by Rebecca Hendershot
This isn’t a post that can cover any and all exercises that are used to help writers increase their skills or their output. This is about the ones I’ve seen personally and there is a good chance that I’ve tried.
Unsurprisingly, this ties into writing scheduling. Exercises work, but you can binge write on exercises as much as you can not get things done. Does this mean that doing an exercise means you aren’t meeting your goals? Not at all!
As I type this now, I can feel my fingers aching because of a series of exercises I did this weekend. My legs itch because I didn’t want to take the time to shave. It is also 0400 EST because I fell asleep so early I woke up before the sun rose.
I learned two things this weekend. 1) I can type quickly when free writing. 2) Writing “sprints” are not only hard on the hands, they are good for my particular mindset. Some people will find no benefit in sprint-writing. I found that it kept me from trying to edit as I went. Instead, I wrote like a fiend and actually managed to get an entire story down on the computer in about 16 hours, including time to sleep.
I wasn’t thinking about writing, I was thinking about anything but. Just get words down. And a story I never even conceived of before emerged. Some people sprint a story they had already planned out. I believe I recall hearing that National Novel Writing Month (called NaNoWriMo) has scheduled sprints to help your 50 thousand word count down for your novel, based on the outline you’d laid out. I can’t imagine free writing an entire novel and it’s probably for the best. (After some experience with NaNo, I can say that sprint-writing sections still happens to work for me, if a bit slower!)
I have done other exercises in the past. I discovered another new one today. Random subject generators. And boy do I mean random.
I’ve done free writing on a slower schedule before—where you just type or write whatever pops into your head. You can do it five minutes at a time or fifty minutes at a time. I suggest something in the middle. Often, I go back later and wonder what I was thinking. Other times, I decided those two sentences over there would make a great story.
I’ve never tried a random first line exercise, but I’ve considered it. A lot of exercises or prompts are random subject matter or descriptions that you build a story around.
I did not like playing anagram games, but they might work for you.
Write titles you think would be cool for a book. I find this one doesn’t work as well for me even if it has once or twice in the past. I never seem to manage a story with any sort of readability based on a title alone.
There are entire web pages dedicated to writing exercises. I perused some for this post; just in case I had forgotten one I have tried before (and I had). There are more than I even imagined. Some I will likely try some day, some I will wait until I’m out of ideas.
I’m learning things faster and faster as I get more exposure to other writers. So there will probably be differences, if not outright contradictions farther down the line. I just hope you’ll forgive me. It makes sense to me right now! Which I think isn’t a bad thing, because in the long run, I will never run out of blog posts!
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Always looking for a little magic, CJ decided to create some of her own as a writer of paranormal romance, urban and contemporary fantasy.