Some Exercises

As you know (Thank you Amanda for keeping people informed) this has been a really interesting week for me, and by interesting I mean “argh” which continues today with some more tests.

So, I’m doing this the easy way by making you do the work.

Look, every writer should do exercises, every once in a while.  No, I don’t mean push ups at your desk, though that might not hurt either.  As many of you know I have a treadmill desk, though I’m not using it this week because I have been becoming frighteningly dehydrated even without sweating.  However, next week…

But I meant doing writing exercises.

Ours is an art like any other art and it benefits from practice.  We are however the only artists who expect our exercises to be saleable every time.  Sometimes they won’t be.  Many a painter paints over the last picture, because he knows it’s not his best.  Sometimes the exercise can SPARK something saleable, but it’s not saleable in and of itself.  However when you know you’re not writing for consumption you can experiment, which is difficult to do when you are writing to sell.

So–

Some exercises I’ve tried, and which have helped me:

-Take the first three pages of a story you wrote long ago (this being relative to when you started working) and which you don’t feel happy with and change the voice.  If it was third person, make it first.  If it was omniscient, make it close in third person.  Now change the pov.  Instead of the main character, use a secondary one.  Describe the same events. How did it change?  Do you like it better now?  (I actually rescued an old novel this way.  It will get re-written.

Go to a place you’ve never been before: shop, coffee shop, mall, garden, whatever.  Write three pages about your experience, as though it were a story.  (i.e. not an essay but through your eyes while there.)  Use all five senses every page.

Now do the same in a place that’s familiar to you but public: a favorite restaurant, a coffee shop, a museum.

For extra benefit, write the second one then revisit it and rewrite.  Compare the two to see how many authentic details you missed in the first.  (Or if you didn’t, congratulations.)

Take a scene from your favorite TV show.  Rewrite it in a more real world and realistic way.  Change things as needed.  If needed research how things really are done in courtroom/lab/coffee shop/whatever.

Go out early morning to a diner.  Listen to the conversation of the people nearest you.

Write it as though it were a short story.

Write it as though it were set in the future

Write it as though it were the beginning of a murder mystery.

Now go do some exercises (of whichever kind) and I promise a more substantial post next week!

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Some Exercises

  1. Draven

    the diner conversation in the future ends up turning into the cantina scene from star wars, or the diner from spaceballs.

  2. Good ideas, I’ve actually turned one of those situations into a ‘good’ chapter in a book! 🙂 Glad you’re recovering, but please do what the docs tell you!!!

  3. Luke

    Out? Like where other people lurk?
    You monster!

  4. TRX

    “Aspiring artists had always been set to copy the works of Cezanne and Rembrandt and Warhol in order to learn their craft, while all aspiring writers were urged to create was their own blather. Handy word-processors changed all that, and so the first assignment she gave us was to rewrite A Midsummer Night’s Dream in modern English. And I got an A.
    ….
    so I took on some pretty ambitious projects. The hardest one, I guess, was to rewrite all of The Remembrance of Things Past in the style of Ernest Hemingway, changing the locale to Germany in the time of Hitler and presenting it as a one-act play.”

    – “The Merchant’s War” by Frederik Pohl (1984)

    For some reason I had remember this as being in “The Space Merchants” and it took me a while to locate it in the sequel…

    • Oh, no! Another thing I have to read. At one time in my life I felt like I’d read over half the science fiction out there (I hadn’t, but I felt that way). Now I feel very, very far behind. That particular Pohl had never looked interesting. Now it does. I blame you, TRX.

      • TRX

        “The Space Merchants” was very good. It was written in the 1950s, and was one of several novels based off the works of Vance Packard, who wrote “The Hidden Persuaders” about Madison Avenue style advertising, “The Status Seekers” about corporate society, and “The Waste Makers” about consumerism and planned obsolescence. (poorly phrased above; lots of SF writers mined Packard for backstory) [and if you’re not familiar with Vance Packard, “The Hidden Persuaders”, even though ancient, is an excellent introduction to the marketing of products and politicians.]

        The Merchants War, coming several decades later, was in my opinion a poor reflection of the original. Worth reading if a copy falls into your hands, not work seeing out.

  5. Mary

    It’s interesting what happens to your writing when you go back from exercises. (Am currently mucking about with the end result of an experiment with omniscient POV and no clear main character.)

  6. Hmmm… If I get my chores done, I’ll translate this.