The post today is all about different ways to improve your writing. Of course the best way is to write, write and then write some more! But here are a few ways to mix it up and try new and exciting methods at becoming the best writer you can be.
Writing VERY Short Stories
This challenge is based on the literary legend that Ernest Hemmingway was challenged to write a story using only six words. Hemmingway did so with the story:
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
Point: Hemmingway. With only six words Hemmingway creates a powerful story but one that is made primarily by the reader with what they project onto the story. Hemmingway’s six word story is all about implication and reading between the lines (not that there’s much to read between).
So why not try writing your own six word story? Or ten or one hundred word story. As an exercise trying to write a story in a very small number of words will hone your ability to only put what is necessary into the prose. This way, you can avoid any writing that’s just fluff or perhaps writing that isn’t necessary to the storyline or character building.
So if you write a very short story every now and again it will help you become more concise in your writing, which will mean your readers are kept enthralled and pulled along by your prose. A win in any writers book (no pun intended)!
Describing Characters Without Naming Them
If we take a quick look at this video we can see how a three dimensional character can really make them stick out in your readers minds. (Side note: I’d recommend giving the full review a watch, he really takes apart the story and you can learn a lot of how NOT to do it, but a warning he does have some offensive language and the character he portrays might not be for everyone)
So you should ask yourself the same question of your own characters. Try and describe them to someone (either literally or just as an exercise, your choice!) without describing their features or what they do throughout the story. Just describe their personalities, and be sure to do this for your heroes and your villains.
How did you do? If you find yourself struggling then it might be worth taking some time to think about who your characters really are and what drives them. This is to make sure that you’re not just using characters to get the plot from A to B or that you just have characters act certain ways because that’s just what good/bad guys do.
If you’re not sure how you might go about this, take a look at the SMART Snowflakes post and look at the character steps and sheet to fill in your characters drives and motivation as well as the lessons learned on the journey.
Try Something New
Some people say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So why not try it with your writing? Write something a bit different to your usual scribblings. If you usually write in the sci-fi genre then why not try a mystery or adventure story. What if your thing is writing hardboiled noir fiction? Well then you could write a children’s story about owls flying for the first time.
The point is to get you doing something different, maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t and you’ll return to your old genre with open arms. But it will hopefully get you approaching things from a new angle. You might even find you’re quite good at the new genre!
By getting used to thinking about plot, characters and writing in a different way to usual you will find that you can more easily overcome writer’s block. And in case you feel like you might be stuck in a rut with your writing, hopefully writing something a bit different will spice up your scribbles and replenish your love of the word!
Throw It All Away
Every so often, you should sit down and not worry about how your writing turns out. “What?!” I hear you cry. But hear me out! Sit down for an hour and just write whatever comes to mind, it doesn’t have to be good it doesn’t even have to make sense. But don’t worry about any of that, at the end of the hour you’re just going to throw it away.
This exercise is just to get you used to throwing out words and trying to make sure you don’t worry too much about the quality of your writing. At least for the first draft. So that you can just write to your heart’s content and hopefully get all of your ideas out on the page so you can edit and streamline them later. I’ve had problems in the past of knowing where I want my story to go. I know what the characters are doing and where I want them to get to, but I just can’t seem to move past those first few sentences. I’ll change this word, then that word in an attempt to make it be as good as possible the first time I finish it.
So that’s what this exercise is all about; getting you past that stage. That’s what first drafts are for, being your complete story, but also being awful. It’s a clunky, craggy chunk of marble that you need to chip away at with your literary chisel to get to the perfectly sculpted piece within.
For this exercise your writing doesn’t need to be good, it doesn’t need to be insightful, it doesn’t even need to make sense. Think about it as though you’re idly strumming a guitar, just picking out random notes to see what sounds good and what feels right to play. You’re just writing random words and seeing what feels good to write.
This is similar to the first point. You might have that one story that you really want to get done, that character you just need to show the world, but wait a second. Writing poetry is all about the control and use of language. Every scratch on the page is agonized over and painstakingly placed, I’ve known some people to umm and err over taking out just a single comma for a few hours only to put it back in exactly the same place later on.
Writing poetry is all about the intricacies of the word, the feel of the sentences and the rhythm of the words. Let’s take iambic meter as an example.
Iambic meter dictates the rhythmic pattern of your writing; the rhythm of iambic meter must be soft and then hard and each pair of syllables like this is called an iamb.
Through the use of this meter emphasis is placed on certain syllables within the poetry as well as a rhythm you, as the writer, can make use of to give a more musical lilt to your poem or a thumping beat.
Perhaps the most widely used iambic meter is iambic pentameter, which simply means that you have five iambs within a single line. So a line of iambic pentameter would have emphases that look like this: da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM
I’ll do more posts on more specific aspects of poetry, delving into the different types, meters and forms. There will also be exercises that I’ll be posting up along with them, but for now I’ll leave you with a few examples of iambic pentameter to show you what I mean:
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. (Alfred Tennyson, “Ulysses”)
A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! (William Shakespeare, Richard III)
So you can see how the stressed syllables can really add some punch to your poetry and you can then bring this greater understanding of how words work to your other writing and make yourself even more spectacular!
That’s it for this post! So I hope you enjoyed it and if you have any questions, want to have some free critique or maybe you just want to say hi then feel free toemail firstname.lastname@example.org or even just write something on our facebook page!
Until next time, fare well!