I’ve started doing little writing exercises, and have doubled down on reading novels in order to improve upon some of my skills.
I find reading helps me understand the areas that I need to work on, because I’m able to see and interact with multiple texts.
With the writing exercises, I’ve been doing little things like picking a word and basing a couple paragraphs around that. I like doing this by hand versus typing it out on the computer because when I’m finished I can go through and highlight the areas I’d like to improve upon. For example, if I notice that I used one of my crutch words, I can underline it and spend some time thinking about alternative words that I can use or if a sentence is pronoun heavy, I can highlight it and find ways to fix that and make the sentence stronger. I find trying to do this on the computer can make it harder for me to stay on task because there are a lot of distractions.
Truthfully, I started writing out a new chapter today and then while breaking for lunch ended up spending an hour browsing books, cleaning products and plants. Me browsing books isn’t anything new, I do this several times a week and just ordered a handful yesterday however, cleaning products? I don’t need any new cleaning products right now. I was just at the store the other day. I bought dish soap. Why do I need to look at fancy, expensive dish soap and contemplate the different scents offered?
That’s why doing these writing exercises is a lot more effective when I do them on random scraps of paper or in one of my journals. Initially I actually went to look for new journals. I have two which are currently unused, but I plan on using them for other things. I’d rather have one that is completely dedicated to me practicing and playing around with different techniques and just…focusing on improving. A journal where I can make mistakes and highlight things and scribble and doodle on. I absolutely adore journals. I think they’re beautiful, and you can use them for so many things but also I find that I can really grasp things when I put them to paper…and I can track my progress, which I find during this pandemic has really helped me keep my sanity.
One thing that I also do with these writing exercises I’ve been doing, is using my current characters. The reason I decided to do this was because it lets me put them into different scenarios and really play around with them. I also get to take the time to think about that character, and how much they’ve grown over the course of the story. Sometimes, I also really enjoy the little scene I’ve put together and decide that its worth incorporating into the actual novel. It keeps me focused and engaged in the world of the story.
If you’d like to try out this writing exercise yourself, its honestly really simple.
- Decide what it is you’re going to work on. It could be setting descriptions or creating movement in a scene.
- Choose a word as your prompt. It could be potato, plunder, wilt…anything really. Sometimes its fun to grab a dictionary and open up to a random page!
- Begin writing. It doesn’t need to be long. It can be a couple of paragraphs, a single page, maybe two. While writing try to keep in mind what your main goal is.
- Go through and highlight or underline areas that you need to improve on. This will help you see if you’ve made progress.
- If you like, rewrite it or write a new paragraph taking into consideration the things that you’d like to work on.
- Compare each version and see how you’ve improved. Be sure to again, highlight or underline what it is you think you can work on and make notes for yourself.
- Be kind to yourself. It’s very easy for us to bash ourselves and our work…so if you begin to feel frustrated take time to breathe. Step away for a while, get some fresh air, clear your head…and then start again once you’re in a good head space. These exercises aren’t supposed to make you hate your writing or yourself. They are meant to help you grow, and that takes time. So please be kind to yourself, and do the best you can.