The Long and Short of Things

This blog will help creative writers and grant writers. It is about the length of a chapter, whether in a story or a grant.

Editors talk about varying the size of sentences and paragraphs to maintain tempo or pacing. Shorter sentences and paragraphs increase the pace while longer ones slow things down. The opposite is true for chapters.

For creative writers, long chapters allow a reader to settle into the story through dialogue, action scenes, and/or narrative explanations. Short chapters focus on a single event and give the reader time to absorb the experience of the long chapter. As an example, a writer can use a long chapter for the climax where a lot of things happen to wrap up the story (quick pace). This is followed by a short chapter to wrap up the climax (slow things down).

For grant writers, the section describing the project generally allows the most number of words. This section is best divided into segments with headers, similar to chapters. Long segments provide important information for the reader to digest. Short segments allow the reader to take a break and hopefully understand the information in the longer segment better.

Varying the size or length of chapters and segments helps the reader capture the writer’s thoughts and provides a more readable experience.

So, how to do this? Of course, there is no formula or template. One way I would suggest is to think of a long chapter or segment as studying for a test. At some point, the student takes a break and sips on coffee or does some simple distraction to momentarily stop studying. This is the short of it.

Motivation Between Staff and Volunteers

Who is more motivated toward the nonprofit’s mission—paid staff or volunteers? I see them both as having different yet equal motivations.

Salaries are one of the highest expenses in nonprofits and they do not survive without volunteers. While vital to keeping labor costs down, nonprofits should not be all volunteers. There needs to be paid staff for stability and who bring a different motivation to nonprofits.

There is no right answer to what this mix of staff and volunteers should be (cost is a factor, of course). I think the best way to manage the two groups is to have a clear separation of job duties. This is true for any business, and it helps everyone to know their role and the roles of others. Just keep the job duties simple.

The most important part of managing staff and volunteers is paying attention to the dynamics of what motivates each group. To staff, it is a paying job (although little pay). To a volunteer and sometimes staff, it is a desire to help and be involved.

I have seen executive directors have weekly staff meetings, but never meet any of the volunteers. I’ve listened to volunteers say how they never met the executive director or the people working in the nonprofit.

It is up to the executive director and volunteer coordinator to make sure staff and volunteers know about each other. And not only through a newsletter. It could be just a meet-and-greet that takes a few minutes. The more people who feel a part of an organization, the more they are motivated to do their best.

Staff and volunteers may bring different talents and motivations, but they are equally important to the success of any nonprofit.

Publish What You Write

Many people write stories, memoirs, essays, poems, or other work that could be published. Yet, for various reasons they never publish their work. I think every writer should consider publishing what they wrote and making it available for someone to read.

Today, self-publishing a print book* can be done online or through a local printer with varying degrees of cost (they may be free to upload, but will cost to print).

For online printing, there are many companies providing a wide range of support from the writer doing everything to the company doing everything. The main benefit to online is that a reader, such as a family member, can purchase the book and have it delivered wherever they want.

The other way is through a local printer. Most everywhere has a graphic store producing signs and banners or a chain office-supply store, both of whom usually provide print services. This method is good if the writer wants a limited number of books and is concerned about their work being online.

What if the writing is not very good? I think that if the writer can understand it, they have told a story and a reader can be found. The two just need to meet.

With so many services, more writers should print their work in some form. Even a pamphlet will do. It will cost, but the value to the writer of holding something with their thoughts inside is worth it.

* This blog post is mostly about people who write for a specific audience, such as their family, who want something to hold. These writers are not interested in making a profit or even selling their work.

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Writing

AI software is increasingly being used in many areas of writing as more of these tools are developed and improved upon.

Currently, the most effective AI software tools are for editing. And they are getting better and better. But even with a good editing AI tool, a human editor is still needed.

To me, using AI for editing is like when I went from a typewriter to a computer to write. Editing AI tools make my writing clearer, more in line with standard US English practices (i.e. punctuation), and highlights my weaknesses (I have some bad habits). In the competitive world of grant writing or publishing a story, AI can be a benefit like using a computer rather than a typewriter.

I would encourage grant and creative writers to invest in some type of AI software tool for their editing. Even some professional human editors are using these tools. And the use of AI will continue to grow. One day AI may even write grants or stories with the human used only for the final editing.

As an example, AI is already being used in news media to find and summarize internet articles for publication. The AI searches for patterns and popularity and then produces and distributes this data in a summary. Journalists and editors review the summaries for the final news article.

AI will continue to improve and become more of a needed asset for writing and publishing. Just like one day when we might go from typing to using voice recognition or even reading our thoughts to write with.

What do you think about using AI?

P.S. If anyone wants to know what software tool I use, send me a comment or an email.