of the mission, I find that I’m still not finished. There is at least one more mission to go (perhaps a couple of more–I can’t really tell). MEA would have been a really tight and suspenseful game at the 60-70 hour mark, but at well over 100 hours in and still no sign of stopping, the game has worn out its welcome and has become tedious and often boring. I understand the rationale–our fans want more, so let’s give them more (if we give them more, then this will = better, but that’s not the case). Unless each and every experience is meaningful then more for the sake of more is just more, not better.
Even in these blog entries, I try very hard to remember this lesson as I can often type for hours on a particular subject (unless I’m constrained by time). So, as I embark on another school year and creative writing season, I have to take a moment to remind myself that more doesn’t = better. Finely crafted and purposeful experiences are what = better.