Here’s why people read any long story on Medium. Or anywhere else.

Paul Kix
4 min readSep 20, 2021

The technique I learned from writers far smarter than me.

Photo by Roman Trifonov on Unsplash

I’m finishing a longform story for The Atlantic. There have been many days when I’ve puzzled over how to fit some great quote or anecdote into a section of the piece. If it doesn’t perfectly fit, well, that’s when I’ve kept in my head the advice of John Jeremiah Sullivan: “A fundamental law of storytelling is: withhold information. As the writer Paul Metcalf put it, ‘The only real work in creative endeavor is keeping things from falling together too soon.’” And so I tell myself, I’ll find a spot for this anecdote later. And if that anecdote is really good, I have.

I’ve learned the best anecdotes have many spots at which they might appear in a story. An anecdote’s purpose is to further the narrative or deepen the character development. You can actually, if you think more expansively about your story, put the best anecdotes almost anywhere.

Too many journalists don’t think expansively though. I was one of them. I was trained by daily newspapers, and whether it’s the inverted pyramid of old-school news stories or the Hot Take of so many digital news sites today, the education is the same: Get to your best stuff as quickly as you can.

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Paul Kix

Best-selling author of The Saboteur. Learn the 7 rules six-figure writers follow to make more money: https://paulkixnewsletter.lpages.co/seven-tips-pdf/