Mixing It Up

I’ve started regularly attending a weight training class at the gym. It’s good – I can feel myself getting stronger, and hopefully healthier. Plus I’ve put on weight and that’s muscle, not chocolate brownie, right? Anyway, this morning the class leader said something that flicked a switch in my mind. She reminded us that doing only one sort of exercise isn’t good for our bodies, and we should switch it up by joining another class as well.

Well, let me just be clear. I go to the gym when Sebastian’s schedule, the gym’s babysitting centre and my motivation all come together in beautiful harmony. So it’s no good telling me to add something else into the mix, lady, I’ll workout when I can and I’ll attend whatever class happens to be on then.

But what’s true for the physical muscles seems to me to be true for the writing muscles too. When I started Friday Fiction, I thought 100 words was a crazy limit for a story, but now I’m several years in, and it comes much more easily. It’s not longer an extreme writing workout.

Moreover, writing almost exclusively flash fiction for months at a time has weakened my other writing muscles. I recently showed a longer short story (1600 words!) to one of my writing groups and their response can be summarized as “well-written, but saggy in the middle”. It’s a fair comment; it does feel a little loose.

I go to the gym to avoid a saggy middle, so I think I need to mix up my writing’s workouts too. I’ll still be doing FF and InMon when I can, but I’m not going to let them be all I write, and sometimes that means I won’t be doing them for a while.

I hope you stick with me, but if I skip a day or a week, I wanted you to know it means I’m flexing a different writing muscle … and almost certainly feeling the burn!


Filed under Writing

7 responses to “Mixing It Up

  1. I have read a lot of short fiction i.e pieces under 300 words and the standard is mixed. However, there is good stuff out there. What has surprised me is when the writers of the good stuff then try to write longer pieces. Very often they disappoint. Writing 1000 words instead of 100 is a completely different skill – same basic tools but more difficult to use properly. So many longer stories drift and seem to only exist to fit a word count. Often I’ll read an OK start but then lose interest in the middle, only to be met by a decent ending. However, often by then you’ve given up. What I’m saying is I agree with your premise: you need to keep writing longer stuff or it’s easy to forget how.

    • I agree, Paul. I used to write a lot in the 1000 – 5000 category and I think that’s where my skills lay. Now I tend to write <1000 and I've got that pretty honed, but lost touch with the longer stuff. I think there are lessons to be learned from the different types of writing and then applied across the board, but there are big differences too. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Dear Jenn,

    Oh how I can relate! So much of my writing time these days is tied up with Friday Fiction. A mixed blessing for sure. I’ve found that the exercise in brevity has helped me with longer pieces. I seem to have a better sense of when to strip away and when to add.

    On another note…the exercise part, I remember well the days of going to the fitness center with toddler in tow. I admire you for finding the time to take care of both your physical and mental muscles. Both will pay off.

    I hope some of my comment has made sense to you. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re one of my heroes.



  3. Jen, you make a fair point, one I’ve thought about lately. My blog started out to be writing, not fiction but musings, and then I started FF and then I started participating in photography challenges, which I love. But I’m trying to keep a balance on my blog of writing and photography. I’m also looking at some other directions in writing, particularly travel writing with a mind to what I might be able to do with our three-month planned trip to New Zealand and environs in late 2015.

    As someone who had a personal training business for about 16 years and whose background is in PE, the idea of balance is central. Strength, flexibility and aerobics in fitness are all important and complementary. No reason that writing or life should be any different.

    If you take off from FF, which I”ll be doing off and on during the summer because of trips and things, I’ll miss your writing. You’re one of those of whom I regularly think, “I wish I could write like that.”


  4. I can understand where you are coming from. I found when I went from writing full stories to writing a whole story in 33-100 words that it was hard to go back to writing full stories again. Definitely need to exercise that writing muscle as well.

  5. Pingback: WIP Update July 2014 – Fingers and Pies | Sarah Ann Hall

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