My fingers are buzzing with anticipation. Now that the holidays are over, I can get back to uninterrupted writing (relatively speaking). And every year, every week, every day, my goal is to get just a little bit better than I was before. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s just finger exercises. So to help keep myself from meaninglessly wearing out my fingers, I’ve come up with a few new self-study exercises that I thought I’d share.
- Mimic—Take a close look at a story you enjoy and use it as a template. (It’s kind of like fan fiction, but the point it to study how your favorite authors did what they did.) Go ahead and rip off their style, structure, and characterizations, but then get creative with it and see where it takes you. It’s like learning to play an instrument, or learning to paint. You study what works and what you like about others’ works and use that as a basis for developing your own style.
- Describe—Work on describing something mundane in a fresh way. Or take it a step further: how can this everyday scene/thing be used as a symbol or metaphor?
- Make Observations—Notice people, situations, personal struggles, and write them down. Think of this as an idea generator.
- Transform—Take a scene from your own writing (or something you’ve read or watched) and re-write it so that it changes the feel, tone, or emphasis. The re-write it again. Think of it like arranging music. (Take a punk tune and arrange it for a jazz trio). (Take a classic short story and add monsters, robots, a new love interest, or a new unexpected character.)
- Write Concise—Take an idea, emotion, observation, or concept and reduce it down a short poem or 250 word story.
- Flash Fiction—Write a super short story consisting of 500-750 words or fewer. Focus on the idea of tension and release.
- Write a Poem—Mulling over that perfect word can lead to frustration and even writer’s block, so practicing poetry can help re-awaken your vocabulary, especially on days where you know you need to write but can’t seem to get into it. Also, writing poetry can help you write stronger descriptions, as well as teach you a thing or two about being concise.
Well, I need to go and start putting these into practice, but I’m curious: what exercises do you do to help refine and develop your skills as a writer? Feel free to leave comments. I’m always looking for new practicing ideas.