Make/break the rules

Many of the pieces you would usually find in The Uniter are, by most definitions, on the short side. Our average story aims to land around the 500-word mark. It’s a tough assignment, and oftentimes, a word count of 500 feels like it’s not possibly enough.

Most of the time, though, we stay in that range. The Uniter is a learning paper, and creating a 500-word piece is a distinct skill set. It requires practice, as well as cultivating precision and discernment. Not everything can make it in – and that’s part of the joy of writing. The outtakes are like loose threads to be followed up another day. They can spring into new stories.

Few pieces, once finished, give a writer the sense that they are, just as they are, enough. And often it’s this not-enoughness that spurs us forward, to tell more stories, to build a body of work that can incorporate more angles, different perspectives, or simply the same story, revisited at a different time.

This week, we have some notable exceptions. One of the key elements of having a rule is knowing when to break it. On some weeks, a writer pitches a story that, from the outset, we can see will need more room to unfold well. Or as a story is developing, the writer might discover that it couldn’t possibly be contained in a shorter word count.

Aside from our longer-form cover feature, we have two full-page stories in this week’s issue. We decided to break our own rules, because for some topics, all the words in the world may not be quite enough. But these longer bites are, at least, our contribution to growing conversations.

– Anastasia Chipelski

Published in Volume 73, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 21, 2019)

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