Before this semester, I would have thought journalism and short fiction as two mutually exclusive categories with no crossover. My class load has taught me otherwise. Along with writing for the Cabinet (Geneva College’s campus newspaper for those of you outside the Geneva bubble), I took contemporary news writing, publishing, and creative writing. As a result, I’ve been able to activate both parts of my writer’s mind. On one hand, writing for the Cabinet and taking a journalism class has taught me to write in a clear, concise, and informative manner.
On the other hand, taking the publishing and creative writing classes has refined my ability to construct an engaging plot, write effective dialogue, and develop my writer’s voice.
So how are they related?
For the Cabinet, I cover whatever sports are in season, and the articles I write require a lot of summary of whatever event I’m covering. I’ve learned to determine which information needs to appear in the article and what needs cut out.
The same holds true for writing a short story. At the beginning of writing mine, I had an excess of details and events that had the story bloated and dragging its feet. However, I used the same editing process that I employ when writing a 500 word news article: cut out the fat and construct a narrative that engages the reader.
Plus, in the same way that our publishing class workshops each student’s short story, so also does the Cabinet have student editors. They clean up the trash I leave in my articles on a weekly basis, and make me look better than I actually am as a writer.
In addition, the clear and concise prose necessary for journalism feeds into the construction of a short story.
I have the writer’s syndrome where I tend to write with overly fluffy and flowery prose, but writing for the newspaper has been an unintended prescription for me. Now, I keep an eye out for excessive description and narration when I write fiction.
Plus, journalistic prose facilitates the description of action, and in turn, that has aided me in writing my short story as well. Since the bulk of the story chronicles the blow-by-blow action of a SEAL team operation, the strong verbs and active voice I use in news articles also inserted themselves into the story.
These changes are not really due to any talent on my part, but rather, its the collection of editors at the Cabinet who teach us the craft of journalism and the teachers and students who help edit the short stories.
The more articles and stories I write, the more I realize that I’m kind of a scrub at this whole writing thing. It’s a good lesson, though, because I’ve learned that there is no such thing as a self-made writer.
Without teachers, editors, and classmates who offer thoughtful criticism, the abominations I would be putting down on the paper would probably classify as crimes against humanity for all the cliches, cheesy prose, and weak plot.
Author’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series of articles that will chart the progress I’m making on writing a short story. The story will be part of a larger Geneva College project in which students from Dr. Williams’s ENG 344 Publishing compile their short stories into a published collection for the campus. Check us out on Facebook under “Geneva Inklings.”
Kevin Cochrane is a writer and college student. Like what you read? Follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC, find him on Facebook, or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to get Town Crier’s latest updates. Want to read more? Visit his blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com which offers a Christian perspective on the surrounding culture. You can contact him with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.