June 13, 2016

Writing Shorts

By Janice S. Garey    

Writing and running have similarities. Both involve gearing up, establishing schedules, training in increasing increments, and fine tuning to increase competence. Both engage in competition for prizes. Runners don’t start with a marathon. Neither do writers. I began writing shorts in the forms of haiku, prayer, flash fiction, and copy partly as practice toward attaining my next level as a writer.

C. J. Hitz, a runner’s coach in Colorado, gives training advice which can apply to writers. “In terms of ‘short practice,’ I would say, “strides” are something I recommend for runners of all levels. Strides are short 20-30 second bursts in order to activate faster twitch muscle fibers and stay tuned to faster running.” Essentially for the writer, that equals producing quality short works. Physically, the writer trains by keying in their thoughts quickly. Mentally, the writer practices self editing. Proficiency results from writers practicing “strides.”

Another observation made by C. J. was, “It’s very easy to run at the same pace day in and day out without going outside the comfort zone into faster stride turnovers.” Writers, like runners, can get stuck in a groove of what works. They initially worked hard to attain a goal, but then decided to let comfort rule. But writing is an endeavor which can always be improved upon. Writing a short piece gives a jolt to the senses. Stale, routine writing may regain sparkle.

Haiku, the seventeen syllable form of Japanese poetry, gives practice in observation and compression. It records a moment in time, a unique flash of insight, and the feelings evoked. The writer must be in the moment, keenly observant, able to weed out and rearrange words for the most impact.

Prayer does double duty through communicating to God and practicing empathy and compassion. Again, this short practice puts the writer in the moment. Prayer requests are found throughout social media.

Flash fiction generally refers to a very short story which includes: few characters; plot with a beginning, middle, and end; and minimal setting. This requires compression, but can span a longer time period than haiku. It gives practice in plotting, description, character development, and following through to an effective ending.

Copy writing practice abounds daily in composing subject lines for email, preparing ads to sell author’s works, making comments on social media, and when composing article and book titles. It gives the ultimate practice in weeding out unnecessary words.

Runners practice movements outside of routine to fine tune their abilities. Writers, also, need to practice outside their normal routines to advance. Personally, I have been writing shorts for an extended time. That has been my comfort zone. Others reading this may be comfortable focused solely on writing novels.

Opportunity abounds for each writer to go out of their comfort zone. Perhaps soon I will attempt the writer’s marathon, NaNoWriMo. Are you up for the challenge of attempting some new to you form of writer’s “strides?”
Janice S. Garey has a background in accounting, homeschooling, teaching preschool, and learning the craft of writing through Christian Writers Guild courses. Her publishing credits include flash fiction in QPB Presents the World’s Best Shortest Stories (of all times), stories in the Moments compilation series, Christmas Moments, Spoken Moments, and future editions, an article in Church Libraries Journal, and book reviews and an article in the Christian Library International (prison ministry) newsletters. She reviews books as a member of, and she frequently posts photos and haiku on social media. Currently, Janice works toward publication of a devotional type coloring book/journal which utilizes her flash fiction and prayer shorts, with a WIP title of Color Away My Hurts. Janice and her husband, Art, live in the Atlanta, GA vicinity with their cat, Miss Bosley. They have one son who is getting his PhD in English. You may connect with Janice at: Twitter @janciegme  Instagram @janciegme Wordpress  janicegareyblog  (under reconstruction)
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