Jumping Jacks for Writers

Saturday, January 05, 2013
January is a time when thoughts turn to exercise, it’s time to get your body in shape, one of those New Year’s Resolutions that you hope will actually be accomplished this year. Indeed, last year, I did the Couch 2 5K program which takes you from Couch Potato to running a 5K in 9 weeks. It’s simple: the first week you run 1 minute, walk 1.5 minutes and repeat that 8 times. The slow build is great. In fact, I had surgery in July, and repeated the program in September to get me going again. Yes. I can run a 5K. S-l-o-w-l-y. But I can run it.

January is also a good time to get your writing in shape. Do you need an exercise program for your writing? Do you need to make yourself write every single day, without fail? Here are some options.

750words.com is a website that will send you a daily reminder that you should write 750 words today. It’s great fun because you get badges for each level that you pass. You may get a badge for writing 3 days in a row or 7 days in a row. These extrinsic rewards aren’t the reason to write, but they are playful and fun and, yes, motivational. Of course, the real reward is the writing that you’ll get done.

You may want to pick up a book of writing exercises, instead, and slowly work through it. I like Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, by Natalie Goldberg. I haven’t used it to write memoirs, exactly. Instead, when I am stuck on a character issue, I will flip through the pages to find a likely prompt and write it from that character’s POV. And I’ve used it just as writing prompts for certain periods of time.

Here’s Goldberg’s prompt for “Something” (p. 122):
“Go. Find something ordinary and tell us about it.”

I'll add that you should repeat this for each point-of-view character in your new novel. Try to find a place to insert it and make it work.

Or, here’s the prompt for "No" (p. 141):
“Begin a ten-minute writing with No Thank You. Every time you get stuck, write No Thank You again and keep going.”

What offer(s) do your characters need to keep rejecting? Why are they rejecting the offer(s)?

Write! Exercise your vocabulary, use some words that stretch you and your readers. Think of three other things where you can reach out of your comfort zone for the words you put on the page.

Exercise. After all, isn’t the point to get ourselves going—exercising our writing abilities—and to keep going?

What is your favorite book for writing prompts?


Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes and blogs about education at CommonCoreStandards.com


Ginia said...

There are so many to choose from. My favorite is:
Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan G. Wooldridge

Anonymous said...

Great take on making the prompts work for fiction.

BECKY said...

That book is one of my very favorites!I think it's the first book I ever "allowed" myself to write in and underline things! ...In pencil, of course! Another one is a book I stumbled across last year that I really love is: "Naked,Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay, by Adair Lara. Thanks for a great post!

Marcia Peterson said...

Love these options, Darcy. I'm inspired!

Margo Dill said...

I didn't know about 750words.com--I will have to share with my writing group. WE love rewards. :) My very favorite writing book is ON WRITING by Stephen King. As for writing prompt book, i liked the one that we featured on WOW!--Writing Through the Senses, and for journaling I like Mari L. McCarthy's style. :)

Eugenia Parrish said...

My absolute favorite is "The Writer's Book of Days" by Judy Reeves. Each week has a thoughtful essay or pep talk about writing, and then prompts for each day. Been using it for several years, and it's fascinating to finish a prompt and then go back and read what I wrote for the same prompt last year or the year before. So interesting to see the difference in where my head is at, year by year. I use a special bookmark to keep my place, and blush when I realize that I'm many pages overdue!

Sarah Butland said...

My first novel was written with help from the book Fiction Writing Workshop. I loved it and still have it now.

Thanks for these tips. Now off to check out 750words as I haven't written anything on my WIP for almost a year.

This is my year of taking risks instead of making excuses, posts like yours sure help!

Thanks for reading,

Sarah Butland
author of Arm Farm, Sending You Sammy and Brain Tales - Volume One

Angela Mackintosh said...

Congratulations on running the 5k, and a successful surgery. :)

Great advice on using prompts for each POV character. A couple prompt books I've used are The Writer's Block by Jason Rekulak, and A Tool Kit for Writers by Naomi Epel. I keep these at arm's length.

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