A popular saying chides that everyone has a novel somewhere inside. These exercises challenge you to take hold of that notion, to unleash that novel, by helping you to establish both a daily writing practice and develop the characters and content needed to bring that novel to life.
What is your story? What adventure/romance/mystery/epic have you always wanted to capture on the page and share with others? Have you listened to advice on writing that says to be any good you have to write every day? Do you wonder how you will ever find the words?
This series of writing prompts is designed to do three things:
A.) Get your seat in the chair.
B.) Turn your characters into people you can taste, touch, feel, hear, and smell.
C.) Inspire you to keep writing and set goals for your practice.
These exercises are not telling you to just write this or do this, but instead they provide you with a scenario and some direction. Some of the prompts are quite literal; others are figurative, but all seek to have you look at the novel inside of you in a new way.
Even if the writing you do for these exercises doesn’t make its way into the finished product of your novel, the knowledge you gain from drafting your characters in detail will engage your prose in new and dynamic ways and perhaps prompt new stories for you to tell and provide new directions for your writing to travel in.
By far and away, the biggest tool this book offers is to help you set a practice of writing. They say if you do anything for thirty days in a row, a habit forms. Imagine writing everyday for a year. With interesting prompts that stretch your creative process, you and your writing will be rewarded for your daily efforts in many ways.
Some Tips and Tricks to Support you on your Writing Journey
Commit to yourself and to your writing. Like all great self-improvement strategies, they only work if you work it.
Find a time each when you can carve out at least thirty minutes to write for the first thirty days.
Acknowledge where this writing will take place for the first thirty days.
As the year progresses experiment with different times and different places; seek to know more about yourself as a writer, as a person. When is your mind more effective and creative? Where do you feel more comfortable and inspired? It doesn’t have to be a traditional desk or in an office. Think outside your previous writing practice and any writer stereotypes you might have.
Make your writing time sacred; turn off the cell phone, turn off email, hang a sign on the door that you will be back in XYZ amount of time and only knock if there is flood, fire, or imminent death.
Think about music—see if you can write with music; see what types of music help you to get into your flow.
Think about mediating if it helps you.
These exercises are only meant to get the juices flowing; while they add to working on your novel, they don’t seek to replace telling the actual story. This isn’t a how to guide, but more of a what if guide, helping you to dig deeper into your thoughts and your characters.
Approach each exercise with an open mind; this isn’t school—you aren’t being graded. You can choose to tackle the task in any way or form you would like.
Some of these exercises ask you to make lists of information about characters. This may feel like it isn’t really writing. Eudora Welty is said to have never revised her short stories. The reason? She thought them all out in her headfirst. By creating these lists, you prompt yourself to think in new ways about your characters and the situations they find themselves in. By knowing their backstory, you can begin to conceive of their present or future.
Don’t be afraid to follow your fancy. If you really liked one exercise and want to do it again, go for it. If you really hate one, skip it. If you get into a groove and find yourself writing longer than your time limit—go for it. If an exercise turns into a new story or new novel, let it.
Don’t edit while you write. Humans work best doing one thing at a time. Yes, we can multi-task; yes, some of us are really good at multitasking. But this is about getting in touch with your creative side. Critical thoughts about word choice or structure or negative thinking and judging stop creativity dead in its tracks. Just write. Save editing for a different part of the day or for when the piece is in a final rough draft.
Enjoy this. Everyone with a novel inside them wants to let it out. They dream of the day when they will see someone reading their words or seeing their own work on a bookstore shelf. Now thanks to the Internet, this dream is an increasing reality. You can do this. You can write a book.