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Aim for 500 words…

For all of the writing that I’ve grown accustomed to doing online, there’s still something about knowing that your words will be in print that always makes me a little nervous. I haven’t filed a story for a print publication in almost eight years – an eternity for many. Those saying that I should be able to crank something like that out without any problems (since I tend to write between 500 -750 words normally) may not completely understand some of the differences between writing for a print publication and writing for the Web.

b-metro magazine logoI should explain a little bit more. I just submitted my first column for b metro, Birmingham’s newest city magazine, scheduled for a November launch date. The last time I wrote for print was in 2000 – the last part of a three part series on revitalization efforts in downtown Savannah, GA for The Georgia Guardian. The publication’s gone now, but I still have a hard copy of that article somewhere in my home office (not even really sure who maintains the website that I just linked to, but at least I have an example to show of what the publication was like).

Those who remember my original 101 in 1001 list (it was #90) know that I’ve always wanted to return to print, even if on a limited basis. While has become a virtual urban affairs publication of sorts, it was nice to be asked to contribute to another publication on a regular basis. Now, about that comparison…

Once something goes to print, any changes or corrections must wait until the next issue is printed, save for if there’s a web component that would allow for the change or the update to be instantaneous. Online publishing allows for a strikethrough and a few keystrokes to correct most problems immediately (and I stress the word most). It also allows you to say less while saying more – thanks to hyperlinks and tools like Apture. Some pieces for the web may be shorter, but if it is loaded with links giving credit to the works that inspired the post, it can provide opportunities for discovering new sites and ideas for much longer periods of time. Providing links to posts and being able to respond to a reader’s comments immediately is always fun and it allows for the author and the reader to expand the story in any way that they see fit. I’ve also taken more of a conversationalist approach to writing on these blogs in part because of that instant feedback, something that may or may not translate to print at times.

All of that said, if your parents are like mine, there’s still nothing quite like being able to send a hard copy of an article that you’ve written or an interview done with you. Hyperlinks off of an about me page just doesn’t seem to cut it. Despite the fact that many who write online assume that there is a permanence associated with the servers that hold our thoughts, I’ll admit that there’s still nothing like sitting with a cup of tea and a copy of the paper on a weekend morning – ink staining my fingers and thoughts running through my mind that can be captured on the printed edge.

I’m not sure if one’s better than the other, but I’d be quite interested in your thoughts…

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