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Posts from the ‘Writing Exercises’ Category

Three highlights from my reading practice: See how they could make you a better writer

I love the inspiration and ideas I receive from reading different genres and authors. Whether I’m turning the pages of a physical book or one on my Kindle or iPad, I write about what I’m reading.

Sticky notes work great for actual books, and on my Kindle, I highlight and make notes on the screen about passages that grab my attention. I track how authors created a certain mood, tone, or emotional response. If I see a good example of dialogue or a stellar sensory description, I note it. The notes make it easy to go back and review what I learned and what I enjoyed about the book.

Here are several examples of my highlights:

In the thriller Third Strike by Zoe Sharp, the protagonist Charlie Fox suffers the blow of being shocked by a stun gun. I was struck myself by the description of Charlie’s reaction:

The pain had a jagged quality all its own, ripping out chunks of my nervous system and spinning them away like debris from an explosion, so that some parts of my mind seemed magnified a hundred times and others were just big blank holes of frenzied nothingness. Next thing I knew I was on the floor, my body rigid. I was peripherally aware that my head was banging on the concrete and that was probably not a good thing, but I couldn’t stop the twitching dance of my limbs. My hands had distorted into the twisted claws of an arthritis-ravaged geriatric. I couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. It was the worst cramp I’d ever had in my life, the most violent fever, the meanest hangover, all rolled into one.

Sharp not only wrote a vivid description, I felt the authority of her words. Her description seemed so realistic and rang so true that I almost wondered if she’d been shocked herself at some point by a stun gun. Read more

How to create a metaphor practice, part 2

In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of starting a metaphor practice and gave one exercise for doing so (by using a template from a writer you admire). Below is another exercise to add to your metaphor or simile practice:

Make a List: Find a spot where you think a metaphor might work in a scene and write down the subject. Example: As I write my scenes, I can usually tell when a metaphor or simile will add spark to my page. In my last scene, I wanted a simile to describe how a house looked from the outside at night. So I wrote down the subject “house lit up.”  Read more

Poem making: five ideas for mixing the mystical and the conscious

This past weekend, a friend and I shared poems we’d written to see what we could learn from each other’s work. Reading our poems and talking about the subtext of them made me think about how writing poetry — from idea to finished poem — is about the magic of the subconscious melding with conscious craft decisions. But then I’m beginning to realize that all writing is ultimately that way.

Poems come to me in many forms, including: A purposeful exploration about a subject or person, a chance encounter that hits me in the chest, or an observation of two people interacting. Sometimes it can be hard to explain how one moment elicits a response or a “knowing” that I must record it in a poem.

If you’re looking for poetic inspiration, try these writing ideas:

1. Find a new format. Write a poem in the form of a personal ad.

2. Set limits. Constraints often fuel creativity. Think of an idea for a poem and then limit yourself to a set number of words to express it. Read more

Make your writing stronger by removing filter words

When editing my work, I inevitably discover more of my bad habits.  When I do, I add them to my editing list so I can be sure to catch them later. Some of these bad habits are listed in my post, “Edit out literary throat clearing to make your work stronger.”

My current work-in-progress is told from the first person point of view. In reviewing recent chapters, I discovered  I was using too many “filter” words: I saw, felt, heard, thought, noticed, and especially, I “glanced.” Cheez Whiz. I must have had this last verb six times in one chapter!

But it’s not just first person narrative where this is a writing sin. How many times have you read, “She touched, he heard, she saw, he felt…?” Read more

How to reclaim your life and energy for your art

In my last post, “Busting the writing myth of ‘not enough time,’” I wrote about author Heather Sellers’ belief that this concept of not having enough time is really a misdiagnosis of what ails us as writers. Our real problem, she says, is that we try to be, “everything to everyone,” and, as a consequence, become drained. We literally don’t have enough energy left to finish our writing projects.

I definitely fall into this category. I run a busy, full-time business with my hubby where I often begin work around 8 a.m. and work up until the time I drop into bed around 11pm to midnight. Yes, we take breaks during the day—lunch, dinner, exercise (hopefully), and we have the freedom to do what we want, when we want, but it’s a hectic lifestyle. I struggle with fitting my writing time in early in the day before I become too tired to do anything but drool on the keyboard.

In her book, Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication and Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams, Sellers suggests making a list of everything we do in a week. Read more

Lessons in character development: parental influences

Our parents give us our first view of the world. We incorporate their lessons into our lives and, sometimes, we spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn these beliefs and developing our own worldview.

The other day, I was wondering what the characters in my work-in-progress have learned from their parents about love.

Growing up, I learned some very specific things about love:  Read more

One of the best things about writing: The element of surprise

One of the best things about writing is the way it surprises me, the way I sometimes look back on something I’ve written and think, “Did I write that?” This element of surprise reminds me that so much happens beyond our conscious state.

Here are several posts you might have missed that will inspire you to let go and find the story that lives in your subconscious.

In How to write in your sleep, I share some tips about using the power of sleep to find new revelations in your writing.

Read Trust in randomness and mine your subconscious with this writing exercise to see how you can use your subconscious and observational instincts to write a new poem or piece of flash fiction.

Become a prolific writer by harnessing creative flow offers tips to put yourself in a trance so you can immerse yourself in your writing world.

What is your favorite way to find creative flow?

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