Writing is like exercise. The more you do it, the more you practice, the better shape you’re in. I suppose this law can apply to most activities, but usually one doesn’t think of doing writing exercises. Today I want to introduce a few simple, yet effective, writing exercises to try on your own time. You could even do the same exercise multiple times to see how you improve. If you don’t have time to write on your creative/nonfiction projects, you can find time for these short exercises to stay honed to your craft.
#1 Sensory Exercise
With a sensory exercise, you have to describe an everyday object with as much detail as possible without using the name of the object itself. You also use the five senses, and just as I covered in my passive vs active blog, you’ll want to stay away from directly saying saw, felt, heard, etc. We’ll do a pencil as an example.
Long, hexagonal, covered in a layer of banana yellow. Slate grey lead comes to a sharpened point at the tip with a dark salmon rubber eraser at the opposite end. A metal band wraps around the line between wood and rubber. Chew marks dent the otherwise smooth surface.
I turned the description of a pencil into a paragraph. Of course, you don’t really want to do this with everyday things in a novel, but it’s excellent practice for when you need to, or really want to, focus on describing something for your story. If you can describe an everyday object, such as a pencil, in great detail, you can manage that grand palace in your elven kingdom or that small spaceship your smuggler uses in a galaxy not far from here.
Suggestions for sensory exercises: your old sneakers, items from your desk, a lamp in your living room, a remote, car tire, toilet paper, faucet, cellphone, etc.
#2 Picture Perfect Short Story
This was an exercise we did in a writers group. Mary Andrews came in with a simple picture from a coloring book of a dragon attacking a town with troops shooting at it and said we were going to do an exercise. We had five minutes to write a short story explaining the backstory of the picture. It was insanely fun for me and got my creative monster fired up.
Just as I described above, the basic premise of this exercise is to take a random picture and create a backstory for it. Then time yourself for five minutes. We did ours in longhand, but the option to type it out is always there. Do not go over the time limit. Create a beginning, middle, and end to your story. Try not to let it get cut off in the middle. Also, don’t think about it before hand. Start thinking when that timer begins.
I’m not going to write a short story, but what I would like to do is make suggestions on where a story can go from this picture. A knight comes a long way to find the temple in the valley. He’s met by its guardians. Who sent him? What’s he searching for? Is the temple a holy place guarded by just men, or a place of evil worship that he must destroy? Is it a temple at all or a guard post? Take the challenge and write up a short story! Post it to your blog or website, just be sure to link back to the creator of the picture as I have done.
#3 Be Your Own Thesaurus
Sometimes you can tell when a writer busted out the Thesaurus. Long, complicated or uncommonly used words stuck in a sentence that is otherwise simple. Sometimes it interrupts the flow and you can, just, tell. To say I don’t use a Thesaurus would be a lie, but I keep it to a bare minimum. An exercise I engage in often to keep my word use varied without interrupting my flow is to take a random picture of a person, or a word and trying to come up with as many variations as possible. With a world of knowledge at your fingertips, you can make use of the many random word generators and image searches online for this exercise.
Take this portrait of an unknown French noblewoman. Let’s describe her. Poised, dignified, young, attractive, blonde, blue-eyed, fair skin, finely dressed, jeweled, wealthy, married/widowed/single are all adjectives you could use to move her around a room. For example, the dignified young woman glided to the sofa and sat. Instead of using her name, let’s say Marie, thirteen times on one page you can use an adjective to identify her without redundancy. Even if you can only think of a few, it’s better than using a name over and over. You can even add these adjectives to your character sheets for use later on.
Next we’ll do a random word exercise. The first word from my generator is cheerful. Ecstatic, happy, content, good mood, optimistic, satisfied, sunny disposition.
The point of the word and picture adjective exercise is to make word variation a habit or to at least flow naturally. Instead of looking to a Thesaurus, which as I mentioned is totally okay on occasion, you can conjure up these words from memory or habit.
Until Next Time…
I hope these exercises can help keep you in writing shape! Something else to keep in mind, is a blog serves a purpose in forcing you to write once a week as well. Even if you sometimes forget to post on Mondays. 😉 Dragon Bloode: Covet is out in ebook everywhere ebooks are sold.