As writers, we’re constantly on the hunt for new ideas but sometimes we may not be looking in the right places or simply need to refresh our writing routine. If you are looking for writing inspiration, read this excerpt from Your First Novel and find new ways to challenge yourself and your writing.
Only about one out of every billion humans will sit down one day, having never written a word, and produce a masterpiece. Writing is mostly practice. Think of the number of laps a track star runs before she breaks a record, or the number of hours a dancer spends at the barre before he’s ready for a performance. There’s nothing wrong with hoping your first draft will be brilliant—hope is required—but know that it’s normal to need to practice before you succeed.
Writing exercises give you something else to focus on so you don’t trip over this word or that comma. You want to keep your eye on your idea. Here are some exercises to warm up your right brain and satisfy your left brain’s desire for a workout.
- Timed Writing Sessions. Find a timer—your watch alarm, an egg timer, but not an hourglass—you want it to make noise so you don’t break concentration by glancing up to see if you’ve gone on too long. Set the timer to fifteen minutes and start writing. It doesn’t matter what you write—no one need ever see it. You can write about your characters or what you dreamed the night before. The trick is to keep your fingers moving on the keys or your pencil scratching on the paper. Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation. Don’t stop to think or rewrite. Just write at full speed. Now read it. You might end up with a great sentence or idea for your novel, or you might have nothing you want to save, but it doesn’t matter. The point was to warm you up.
- Journals. Write in a journal or diary each day before starting to work on your novel. It doesn’t matter if you write a list of what happened the day before or your innermost fantasies—the act of putting words on paper is warming you up.
- Vocalization. You can literally talk aloud to yourself, or you can dialogue with yourself or your characters on paper. Talk to your novel. Ask where it hurts. Don’t be surprised when it starts answering back. Play truth or dare with your hero. Play twenty questions with your villain.
- Books on Tape. You can turn your commute to the office into a grown-up story time. Browse your public library. Look for research materials, novels in your genre, and writers who inspire you.