Long sentences exist because of the spoken word, not in spite of it. Short sentences are conversational but only because they follow, usually for no reason, the convention that we speak amongst ourselves only at the sufferance of each other. Conversation waits with limited patience for its turn to speak, patience thinning as the wait lengthens. In conversation, long sentences inspire interruption. We needn’t suffer this convention in writing except to simulate the effect of impatience in dialog or when indulging competing personalities presenting competing ideas. The written sentence, however, is the singing thought of the writer reincarnated in the reader’s mind, temporarily becoming the reader’s own thought. When we recite poetry and perform speech or soliloquy in public we are freed from conversational convention and the only reason the Simple English bigots have gotten as far as they have is because complicated ideas expressed with sonorous articulation have declined in prominence. I blame the recent interregnum of mass broadcast media and the few generations who have been chained by broadcasting to the cult of snappy ad-writing.
A related topic is the length of forum comments. If internet comments were required to be long we’d more easily judge their content and the character of their writers, the writers themselves would be prodded to develop their ideas beyond the repetition of memes, and machine filtering for auto-rejection of comment submissions would be more accurate. Right now the tendency for people to tack on a me-to rather than take the risk of engaging in the dialog makes for sheeplike dialog where the merits of the participants are lost in the frozen state of their ideas. When short comments are allowed, online engagement becomes an exercise in social mirroring and echoing. As an example, David Brin’s inability to manage his social media presence among the commenters on his threads posted to Google Plus (which cuts off the visual representation of comments when browsing while exaggerating their length in narrow columns when they are expanded) eventually forced me to give up my participation. Contrast this with the more engaged presence of Charles Stross and John Scalzi on their own blogs, eschewing the comment aggregation universes of Google Plus, Facebook and Reddit and curating the content of their commenters. If you don’t curate fairly tightly, you will end up looking like an ass regardless of the nobility of your intentions. Because of this kind of lazy nonsense I won’t bother posting comments anywhere but here as blog posts, and because of spam comments on this blog will never be enabled.
In the world of fiction the short story is making a comeback, which is satisfying to watch as a writer, but it accompanies an affected propaganda about the role of short stories in writing life. The idea that one part of the woodshed experience for fiction writers is the selling of short stories to publications is motivated by the opportunities for prizes in the genre world. The implied message of the scramble for these prizes is that a writer deserves to progress professionally only if one can produce short easy reads that fit a particular formula while carefully avoiding the cluster of sins that consist of a kind of style of rejection among slush readers. I’m not opposed to participating in this process, but only for my own development and with no expectations. Above every other reason, a short story should exist only for the satisfaction of the writer because it is impossible to found one’s professional development on the goal of becoming so flexible a writer that every formula is a potential paying project. Short stories simply don’t pay. Flexibility with formulae might get one a short-term job in a writing room but when that gig is gone one will have to relearn one’s cranky independence. Either that or make a lot of friends and live in writing rooms solely for the banter.
Yes, I know, I’m not very well convinced by all that myself.
A more-or-less readable (but frustrating) highlight from my first Myriad Day:
One hundred words looks like the worst paragraph length. It’s not short enough to be punchy, not long enough to really have any content. It isn’t a fraction as long as it would need to be to address really interesting ideas.
See, three lines is punchy. Because paragraph breaks tend to be completely random I should be able to finish the myriad with a single paragraph and to make it more interesting I’ll do it with long sentences because I’m all about getting deeper and deeper into something, anything, even if the speed that I am forcing my writing along means there’s no real depth except a rhetorical depth of self-amusement, subverting the entire idea of the myriad with yet one final demonstration of how terrible it is to force oneself to write without consideration, to simply string together propositions and clauses and questionable comma-buts, but not overshadowing with unreadability the laudable goal of the myriad which is to create words, to spend an entire long day creating words, to create those words at a pace which subverts the self censor, gives voice to some simple thoughts, and even though those simple thoughts are driven harder than perhaps is justified given the justice with which they are treated, to vomit them down and make them real and let them stand alongside the accomplishment of the myriad day, with the frustration and ill-temper and occasional liquid flow, all recorded and made real, listed down the page in arrays of jumbled ideas, repeated and accumulating, to accumulate toward the goal, or at least the end point, which is that when I get too cute, I stop being able to produce the words at the necessary rate and must cut the thought short rather than risk overall failure.