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Monday, January 25, 2010


It's time for some exercises!

While interviewing an author recently, she mentioned she had enjoyed Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott so much that she tries to read it each year. That sounded like a wonderful suggestion so, I went to work to find my copy of Lamott's book. Along the way, I found a couple interesting writing books I thought I'd recommend:
One of my favorite books for fiction writing prompts is "What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers" by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. Published in 1990, they released a revised edition in 2009. I like the book mainly because it was one of my first fiction writing exercise books, which I then recommended to my writing students. I've continued to enjoy it because of the approach of the authors as they lead the reader through 83 different exercises ranging from beginnings to mechanics to plot. The book sets out the objective of the exercise and uses examples from either a published writer or from a student. If you are a beginning or an advanced writer, there are element that will keep you busy. Often these exercises seem to serve the author who is writing a story.
Another book that I've started relying on when I feel the need for a fiction exercise is "The 3 A.M. Epiphany" by Brian Kiteley (2005). In Kitely's introduction, he explains that when he uses exercises in his workshops "to derange student stories, find new possibilities, and foster strangeness, irregularity, and non-linearity as much as to encourage revision and cleaning up after yourself." Kitely's 201 exercises guide his students and readers to have a better understanding of why you're writing what you are writing. These exercises--or pairing them up--can be used in the service of a story or not.
Sometimes doing an exercise without having a goal in mind is the best way to release your creativity.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who is still looking for her copy of Bird-by-Bird. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Blogger Jayne Martin said...

I loved Bird By Bird. Lamott is a great writer. I find I enjoy her non-fiction more than her fiction.

10:48 PM  

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