Do You Know When to Stop Writing?

Finding Nemo picture

If you have young kids, you’re likely intimately familiar with Finding Nemo from 2003. The movie had the biggest opening weekend for any animated film at the time, and was the best selling DVD of all time for a couple years after.

Director Andrew Stanton pitched his idea and story to Pixar head John Lasseter in an hour long session, using elaborate visual aids and character voices. At the end of it, the exhausted Stanton asked Lasseter what he thought.

Lasseter replied, “You had me at ‘fish’.”

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Reader Comments (30)

  1. says

    “If you have young kids…”

    I don’t and I’ve seen the movie at least 5 times, enjoying it every time.

    Seriously: I think this example is to show that you don’t always have to say a lot to make a point. Elaborating is not always necessary in the first phase. Maybe it’s wise to have a “summarizing” phase, look for feedback, and then elaborate, if necessary.

  2. says

    Or, as they say, KISS. (keep it simple, stupid). I can’t think of the PC way to say it right now. Unless I get into some serious magpie mode, I try to get to the point ASAP, make pertinent comments, sum it up and then close.

  3. Art McCormack says

    The point I walk away with here is that Stanton didn’t do his homework by failing to find out more about Lasseter’s decision making style. I doubt this was a “once in a life time… you had me at fish…” decision. As Brian said, as long as necessary is fine; how long, is determined by intimate knowledge of your target market.

  4. says

    Colorful things, flirting around and around on a blue, watery background? They had my kids by the opening sequence… I couldn’t wait for Cars to come out so I could move from hearing underwater bubbling sounds every day to a engine revving … or so I though.

  5. says

    A very good point. In many cases, information overload reduces the conversion rate. Not just in writing but person to person also. I’ve seen this happen myself.
    Great post.

  6. says

    That’s so cute, I’ve watched Nemo more times than I can count with my son. And your post is a perfect example of getting straight to the point.

  7. says

    As usual, your insights have caused me to pause, and re-evaluate my writing style.

    Thanks for all the advice

  8. says

    Bill, your writing style may be fine. My only point is to edit as tightly as possible to make your point. Let’s not make the mistake of leaving out crucial information just for the sake of brevity, or thinking that long pieces are bad. I write long posts all the time, but usually it’s because the subject matter demands it.

  9. says

    I’m reminded of the old Bugs Bunny cartoon (“Bugs ‘n Thugs”) when he came up against the mobsters…

    Rocky: “Shut up!”

    Bugs: “Shut up? Why certainly! You don’t think I’m the type that would keep on blabbin’? Some people never know when to stop. When I’m told to shut up, I shut up…”

    Rocky: “Shut UP shut-in’ up!”

  10. says

    Good point! You have to know exactly when you have hooked your readers as well as when you have them reeled in. Too much blah*blah*blah can even backfire.

  11. says

    I have to say that I commit this mistake a lot, saying a lot when I could actually make the other person understand in less words. Kinda like this. :)

  12. says

    Yeah. I’ve already got a ‘plan’ to work on the brevity (being the soul of wit and all) thing….starting next week.

    All the best!

  13. says

    Great post! I think, like many others, I am guilty of filler just to make a post seem more in-depth than it actually is. Like using big words to make yourself sound smart. :)

  14. says

    Yes, yes, yes.

    Most of my clients delineate word-count for projects so I’m forced to stay within their parameters.

    I spend far more time cutting, revising and polishing than writing a first draft.

    I find it helps to identify concrete goals for the piece then outline–or mindmap, whatever–rather than just letting it flow…into a 2,000 word stream of consciousness.

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