Thursday, 5 April 2012

Writing Exercises

I know many of us have our thoughts now turned to Easter, especially Good Friday at this time. However, because I’ve been so late publishing my Thursday blog post, I’m typing this after a great morning spent with other writers at the Society Women Writers Tasmania’s monthly meeting.

Our meetings always vary quite a lot. The first section we share anything from the previous month that may have happened about our individual projects. Each month we are give a topic to write as homework to share the next meeting. Today the topic was “Fool”. Do I need to admit I did not do the homework this month? I have been busy with helping with the organising of our Romance Writers Australia Tasmanian Roadshow here in May. Naturally I shared about that during my turn!
Then our president led us in a writing exercise. Now, we’ve done this “slam” writing occasionally before at these meetings and I always find them very difficult. Seems I need to take too long to think about what to write – and may I say that is often my excuse for my late posts here! Also it seems that, since those weeks now over twenty years ago since I first started using a computer, my brain doesn’t usually work as well without those fingers tapping rather than moving a pen.
Today really surprised me and I’d like to share this exercise with you.

Close your eyes for about ten seconds and just think of words. Don’t think of anything else, just let words flow through your mind.
Now write down a favourite colour, then a number, a name and then a word – any word. I inwardly groaned each time Wendy told use what to write down but I played the “game” and wrote:
green    seven    Emily    workshop

Oh boy, then she said we had ten minutes to write something,anything - as long as we used those four words! And no editing!

In a few seconds I was writing furiously. I honestly was amazed how swiftly I knew what to write in that firast sentence, and did not want to stop when those ten minutes were up. The words had just flowed. We are not all novelists but of course for me Emily had immediately become a “character” in a story.
This is the first couple of paragraphs I wrote:
Emily was green with envy. If only she could go to that writer’s workshop. Seven electives to choose from! Surely there would be one that could help her write that novel.
Where would she start writing that story in her head? Characters! She needed characters. Perhaps from old fairy stories she had enjoyed so much all those years ago?

Before I knew it I had a character with a flawed past, a mother enious of her when sitting on her father’s knee as he read a favourite book to her. Parents had lied to her, he was not her biological father, and so on and so on. When the ten minutes were up I just wanted to keep writing Emily’s story!
Our president told us that it has been estimated at least one-third of writers who do this exercise then find they have the basis for a story, especially writers who write many books.
Well, I certainly proved that is what happened to me. I am still surprised, but as I read over this hand-written page again a few moments ago I sighed. Perhaps Emily’s story will be told one day. Right now I have to get back to finishing the story of Jennifer and Dave in Her Outback Cowboy.
Mmm... I wonder if Emily could be a minor character there. I wonder if that would then be possible to have Emily share in her own novel just why her mother was jealous of her father’s attention to her. How could that man she had loved and admired so much ever have kept from her he was not her biological father? And who was her real father? And why... what if...?
Why don’t you try this exercise and let me know what you think!


  1. Sounds like a great exercise, Mary. I won't do it just yet though. I'm too scared of giving myself more ideas. I've already got a folder full of them. LOL

  2. Had a smile at your comment, amanda because I know what you mean. however, I do think it could also help to get back into a manuscript after a long break from it. Certainly worked for me this week!

  3. That sounds like a lot of fun. I will try it myself.