A Month of Writing Exercises

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
User avatar
reigheena
Posts: 197
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2014 9:26 am
Location: Seattle, WA
Contact:

A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby reigheena » Wed Oct 16, 2019 6:43 pm

I posted in the Q1 thread that I was going to do a challenge in November of doing a 20-30 min writing exercise every day, and some people said they'd be interested in following along. So, this is my plan. Any and all are welcome to join in. Feel free to adapt it to whatever situation fits your needs best. I found that I learn from the insights of others as well as from performing the exercise itself, so please share what you learned from doing these exercises.

First off - because I don't write fiction on Sundays due to my religion, Sundays are just used to journal. Saturdays are reserved for reflecting on what I learned during the week. If I end up missing a day due to life, I'll just skip the exercise instead of trying to double up.

Now, to the exercises:

The Orphaned Days (Nov 1-2) - Description
Friday – "Space is the Place" Write descriptions of a location from the point of view of two of your own characters. 10 minutes each. (Source: Writing the Other: Deep Dive into Description)

Saturday – "The Outside World" Pick one spot outside that you love to visit. It could be the beach, a park behind your house, or even the grocery store if you wish. Now go there and describe what the space looks like. You’re not focusing on any of the actions happening or dialogue you hear. You’re focusing on the scene only.
How would you describe the wind at the beach? Or the stillness of the backyard park in the early morning? What about the smells of the bakery that come in the early morning when no other customers are in the grocery store? These are the details that will help to transport readers into that scene. Practice putting the initial focus onto these details early on in your narrative and your descriptive writing will dramatically improve. (Source: Networlding)

Week 1 (Nov 4-8) - Dialogue
Monday - Record a real conversation, and then transcribe one to three pages of it. Approach this exercise ethically—you are not advised to tape people without their knowledge or consent. As an alternative, simply listen carefully during a conversation—notice the ums and ahs, the small talk, the filler that we stuff into our real-life dialogue. You can also search online for conversations that have been recorded or transcribed. (Source: Writing Forward)

Tuesday – Pull some of your favorite books down, examine the dialog itself, without tags, and determine what tricks the writer has used to differentiate the character voices. (Source: Writing Excuses)

Wednesday – Talking Heads! Write a scene between a married couple who has met at a coffee shop unexpectedly—neither of them are supposed to be there. Don’t use dialog tags. (Source: Writing Excuses)

Thursday - Write a scene that is composed mostly (if not entirely) of dialogue between two or three characters. The conversation should reveal the following: what a character wants (goals), an inner struggle, a character’s strengths, a character’s weaknesses, and at least one cue about each character’s personality. (Source: Writing Forward)

Friday - This is the Transcript Exercise, and it’s a doozy. Take our A/B scene, which is character dialog with no beats, and add the beats and the context to set the dialog in two different genres. There are further instructions in the download at the link above. (Source: Writing Excuses)

Week 2 (Nov 11-15) - Character
Monday – "Character analysis" Choose a primary character from a story you’ve read recently (the best characters for this exercise will be complex). Then answer the following questions about the character you’ve chosen:
a. What is the character’s situation at the beginning of the story, and what changes it (inciting incident)? How is the character’s situation different at the end of the story?
b. Outline the character’s arc, noting major milestones for the character’s transformation.
c. What is the character grappling with internally throughout the story?
d. What conflict is the character facing, externally, throughout the story?
e. What are the character’s ethics (or lack thereof)? Virtues and vices? Strengths and weaknesses?
f. What choices does the character make? What are the consequences?
g. What mistakes does the character make? What setbacks do they experience? Where do they succeed?
h. What are the character’s key relationships within the story? Who guides the character? Who challenges them? Who provides support? Who stands in their way?
i. How does the character transform internally? Do the character’s actions transform the story world?
j. What lessons, messages, or ideas can be garnered from this character?
(Source: Writing Forward)

Tuesday – "Break the ice" - chip away at your character and establish how they present themselves to others by imagining how they would briefly describe themselves in the following situations:
a. In a job interview
b. On a first date
c. Catching up with an old friend
d. Flirting with someone at a party
e. In their Twitter bio
f. At the border between the US and Mexico
(Source: Reedsy Blog)

Wednesday – "Fascinating Facets" – Write a 200-500 word passage about a character from your WIP from the POV of someone who likes, admires, loves, or looks up to them. Then write a 200-500 word passage about the same character from the POV of someone who dislikes, distrusts, or is neutral on them (Source: Writing the Other: Deep Dive into Description)

Thursday - Use DREAM (Denial, Resistance, Exploration, Acceptance, Manifestation) to plot a character arc. (Source: Writing Excuses)

Friday – Take a flat character from media you’ve consumed and write a backstory to make them less flat. (Source: Writing Excuses)

Week 3 (Nov 18-22) - Writing Concisely
Monday – "Chastity" Write a paragraph to a page (200-350 words) of descriptive narrative prose without adjectives or adverbs. No dialogue (Source: Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin, p 45)

Tuesday – "A Terrible Thing to Do" Take any piece of narrative prose 400-1000 words, and cut it by half while keeping the narrative clear and the sensory impact vivid, not replacing specifics by generalities, and never using the word "somehow". (Source: Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin, p 124)

Wednesday – "Summarize an Article" Take any article from the Internet and summarize it in as few words as possible. Try to include all the main ideas and leave out anything that is not essential. Not only will this help you write more concisely, it will help you recognize waffle in other people’s writing as well as your own. (Source: Constant Content)

Thursday – "Edit Someone Else’s Writing" If you have no trouble getting words on the page but you think your finished content needs tightening up, try an editing exercise. Find a blog post online and copy the text into your text editor. Then look for as many ways to improve it as you can. Check for the following:
  1. Spelling or grammatical errors.
  2. Long sentences that can be shortened.
  3. Unnecessary words.
  4. Formatting problems.
  5. Confusing ideas that could be made clearer.
Remember to take away the positive aspects of the writing, which will help improve your own style. (Source: Constant Content)

Friday – Write Microfiction (Source: How to Write ____)

Week 4 (Nov 25 - 29) - Structure
Monday - Apply the M.I.C.E. quotient to Red Riding Hood, and write at least one page of story per element for 2 elements (Source: Writing Excuses)

Tuesday Apply the M.I.C.E. quotient to Red Riding Hood, and write at least one page of story per element for the remaining 2 elements (Source: Writing Excuses)

Wednesday - Using the Hollywood Formula, come up with a protagonist, an antagonist, and a relationship character. (Source: Writing Excuses)

Thursday - Try out the seven-point story structure for yourself. Outline something! (Source: Writing Excuses)

Friday - Look at the next few scenes you need to write, and identify their plot function, identify what your main character’s goal is. Now consider where the starting and stopping points can be placed to best serve those elements. (Source: Writing Excuses)
Silver Honorable Mention: 3
Honorable Mentions: 7. Published HM - Infant Insomnia
Other published works

User avatar
czing
Posts: 94
Joined: Fri Apr 19, 2019 6:08 am

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby czing » Wed Oct 16, 2019 7:04 pm

Wow that is a full month. Not sure I will do one every day but maybe I should shoot for that at least instead of aiming low :). Thanks for sharing your plan. I'm really looking forward to this.
HM - Q1,Q3 v 36

User avatar
AlexH
Posts: 113
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2018 5:42 pm
Location: Staffordshire, England
Contact:

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby AlexH » Fri Oct 18, 2019 10:27 am

Thanks for sharing. I'm about to go away travelling at short notice, so I'll check back in November. Some of these could help with works in progress, even if they don't make it into the story.
35: R R R | 36: R HM R ?

Probably free for critique swaps, but double-check in case I'm away.
If you're a new writer and concerned about giving a critique, you're welcome to send me something anyway. :)

AjZach
Posts: 29
Joined: Sun Dec 02, 2018 8:33 am

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby AjZach » Fri Oct 18, 2019 12:32 pm

Thanks for putting this together! I'll try to do as much of this as I can

User avatar
reigheena
Posts: 197
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2014 9:26 am
Location: Seattle, WA
Contact:

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby reigheena » Fri Oct 18, 2019 4:18 pm

Glad to have you guys aboard! Life last year kicked me hard, so I completely understand if any of us miss out on some, or a significant portion of these exercises. Still would love to hear about what is accomplished.
Silver Honorable Mention: 3
Honorable Mentions: 7. Published HM - Infant Insomnia
Other published works

User avatar
reigheena
Posts: 197
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2014 9:26 am
Location: Seattle, WA
Contact:

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby reigheena » Fri Nov 01, 2019 9:42 am

November is here and I just finished my first exercise. Hope you do well with your writing!
Silver Honorable Mention: 3
Honorable Mentions: 7. Published HM - Infant Insomnia
Other published works

liz
Posts: 362
Joined: Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:17 am

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby liz » Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:33 pm

Just found this. I'm in :)

User avatar
reigheena
Posts: 197
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2014 9:26 am
Location: Seattle, WA
Contact:

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby reigheena » Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:48 am

How has everyone's writing been going? So far, I've done all the exercises, though I forgot to journal last Sunday.

During the dialogue exercises, I noticed that even though I was supposed to focus on a variety of different techniques, but the things I kept pondering was what differentiated different characters in their voices. That's something I've been a bit perplexed on when I've heard that advice before, and now, I think I understand it a bit better.

The other thing I noticed is that during the transcript exercise, I wrote from the POV of someone who was blind, and I had a hard time describing the other person without using visual cues. That's something I'll want to work on improving.

As for description, I feel like I've improved since taking the Writing the Other Description class this summer. Still need to work on actually putting it in my stories.
Silver Honorable Mention: 3
Honorable Mentions: 7. Published HM - Infant Insomnia
Other published works

User avatar
czing
Posts: 94
Joined: Fri Apr 19, 2019 6:08 am

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby czing » Sat Nov 09, 2019 1:27 pm

That sounds like some great progress. Despite my many desires to do something so far this month has been a slog. I know I need to just kick myself into gear and do something - may swing in to do one or two of these to see if they can get things going.

I remember there was an exercise in one writing book I have/had that suggested writing a whole scene or story with just dialogue. I think that exercise changed my writing forever. I may lean too hard into dialogue sometimes now. But the issue you mention - having each character sound different is one I find really challenging but also one of my most nagging worries. Before I started writing I was not a writing detail critical reader. I ignored almost any shortfall in a story except a significant issue with plot/resolution. But I think noticing that a group of characters in a book all sounded kind of the same was the first time I remember having that writing critique kind of thought as I read. So I live in fear of creating something that makes people have that feeling :)

Glad you are finding some insights as you do the exercises. Sorry i haven't been participating as I hoped.
HM - Q1,Q3 v 36

User avatar
czing
Posts: 94
Joined: Fri Apr 19, 2019 6:08 am

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby czing » Sat Nov 09, 2019 2:21 pm

Ha I just reopened my computer after doing a bit of soup making and saw the title for this thread and my brain read "A Month of Writing Excuses". That seems spot on for me :(. But I do love that pod cast so maybe it is a sign I need to go listen to one so I can get motivated.
HM - Q1,Q3 v 36

AjZach
Posts: 29
Joined: Sun Dec 02, 2018 8:33 am

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby AjZach » Tue Nov 19, 2019 11:21 am

Just wanted to check in and say that I have been really enjoying these exercises! I found the DREAM character arc really helpful.
Thanks again for putting this together!

User avatar
reigheena
Posts: 197
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2014 9:26 am
Location: Seattle, WA
Contact:

Re: A Month of Writing Exercises

Postby reigheena » Tue Nov 19, 2019 5:04 pm

You're welcome! I found the DREAM arc helpful too in addressing some critiques that a character's turn around was too abrupt.
Silver Honorable Mention: 3
Honorable Mentions: 7. Published HM - Infant Insomnia
Other published works


Return to “Writing: Craft, Talent, Technique”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest