Writing exercises

This weekend Patricia Wrede briefly discussed writing exercises in the context of how writers can try to improve.

In the comments, I said

I used to see little point to exercises. But after becoming a plotter rather than a pantser, I get much more out of them. Whenever I do exercises, I pick a story or book that’s in the planning stages, and do them with those characters/setting. It helps me generate ideas for that story, so it doesn’t feel like a waste of time.

I should be doing this now, actually, for the next novel I’m going to work on, so that when I really sit down to plan it out this fall I have a better idea of what the characters are like and what I want to have happen.

So far this year I’ve been doing a fair number of exercises: I’ve been taking a bunch of online workshops from various RWA chapters on characters and feelings and related topics. Right now I’m taking a class on revising for emotional impact, and the exercises have been to revise passages from our current project, keeping the current lesson’s topic in mind. Which is a useful kind of exercise, since I’d be revising those chapters anyway.

Do you guys find exercises useful?

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2 Responses to Writing exercises

  1. Exercises don’t work for me at all. If I know it’s an exercise my brain seems to think it’s not useful, so it won’t make an effort, “this is just a dumb thing I have to go through in order to be allowed to start on something real”. I learn much faster from doing something real that’s just too hard for me. I used to get through piano practice, as a child, by pretending I was giving a concert!

  2. Elizabeth

    That does make sense. I didn’t feel that as strongly, but that’s pretty much why I used to not do exercises. I’d sit there and wonder why I was spending writing time on that rather than writing a story. Now that writing snippets of the story is part of my planning process, writing exercises = snippets = something real. (Even if I don’t include them in the draft later, my brain has them tagged as real.)

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