If I could talk with my younger self – my younger self who wanted to be a writer – I would tell him to practice writing. My younger self would not have known what that would entail. So, I would tell him the following…
But first, let’s talk about why writing practice is important.What does someone do when they want to learn a musical instrument? Improve in a certain sport? Converse in a new language? Practice.
For some reason, society understands practice is needed in sports, music and most other things. But writing? Specifically writing fiction? Everyone, maybe even new writers, have the idea writing a story or a novel just flows off the fingertips the first time around. How many potential writers gave up because that short story really sucked after writing half of the rough draft? For some reason writing fiction or improving in the fiction writing craft is not connected with the concept of practice.
Writing needs practice like playing an instrument or a sport needs practice. So there. I said it.
On the piano, a person practices scales. Or take sports. My coworker talks about taking his son to practice. Everyday. His goes to practice almost everyday. My coworker can’t wait until his son gets his driver’s license.
So if I could give any writing advice to my younger author self, I would encourage to “practice his writing scales.”
But what does that mean? How does a writer practice writing? Here are some ways:
- Exemplars – Take a paragraph from a favorite novel or story and write it out two or three times. Pick a different one every few days.
- Prompts – Google “writing prompts” and sign up to receive an idea to write something spontaneous for five, ten or fifteen minutes. Totally unrelated to your WIP.
- Reading – I have always been a reader, but I wish I had read even more as a kid. Even if it’s only for ten of fifteen minutes a day, read something – something in the genre you what to write, but that’s not required.
- Freewriting – Write nonstop for a set amount of time, maybe only ten to fifteen minutes. Don’t worry about making sense or how good it is. Just do some old-fashion “stream-of-consciousness” writing.
- Writing Journal – keep a writing journal. Not a diary, but a notebook of potential titles, names, scraps of favorite dialogue or description from your reading. Anything that helps you fall in love with writing style.
Doing one of these a few times a week can stretch your writing muscles and help you develop your own writing voice and master various fiction elements. It can also be a way to gear the writer’s mind to start writing. Do one of these for a few minutes before you start working on your WIP and you may find yourself psyched up to work on your story.
Solid advice here for sure. I would also add exercises describing the mundane as something amazing. Leaves falling off the trees – tell a story about how the innate magic of the trees sheds off the leaves as a way to battle the coming winter. A squirrel finds a nut on some epic quest. Driving a car down the street becomes a journey through space and time to get milk, etc.
Yes, the kind of writing exercise you describe can take place in a writing journal or a writing prompt or whatever. There can be overlap.
This probably falls under your “exemplars” suggestion. When I’ve felt blocked in the past, I would grab a book from my library and start typing, copying the identical words onto my computer screen. Whenever I find myself beginning to edit or rephrase what I’m typing, I know my muse has returned and it’s time to get back to my own writing.