Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Are Writing Exercises Useful?

Do writing exercises help to improve your writing? I believe they do.

I belong to two writer’s group and both meet monthly. The Thatcham Writers consists of writers in a variety of genres. I am the only writer of children's books. Each month we set ourselves writing assignments. Doing these regular snippets of writing stretches and challenges me. It makes me think about what and write and why. Using writing exercises as part of a writing routine and a natural part of my writing discipline helps to keep me focused and I have seen a steady improvement in my writing.

My other writing group specialises in writing for children. It is based in Winchester. We all come together every month and read snippets of our work in progress. I also belong to an online critique group.

Ideally, a writing exercise is short, no more than 10 or 15 minutes of writing. Usually I am thinking and feeling about something that's unrelated to anything else I'm working on. I call this free flowing. In a way, it is like mini-meditations or mini-holidays because it clears out cobwebs and give me a new perspective.

This new view, this different way of seeing things and expressing myself, I believe is the key to a good writing exercise. Naturally, not every exercise excites me each time. Sometimes I’m not ready for the challenge presented, but even then, the seed is planted. Sometimes I’m simply not up for doing a writing exercise. Again, as I’ve said before, simply reading can set new thoughts and ideas in motion.

Having a blog is a good writing exercise. Mine records thoughts and significant writing events in my life and also my fictional blog on Moira Miller. Both encourage me to write something everyday. Having a fictional and non-fictional blog also means I have to think in different ways when I am writing, which is also a good exercise.

Lisa, from my Thatcham Writer's group, recommends nanowrimo - writing a novel in a month. National Novel Writing Month is an annual novel writing project that brings together professional and amateur writers from all over the world. For more details see: www.nanowrimo.org I have not tried this but Lisa has written several novels this way.

One of my favourite exercises is the ‘what if …’ flow chart. I shake the dice and see what it comes up with. Say I roll a four. Then I think of an idea like, I’m going shopping with a friend and then I think of two what ifs… and put them on the flow chart. As I threw a four, I do this four times and have eight ideas for different stories, or variations of on a theme. It is also a good way to get yourself to train your mind to think this way.

If you’ve got any good writing exercises you’d like to share, just leave a comment. I would also be interested to hear your views on writing exercises.

No comments: